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Free State Slavery: Bound Indian Labor and Slave Trafficking in California's Sacramento Valley, 1850–1864

Michael F. Magliari
Pacific Historical Review
Vol. 81, No. 2 (May 2012), pp. 155-192
DOI: 10.1525/phr.2012.81.2.155
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.1525/phr.2012.81.2.155
Page Count: 38
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Free State Slavery: Bound Indian Labor and Slave Trafficking in California's Sacramento Valley, 1850–1864
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Abstract

Although it outlawed chattel slavery, antebellum California permitted the virtual enslavement of Native Americans under the 1850 Act for the Government and Protection of Indians. Drawing data from a rare and valuable cache of Indian indenture records at the Colusa County courthouse and interpreting them through the lens of Henry Bailey's candid pioneer memoir, this article offers a detailed case study of bound Native American labor and Indian slave trafficking in Northern California's Sacramento Valley. While never comprising a majority of the state's rural work force, bound Indian laborers proved essential to California's rise as a major agricultural producer. Compensating for the dearth of white women and children in male-dominated Gold Rush society and providing a vital alternative source of labor in an expensive free wage market, captive Indian farm hands and domestic servants enabled pioneer farm operations and communities to flourish throughout the formative 1850s and 1860s.

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