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Indian Slave Trade

New Supplies of Workers

The discouragement by the California Legislature of the importation of Negroes and the growing demands for labor in Southern California during the mining boom caused the ranchers and merchants to seek new supplies of workers - California being a "Free" state notwithstanding. In 1857 a trader, using the alias Don Francisco Castillo, brought young Indians from Lower California and sold them in Los Angeles. (37) It was not certain whether Castillo purchased the "inditos" from their own bands or whether he purchased them from other preying Indians as the New Mexicans had purchased Paiutes from the Utes. What was certain was that he used subterfuge in his frequent trips to the mountains of Lower California, always with the "object of buying Indian youngsters to sell in Los Angeles." (38)

There was at that time no state law which held a white man finable for abducting an Indian from his home or for compelling him the work against his will. The Statute of the State Constitution concerning the government and protection of Indians was not passed until April 22, 1850. The so-called protection did not help the Indian much but it helped the labor shortage. The following portion of the California Statute indicated the general policy adopted in regard to Indians during the mid-nineteenth century. (39)

    1. Justices of the Peace shall have jurisdiction in all cases of complaints by, for, or against Indians in their respective townships in this state.

    2. Persons and proprietors of land on which Indians are residing, shall permit such Indians peaceably to reside on such lands, unmolested in the pursuit of their usual avocations for the maintenance of themselves and families, etc.

    3. Any person having, or hereafter obtaining a minor Indian, male or female, from the parent or relations of such Indian minor, and wishing to keep it, such person shall go before a Justice of the Peace, in his township, (who) shall give such person a certificate, authorizing him or her to have the care, custody, control and earnings of such a minor, until he or she obtain the age of majority.

    Sections 14 and 20 provided that Indian criminals may be fined and be forced to work out their sentence. Indians caught "loitering and strolling about", frequenting places where liquors are sold, begging, or leading immoral lives may be placed in someone's custody, not to exceed four months.
These vague phrases, with the explicit double standards of value, had the desired effect. Major Horace Bell (40) stated that Los Angeles had its slave mart, as well as New Orleans and Constantinople, only the slaves at Los Angeles were sold fifty-two times a year as long as they lived. The practice at Los Angeles was to gather up all the Indian drunks during Saturday and Sunday and sell them on Monday to the ranchers, who then worked them until Friday and paid them in liquors. Consequently they became intoxicated again and were herded into a corral where they could be sold on Monday. The life of the Indian under such conditions was extremely short. The San Francisco Daily Morning Call on November 24, 1858, related that the same system was occurring throughout the state. When the "Digger" in Fresno became drunk and had no money to pay his fine, he was sold at auction to the highest bidder. The editor of the Mariposa Star saw one Indian sold for $1.25. (41)

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