The Hidden History Of How California Was Built On Genocide

The genocide of California’s Indigenous nations was the foundation upon which settler colonialism built the “Golden State.”

In this interview, historian and author Benjamin Madley argues that understanding the 19th century genocide in California will assist scholars in “re-examining the larger, hemispheric Indigenous population catastrophe.”

Mark Karlin: Can you define what constitutes “genocide” and the origin of the term?

Benjamin Madley: In 1943, the legal scholar Raphaël Lemkin coined a new word for an ancient crime.

Defining the concept in 1944, he combined “the Greek word genos (tribe, race) and the Latin cide,” or killing, to describe genocide as any attempt to physically or culturally annihilate an ethnic, national, religious or political group.

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