In 1848 the shout heard 'round the world was "Gold in California!" The rush was on. Endangered native people saw invaders dig up land gently tended for centuries, deer and fish disappear, cultures collide. Jim Savage, a former mountain man famously befriending Indians, learned their languages, married into their tribes and, when desperate Indians marauded, was tasked by the infant state's government to collect them onto reservations. In 1851 Savage's ragtag militia, the Mariposa Battalion, entered history as the first white men to see Yosemite Valley.
These events, factually documented and fictionally recreated, include major and minor historical participants, most prominently the nameless Indian woman riding at Savage's side, guiding the Mariposa Battalion expedition. A diarist described her as wearing calico, barefoot astride a roan horse, glancing behind her at men on horseback carrying rifles. Nothing more is known of her. But we can imagine her thoughts, her fears, her life before this moment, dancing the old dances, singing the old songs, gathering acorns, weaving baskets. And then seeing her land spoiled, her people hunted, her culture destroyed. Like so many, this anonymous Indian woman is lost to history. The life she might have lived is in these pages.
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