Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Movie Review: Ken Burns: The West: Speck of the Future

For the most part this movie tells the story of the California Gold Rush.  First off, I did not like the way they explained the discovery of fold, only giving credit to James Marshall, and leaving out the contribution of the Mormon laborers.  It also does not tell the trepidation John Sutter had at the thought of the gold rush, nor that the family of Caleb Rhoades had been mining gold for at least six months before the official discovery of gold.  However, it does talk about the role of Sam Brannon in the gold rush.  It was he that spread the news verbally in San Francisco and sending copies of his newspaper with news of the discovery, to the East in hopes of increasing financial prospects in California.  His plans worked better than he expected. San Franciso was a community of maybe three families when Brannon arrived with the Ship Brooklyn.  Within five years it was a community of some 50,000.  This show does not talk about the fate of John Sutter, but does talk about General Mariano Vallejo.  Both had large land holdings, which were lost to squatters.  Basically their financial empires were destroyed as a result of the Gold Rush.  The show also mentions White/ Native American relationships.  It talks of the Lakota, who finally signed a peace treaty.  (Treaty of Fort Laramie 1851)  However it wasn't but a few years until the treaty was violated and the Lakota representative who signed the treaty had been killed in a battle.  This created an atmosphere of mistrust.  However the story of the California Indians is even worse.  At the start of the Gold Rush, 1849, there were 150,000 thousand Native Americans in California.  There was a policy of extermination, some cities paying a bounty for an Indian scalp or head.  They were often reimbursed by the state.  Within twenty-five years the Native American population in California was 30,000.

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