Before US colonization, the region that would become California was home to an estimated two hundred thousand to five hundred thousand Native people, as well as the highest spatial concentration of grizzlies in the world—an estimated ten thousand. These humans and grizzlies coexisted for an estimated fourteen thousand years before waves of settler colonial violence directed genocidal force against Native societies and completely eradicated California’s grizzlies within roughly sixty years. Drawing together an archive of regional history, political discourse, and print and visual culture, the essay offers an ecocultural analysis of how Native people and grizzlies living along the extractive edge of California’s international frontier were targeted by symbolic and material economies that framed them as unruly and disposable impediments to transforming captured environments into colonial territory. By attending to the scientific, political, and imaginative slippages among the human and nonhuman that directed the settler projects of attempted genocide and species-eradication, this essay examines how the colonial registers of the wild, the less-than-human, and the outdoors formed the constitutive underside of US Americans’ attempts to create “California” by violently remaking the worlds that preceded it.


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pp. 351-376
Launched on MUSE
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