The Fascinating History of Redding Rancheria

The Wintu Tribe of Northern California

When I am outdoors visiting our beautiful NorCal landmarks, curiosity always slips into my head regarding the history of the area. Who had been here before me? What was their outlook on the world? How was this landmark used by humans throughout history?

The Native American tribes of Northern California can provide us with a historic outlook of our area when our great outdoors were nearly untouched by humans. Our abundant rivers and lakes were fished as a source of survival rather than recreation. The resources of our mountains and forests were used by men, women and children. Our wilderness was understood by NorCal’s ancient inhabitants deeper than we can ever imagine.

RELATED: The Story of Lassen’s Ishi – The Last ‘Wild’ Native American

Redding Rancheria is a combination of the Pit River, Wintu and Yana tribes. The story of the clash between tribes and white settlers is brutal and tragic. In the 1900’s, many tribes who had staked claim to NorCal land for many, many years were pushed from their homes. It’s hard to understand exactly how long the Natives had lived the area but evidence of human occupation in California dates as far back as 17,000 BCE.

Member of the Pit River Tribe

We documented the clashes between local tribes and white settlers in The Lockhart Ferry Massacre: Northern California’s Bloody War of the 1850s.

Here’s the history as explained on the Redding Rancheria website:

The Bureau of Indian Affairs purchased the land that is now considered the Redding Rancheria in 1922. The purpose of this purchase was to provide a place for homeless Indians to camp and live. And that is precisely what this land became for many Indians in Shasta and Trinity County. Our Rancheria was unique because it included Indians from not just one tribe but Indians of Pit-River, Wintu and Yana descent.

Even Prior to the purchase of the land by the government for Indian homes, many Indians gathered in the area to fish for salmon in Clear Creek. Life on the reservation was communal. People looked after each other’s children, planted gardens for food, and carried buckets of water from natural springs from nearby Clear Creek. Indians on the Rancheria lived a self-sufficient lifestyle.

Although the Bureau of Indian Affairs was obligated to establish and maintain a domestic water system, provide a road and housing, they built only a handful of substandard houses and failed to fulfill the other obligations.

The history of the treatment on Indians in California is tragic. As recently as 1958, the California Rancheria Act expressed Congress’s intent to eradicate the cultural identity of Indians. In the area of termination, Congress unilaterally extinguished the special status and rights of tribes. The Redding Rancheria was terminated by an act of congress on July 6, 1959. The act set forth the distribution of assets of the Rancheria. The Rancheria was no longer recognized by the government and the people residing on the Rancheria were no longer considered Indians. As the years progressed the Rancheria was parceled off and sold to Indians and non-Indians alike. In spite of this, those living on the Rancheria continued their communal traditions and operated a traditional Tribal Council.

During the late 1970s the Inter-Tribal Council of California was active in forming task forces challenging the termination of a number of tribes. In 1983, a California district ruled that the failure of the BIA to comply with it’s obligations under the California Rancheria Act invalidated the Act. As a result, the Redding Rancheria and 17 other tribes were restored as federally-recognized Indian tribes. In 1987 the restored Redding Rancheria tribe formally adopted its Constitution.

For more information, watch this stunning documentary on the history of the Redding Rancheria:

Active NorCal

Telling the Stories of Northern California

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