Pit River Tribe Historical Timeline

1522 Views

Last Updated: 6 years

Here is an historical timeline of some of the prehistoric and historical events and periods related to the Pit River Tribe. 

Approximately 200 AD: New technology, the bow and arrow, is introduced into the Pit River area.

Pre-1800 – Pit River bands of indigenous natives were living in abundance for thousands of years. For thousands of years, numerous indigenous villages were situated around and along Achoma (the Pit River) and out onto the surrounding plains, hills, mountains, and valleys.

The people utilized the natural resources of their land to the fullest. In addition to harvesting deer, salmon, trout, rabbit, birds, and other small mammals, they often moved around their territory and gathered acorns, roots, herbs, and fruits, as each came into their season.

Before the European-American immigration, the Native Americans of the Pit River region were thriving. The eleven bands in the region had similarities and differences in their language and ways.

Some downriver bands lived in simple pit houses in small familial villages along Achoma (aka, the Pit River). They led a somewhat nomadic life, following opportunities to harvest foods from the rich resources of this valley, and ready to move to higher ground when the creeks and rivers flooded in the rainy season.

Archaeological evidence and some information collected by ethnographers in the early 1900s gives only minimal details of the thriving culture and communities that existed in the vast Pit River territory.

Pit River artists and crafters apparently used both basalt and lots of obsidian from Glass Mountain to make tools and weapons.

Obsidian arrowheads and obsidian flakes from tool-making have been found all over the valley from the river banks to the hillsides and high in mountain hunting camp areas.

1827-1830s – European-American/Canadian fur trappers and explorers began passing through the Pit River area.

1830s – Many Pit River natives died from European disease epidemics.

1848 – California became part of the U.S.A. through the Treaty of Hidalgo with Mexico. 

1849- Gold Rush begins, bringing a new huge wave of migrants into California, many of whom were ruthless abusers and murderers of Indian people.

1850 – California became a state.

1850s – European-American immigrant expansion interest and activity in Pit River region began. USA government, military forces, and settlers invaded, attacked, displaced, and killed the majority of Pit River Indians, with no treaties or compensation made for land seized.

1851-53 – U.S. Congress and California Legislature created various laws that denied Indians land rights and effectively extinguished all aboriginal title in the state, paving the way for continued conflict, with no treaties or protections for the Pit River Indians.

1850s and 1860s: The movement of white emigrants into Pit River territory caused more and more Pit River displacement and changes to the environment. The emigrants often had no respect for the delicate balance of nature, grazing their cattle and horses in prime hunting and gathering areas. A steady flow of emigrants arrived determined to occupy Pit River land and began the process of confiscating and fencing off the land.

Mid 1850s – European invaders ruthlessly and tragically destroyed most of the Pit River natives, and their way of life. The Pit Rivers (and virtually all California indigenous bands) were repeatedly abused, killed, and brutally massacred, as the invaders raided village after village in countless incidents, including some more well-known battles, such as the “Wintoon War” and the “Pit River War”…

1858 – General William Kibbe and Captain I. G. Messec led military and civilian soldiers against the Indians from Trinity County all the way to the Fall River Valley. These soldiers were known as Kibbe’s Guards and were ruthless, efficient Indian killers.

Many Indians surrendered under the threat of death or starvation, others were captured, untold numbers were killed, and their villages and food supplies were destroyed in the battles.

1859 – 700 captured Pit River Indians were forcibly taken to the Round Valley Reservation in Mendocino County for internment. The number of soldiers reported killed in the attacks varies; one account mentions 25, while another mentions 90.

The main war ended in 1859. Although the vast majority of Pit River Indians had been killed or forcibly moved out of the area, some remained, hidden away, and over 500 of those who were sent away eventually returned to their homeland, only to find white settlers taking over more and more property.

1868 –  The US Army under General George Crook brutally took control of many upriver Achoma areas. Many stories of brutal massacres and senseless racist killings of Pit River people have been handed down through the oral tradition.

1878 – Government timber land went on sale in 1878, and setlers were allowed to purchase up to 160 acres at $2.50 an acre. Outlying areas were victim to a speculative boom as a result, and large acreages passed into private hands.

The area was subsequently heavily logged. The super intense ecosystem-destroying over-harvesting of timber in Big Bend region remains a huge problem today. Most of the once vast and diverse forests in the area have been abused, destroyed, and changed into unhealthy tree farms by clear-cutting and other industrial logging practices.

The European-American settler occupation of the Pit River territories disrupted the safety of the Pit River people, and their traditional food supply. Many “Pit Rivers” were displaced against their will, some brutally murdered, in these years.

Some returned or resettled nearby when they could, but countless people were cut off from their extended families and their traditional food sources.

1900s and beyond – Many Pit River people survived in poverty and some were hired out as ranch hands, mill workers, forestry workers, etc. The arrival of white emigrants forever altered the environment and culture of the Pit River people.

The Pit River people never signed a treaty with the United States or the State of California; their land was simply illegally confiscated.

Today, the Pit River people have survived and continue to live in what is now called Shasta County, as well as throughout the West. Some continue to hunt and gather in their traditional places, and pray at their sacred sites throughout their homeland.

Today, they are a federally recognized tribe (headquarters located in Burney, CA) with several “Rancheria” and allotment “satellite” reservations, a casino, a gas station and convenience store, a giant commercial cannabis growing facility (raided by US and California drug agents in July 2015) and a tribal council that includes representation of each of the eleven bands making up the Pit River Nation.