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Indian Slave Trade

This Type of Treatment

This type of treatment embittered the California Indians. Runaway Indians fled to the interior valleys (San Joaquin, Mojave, and Imperial) and waged war on the settlements. Don Benito Wilson conducted some raids to quell the Indians of the Mojave River area. Such a raid in 1845 was recorded by Susanna Bryant Dakin (20) as quoted from Wilson's own writing.

Wilson asked Don Enrique Avila ". . . if he would join me with ten picked men and renew our campaign down the River Mojave. He answered that he would do so, con mucho gusto. He came forthwith, and we started for the trip, twenty-one strong.

"Some seven or eight days after we reached the field of operations, myself and Avila being in advance, we descried an Indian village. I at once directed my men to divide into two parties, to surround and attack the village. We did it successfully, but as on the former occasion, the men in the place would not surrender, and on my endeavoring to persuade them to give up, they shot one of my men, Evan Callaghan, in the back.

"I thought he was mortally wounded, and commanded my men to fire. The fire was kept up until every man was slain. We took the women and children prisoners."

A neglected account of Wilson's exploits against the Indians on the desert came from Juan Bautista Esparza, who accompanied Wilson on the two trips. (21) Wilson encountered and killed an ex-mission Indian named Joaquin, who had had his lip branded and his ear severed by the mayordomo of the San Gabriel Mission rancho at Chino. According to Esparza, this Joaquin was evidently a leader of the party that attacked the Hernandez, Giacome, and Fuentes party and carried off two Mexican women. John C. Fremont's expedition came across the mutilated bodies of Hernandez and Giacome in 1844. (22) Joaquin obtained revenge for his mistreatment by the Mexicans; and he also secured women, probably for his own desires. How long the captives were kept by Joaquin is unknown. Neither Esparza nor Wilson mention finding the Mexican women.

Esparza also said that some of the Indian women who were brought by Wilson could speak Spanish. It remained a question for the Mexican authorities to ascertain whether they were induced to leave the missions or ran off on their own volition. Since Governor Pio Pico did not order any punishment of the women, chances were they were either induced to leave or were carried off by renegade Indians, or perhaps some of each occurred.

What happened to the women and children after Wilson brought them to San Gabriel has not been uncovered. They were, in good probability, portioned out to the surrounding ranchos as domestics, a euphemism for slavery.

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