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Historical Document Analysis

Various aspects need to be acknowledged while analyzing and interpreting a historical document, such as understanding and recognizing the bias, looking at history as a progress, and finally establishing the evidence of experience. In this case, Documents from The Destruction of California Indians have been analyzed, and it has come to the attention that the bias remains in the favor of the Indians throughout the article. Also, the idea of positive progress that many historical readings try to convey seems irrelevant to the documents.

Finally, the evidence displayed throughout the documents proves unsatisfactory since the evidence of the experience came from a white male perspective, which may have altered the true happenings. All of these aspects are looked for in historical documents in the attempt of revealing credibility. In all historical documents, a reader could easily distinguish an individual perspective even if the author may not have intended on purposely writing about their bias toward the subject. The importance of recognizing an individual bias proves the understanding one has toward history.

It seems impossible to escape a perspective, especially in a historical document because everyone tends to have their own opinion on each topic. The same goes for historical objectivity, which means a collection of assumptions or attitudes. Looking at any document proves the concept true, notably in the documents from The Destruction of California Indians. Perspective belongs to the eye of the beholder; according to a newspaper editorial in 1855, the writers believe that white citizens have deliberately sabotaged the Indian’s land. The article said, “[Indians] are driven to steal or starve, and the Indian mode is to kill and then plunder. The article indicates that the Indian’s deserve peace, which sets a bias towards the Indian population.

The same article later states, “The fate of the Indian is fixed,” which still puts the perspective in the favor of the Indians. Given that past issues presented themselves between the Indian population and the white citizens, history has put an emphasis on progress through time. The idea of progress through history seems relevant when one thinks about a topic, however, the question remains: Has progress actually been made, or do historians just want people to believe that idea?

Thinking about historical topics in a chronological order from old to recent history, one might conclude that progress was made, but some issues that occurred in the past still remain today. To demonstrate this idea, documents from The Destruction of California Indians serves as a strong reference point since the Indian tribes had countless disagreements with the white population. The first article from the series of documents exemplifies that the Indian people and the white population have a somewhat civil relationship between their properties and possessions, but as the articles evolve, violence begins to arise.

From the first document, a letter from Captain Henry Nagle to the Governor of California, says, “I would respectfully call your attention to the necessity of publishing some decree forbidding all persons from trespassing upon the indians…”. This statement shows a calm state of mind while respectfully asking for privacy, however as time develops, the situation becomes worse. In the last document, “Indian Affairs on the Pacific” states, “We are told that the Indians are treacherous, that it is impossible for white men to live in safety while Indians remain in the neighborhood.

One could easily conclude that the idea of positive progress was not made through the time period. This poses the question if progress has actually been made in any event, or do historians hide the fact that some situations never progress? Each experience is impacted by a number of fluences, and one small change in history could alter an entire event. The evidence of an experience provides many details that may or may not be true. That being said, A historian’s job requires immense amount of research in every aspect about an event.

The idea of perspective plays a role in making the evidence from experience difficult. Since no one can relive an experience, evidence could prove misleading, which could affect the interpretation of the event and ultimately ruin the source’s credibility. An article from The Destruction of California Indians shows an illustration of evidence from experience and the effects it has on the audience. Experience as evidence may lead to inaccurate facts about a specific event because no one can retell an experience to the full potential.

For example, “Indian Affairs on the Pacific,” a newspaper article published in 1856, wrote about an event, but seemed unclear about the facts from the event. It stated, “The Indians taking [sugar] again, as before, and, making somewhat of a feast with it, the result was that some eight or ten were killed. ” This quote suggests that the writer did not have sufficient evidence about the actual event. If a historian looked at the context of the passage, one could tell that the uncertainty of the numbers proves that the article could very well be false.

During the time period, eight to ten deaths would make the headlines of all newspaper articles because a large number of deaths would attract attention. Obviously, the goal of the article favors the sympathy of the Indian tribe. The bias in the documents return, still playing in the favor of the Indians. The uncertainty of the facts in this event abolishes the credibility of this article, therefore the article opens for interpretation of the actual event. In every event, different interpretations of what actually happen will emerge, which offers multiple explanations.

A historian must decide what actually happened based on the small amount of information given. According to the Indian documents, many articles show a strong interest for the Indians. For example, a letter from Edward A. Stevenson to Thomas J. Henley says, “The Indians in the County are peaceable in their character, but their condition is wretched in the extreme. ” This particular article suggests that the Indians caused no harm and the white population purposely troubled the Indians. Another example of this bias is displayed in the letter from Captain H. W. Wessells to Major E. D.

Townsend by saying, “I have to report than an inoffensive Indian was barbarously murdered about 12 o’clock last night by a white man at the rancheria within a few hundred yards of his post. ” Historians might question whether the white population actually harmed the Indians, or the historians might also wonder if the story was false. Some may never know what actually happened since events could easily be altered. One important aspect about history that many historians believe involves the role of every detail and how it creates a specific outcome that could be changed if one detail switches.

Using the letter from Captain H. W. Wessells to Major E. D. Townsend as a reference, think about how the outcome would have differed if the Indians fought back against the white population. Would the article demonstrate sympathy towards the Indians still? The article, “Indian Affairs on the Pacific,” shows another example of how history could have changed because of one meager detail. History always poses the big question of “What if? ” This concept requires deep thought about the past, present, and future.

History remains as a complex subject; It seems difficult to make sense of a confusing situation. The most confusing part about a historical event involves trying to find the truth in the event. All things considered, historical events could have easily been altered by small changes in the detail, evidence might get mishandled, and bias always plays a role in a document, but historians always find the truth in the event. In conclusion, many factors contribute to analyzing a historical event or document starting with understanding and recognizing the bias of the topic.

All writers reveal a bias whether it be purposeful or not, but the truth remains that everyone holds their own opinion. A strong bias was shown for the Indians in The Destruction of California Indians. Many historical documents show a positive progress through time, even when no efforts of progress were made. As shown in the documents, a decline in relationship between the Indians and the white population presented itself. Supposedly, a large amount of deaths occurred from various reasons but mostly murder.

The evidence provided in the documents did not always have the credibility to prove true, but that happens quite often in situations of experience used for evidence. The ability to remember an exact event seems impossible when bias plays a role in everything. The misleading facts about an event lead to further interpretations, and a historian’s job requires research to determine what actually happened during the specific event. In the final analysis, complexity describes history since many events stay open for interpretation, but the role of a historian explains the significance of an event.

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