We Are the Land: A History of Native California (Paperback)

We Are the Land: A History of Native California By Damon B. Akins, William J. Bauer, Jr. Cover Image

We Are the Land: A History of Native California (Paperback)


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“A Native American rejoinder to Richard White and Jesse Amble White’s California Exposures.”—Kirkus Reviews
Rewriting the history of California as Indigenous.

Before there was such a thing as “California,” there were the People and the Land. Manifest Destiny, the Gold Rush, and settler colonial society drew maps, displaced Indigenous People, and reshaped the land, but they did not make California. Rather, the lives and legacies of the people native to the land shaped the creation of California. We Are the Land is the first and most comprehensive text of its kind, centering the long history of California around the lives and legacies of the Indigenous people who shaped it. Beginning with the ethnogenesis of California Indians, We Are the Land recounts the centrality of the Native presence from before European colonization through statehood—paying particularly close attention to the persistence and activism of California Indians in the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries. The book deftly contextualizes the first encounters with Europeans, Spanish missions, Mexican secularization, the devastation of the Gold Rush and statehood, genocide, efforts to reclaim land, and the organization and activism for sovereignty that built today’s casino economy. A text designed to fill the glaring need for an accessible overview of California Indian history, We Are the Land will be a core resource in a variety of classroom settings, as well as for casual readers and policymakers interested in a history that centers the native experience.

William J. Bauer, Jr. is an enrolled citizen of the Round Valley Indian Tribes and Professor of History at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.

Damon B. Akins is Professor of History at Guilford College, in Greensboro, North Carolina, and a former high school teacher in Los Angeles.

"A Native American rejoinder to Richard White and Jesse Amble White’s California Exposures. . . . [And] a welcome contribution to Native studies and the rich literature of California’s first peoples.
— Kirkus Reviews

"In what seems an overdue departure from standard histories, Akins and Bauer’s comprehensive account places indigenous people at the heart of California’s story."
— Boston Globe

"We Are the Land is an astonishing work of scholarship, storytelling, and solidarity. . . . It will set the standard for the many other stories of the People waiting to be told."
— Sierra Magazine

"Combines lyrical storytelling with academic narration to foreground Indigenous oral stories. . . . The book’s well-researched micro-histories coalesce to create a necessary rewriting of Californian history."
— Civil Eats

"Akins and Bauer have written a classic. . . . A relocation of the region’s indigenous peoples from a history based on their erasure to a history based on their preeminence."
— CounterPunch

"This richly sourced work. . . . is a refreshing read, offering a much-needed perspective of California history."

"This is a history of personal stories. Many make for painful reading. All are to the point."
— Geography Realm

“The stories Atkins and Bauer gather in this survey are about the Natives themselves, offering a compassionate reading of a people who have, even in some of the best revisionist studies, remained the 'other' on the periphery. The details and voices of California Indians' lives that the authors amplify from oral histories, primary documents, and secondary sources draw out the drama and recast the history of the 31st state from the perspectives of its First Peoples.”

— The Nation

"Damon Akins and William Bauer unveil a fascinating narrative about California Indians that breaks free from conventional boundaries of time and space. . . . Anyone interested in the history of Indigenous peoples will wish to read and enjoy it."
— Hispanic American Historical Review

"This well-written, accessible book reconceives California as Indigeneous land…the text itself is a powerful illustration of the ongoing challenges of colonialism and the Indigeneous survival of its many formations."
— Pacific Historical Review

"It will be very good to keep this book close at hand and to insist that our students do the same. It is timely, it is a significant accomplishment, and it is welcome."
— California History

"We Are the Land foregrounds Indigeneity in California — a state in which genocidal narratives operate to complete the work of actual genocide in effectively scrubbing any Native American presence from the story of California. The book offers a resounding refusal of this erasure, instead offering a comprehensive history of Native California that encompasses past and present to underscore the continual presence and centrality of Indigenous peoples throughout settler colonization, missionization, statehood, and the present."
— Book Riot

"Thankfully, this is not your parents’ book on the history of California."
— American Anthropologist

"This book is a welcome contribution to the growing field of California Indian Studies."
— Society for US Intellectual History

"We Are the Land is an excellent book. . . . a history of California’s Indigenous people in action, shaping places that, in turn, shape them. They made this history."
— American Historical Review