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Antelope Valley Indian Peoples

The Gold Rush and the Push West

The 1849 California Gold Rush, originating in northern California, had further grave consequences for Indian groups throughout California. The rapid decimation of Indian populations in northern locations cut off centuries-old trading relationships. As the influx of gold seekers accelerated, many of these disillusioned immigrant miners filtered into and settled (primarily as farmers) in the Central Valley and southern California. To make the most desirable land available to the European settlers, the U.S. government began a program of relocation of the American Indian inhabitants.

An American survey party in the Tejon Pass, around 1854
Courtesy Bancroft Library
In 1854, the Sebastian Reservation and nearby Fort Tejon were built in the Tehachapi Mountains, which form the western border of the Antelope Valley. According to the U.S. Department of the Army, their purpose was to "protect the Indians." By 1864, most of the 1,000 people who had been "relocated" to Sebastian had deserted the reservation. Some individuals and families returned to the Antelope Valley and the Tehachapi vicinity, where they formed small communities and attempted to continue traditional cultural practices to the limited degree to which it was possible. In August 1864, the Sebastian Reservation was closed, and the remaining Indians were tranferred to Tule River Reservation.

During the mid to late 1800s, when population of local Indian groups was sparse, peoples of the Chemehuevi Tribe (whose own territory lies further east and north), visited and utilized Antelope Valley and its vicinities to expand their hunting and gathering opportunities, particularly during times of drought.

Antelope Valley Indian Peoples
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