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date: 05 June 2020

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter reviews the economic, cultural, and political history of California’s Native American communities. Throughout the twentieth century, scholars considered California Indians to be the United States’ most primitive indigenous people. Yet today, they are among the country’s most economically and politically active indigenous nations. This chapter explains how this economic and political activism is a product of a long history of adapting to changing circumstances. Before the arrival of Europeans, California Indians altered economic practices because of environmental change. Beginning in 1769, California Indians adjusted to the presence of Spanish colonists by using the missions to bolster their economies. In the 1830s and 1840s, California Indians raided Mexican ranchos for horses, which they exchanged with fur traders. In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, California Indians worked as migrant laborers in the state’s agribusiness, and today operate some of the most successful gaming resorts in the United States.

Keywords: economy, California, culture, indigenous people, gaming, politics, Spanish missions, migrant labor

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