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We Are the Land: A History of Native 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 colonial assault on California's Native communities has come in many toxic forms, including the many bad history books that have painted Indigenous Peoples as doomed and now vanished. With We Are the Land, Damon Akins and Willy Bauer offer a powerful tonic. This masterful history presents the experiences of California Indians as marvelously complex, grounded in land and place, and most of all continuing, from the days of Indian autonomy before the Spanish through the maelstrom of the Gold Rush and on to the conflicted, postindustrial American present. A remarkable and welcome accomplishment, this book will change the way you understand California's Indians and California's history."


Louis S. Warren, author of Gods Red Son: The Ghost Dance Religion and the Making of Modern America

"This monumental effort seeks nothing less than reimagining California's history. It's an important contribution not only to California, but also a template for other regional, national, and global histories. Simply put, this book is a breathtaking, sweeping and inspiring read."


Natale Zappia, author of Traders and Raiders and co-author of Rez Metal: Inside the Navajo Nation Heavy Metal Scene 

"An ambitious project to reclaim California history as inherently indigenous. Grounded in land and place, it is not so much a history but rather-and rightfully-histories, interwoven stories of peoples created in and of the land. This is a long-awaited and monumental book."


Terri A. Castañeda, author of Marie Mason Potts: The Lettered Life of a California Indian Activist 

"Damon Akins and William Bauer have succeeded brilliantly in writing the first ever comprehensive history of Native California. Centering indigenous perspectives and deep connections to place, We Are the Land provides an erudite and moving account of California's Native peoples as explorers, adapters, workers, visionaries, artists, activists, sometimes victims but always survivors, and an enduring part of California history."


Jeffrey Ostler, author of Surviving Genocide: Native Nations and the United States from the American Revolution to Bleeding Kansas

“California is both a place and an idea. As a place, California has always been and remains Indigenous land, and Indigenous People are central to the history and future of the place.” So write historians Akins and Bauer, who consider the complex story of the dozens of Native nations and tribes that were once central to the place, then seemingly disappeared with the arrival of outsiders from Mexico and all over the world. Later, as “California Indians,” they reappeared in order to claim rightful ownership of lands that, funded by casino revenues, they helped restore, reviving their languages and traditions at the same time. For example, Chumash people once inhabited the coastal lands from Malibu up to the area around Paso Robles and out into the Channel Islands; after being driven out, they have reclaimed some of their former territory. In the East Bay, much of what archaeologists call the West Berkeley Shellmound has been covered up by shops and homes, but Ohlone people are pushing to preserve the rest as a sacred site, “something that should be worth saving,” as one leader puts it. Examining historical encounters with newcomers brought north and west along river routes and ancient trails, Akins and Bauer explore Indigenous conceptions of place and the geographical relations among neighboring peoples, making a kind of Native American rejoinder to Richard White and Jesse Amble White’s California Exposures. Especially in a time of climate change and social upheaval, all people stand to learn about how to live in a place by studying ways both ancient and modern, the latter including “economic and political efforts to maintain connections to the land…[that] rested on the efforts that began in the 1870s, as California Indian People, communities, and nations recovered from genocide, ethnic cleansing, and slavery.”

A welcome contribution to Native studies and the rich literature of California’s first peoples.

Kirkus Reviews 

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