Asbill massacre

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The Asbill massacre refers to the murder of 40 Yuki people in Round Valley in 1854 by a band of six White explorers from Missouri.



White immigrants flooded into northern California in 1848 due to the California Gold Rush, increasing the non-Indian population of California from 13,000 to well over 300,000 in little more than a decade.[1][2] The sudden influx of miners and settlers on top of the nearly 300,000 Native Americans living in the area strained space and resources.

In 1851, the civilian governor of California declared, "That a war of extermination will continue to be waged, until the Indian race becomes extinct, must be expected."[3] This expectation soon found its way into law. An 1851 legislative measure not only gave settlers the right to organize lynch mobs to kill Indians, but allowed them to submit their expenses to the government. By 1852 the state had authorized over a million dollars in such claims.[4]


On May 15, 1854, six Missouri-based explorers led by Pierce Asbill happened upon Round Valley while searching for a route between Weaverville, an interior mining center, and Petaluma, an important river port.[5][6] Round Valley was in an isolated, difficult to access region of the Coast Range, allowing it to remain relatively untouched by settlers and miners to this point. While crossing a meadow, the explorers spotted movement in the grass and realized that Indians were in the valley.

Asbill stated, "We've come a long way from Missouri to locate this place... an' be damned if wigglin' grass 'ull keep us away! Git a–hold of yer weapons—we'uns are goin' in!"[7]

The party proceeded to a creek bed where they encountered a large settlement of Yuki. Through the combination of superior weaponry, horses, and focused intent, the party killed approximately 40 of the people.[8]


Neither Asbill nor any of his fellow settlers were charged with any malfeasance for killing the nonthreatening Indians. Asbill stayed on to hunt the land and eventually began kidnapping and trafficking Yuki women to be sold to non-Indian men outside of the valley. Asbill sold 35 women in this manner by 1855.[9]


Due to Round Valley's remote location, it became a destination for other Indians the settlers had forced off their lands, and soon its native population swelled to 20,000, while the White settlers in the area remained a few dozen. With their concentrated and vulnerable position (along with the 1850 California law "Act for the Government and Protection of Indians," which legalized the kidnapping and forced servitude of Indians by White setters[10][11][12]), slave raids against the Round Valley Indians became common. Further conflict soon led to terrorist attacks meant to drive the Indians from the valley (see Round Valley Settler Massacres of 1856 - 1859 and Mendocino War). By 1860 all remaining Yuki Indians had been forced into reservations. In the 1880s, settlers began taking over the reservation lands which instigated another "war" (see Round Valley War), resulting in the further loss of land and lives by the Yuki Indians.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Rohrbough 1998, p. 8
  2. ^ Kennedy 1864, p. 28
  3. ^ Journals of the Legislature of the State of California 1851, p. 15.
  4. ^ Carranco 1981
  5. ^ Madley 2008, pp. 303–304
  6. ^ Asbill 1975, pp. 18–19
  7. ^ Madley 2008, pp. 303–304
  8. ^ Palmer 1880, pp. 459, 595–596
  9. ^ Asbill 1975, pp. 34–35, 43
  10. ^ Statutes of California 1850, p. 408-410.
  11. ^ Carranco 1981, p. 40,109
  12. ^ Hurtado 1988, pp. 129–131


  • Asbill, Frank; Shawley, Argle (1975). The Last of the West. New York. 
  • Carranco, Lynwood; Beard, Estle (1998). Genocide and Vendetta, the Round Valley Wars of North California. Berkeley. 
  • Hurtado, Albert (1988). Indian Survival on the California Frontier. New Haven. 
  • Journals of the Legislature of the State of California at its Second Session (Report). San Jose. 1851. 
  • Kennedy, Joseph (1864). Population of the United States in 1860. Washington, DC: USA Government. 
  • Madley, Benjamin (2008). "California's Yuki Indians: Defining Genocide in Native American History". Western Historical Quarterly. 39: 303–332. 
  • Palmer, Lyman (1880). History of Mendocino. San Francisco. 
  • Rohrbough, Malcolm (1998). Days of Gold: The California Gold Rush and the American Nation. Berkeley. 
  • Statutes of California, Passed at the First Session of the Legislature (Report). San Jose. 1850. 

Further reading[edit]

  • Green, Rex D., "Indian Island Massacre: A Decade of Events Leading to Genocide and Removal of the Wiyots, 1850-1860." Senior seminar paper. Humboldt State University, 2002.
  • Madley, Benjamin. An American Genocide. Yale University Press, 2016.
  • Rohde, Jerry. "Genocide and Extortion." North Coast Journal, February 25, 2010:10-17. Electronic version: Genocide and Extortion
  • Secrest, William B. (1988). "Jarboe's War". Californians. 6 (6): 16–22.