Manuel Largo with other Cahuilla menCourtesy of the Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley
ATTRIBUTION: MANUEL LARGO
LIVED: Circa 1820 - Unknown
Manuel Largo led during a difficult and transitional period in Cahuilla history. During his lifetime, tribal lands came increasingly under attack from opportunistic land-grabbers and squatters, forcing the Cahuilla people from their aboriginal territories and the natural resources upon which they depended to survive. Because the United States did not view Cahuilla Indians as legal owners of the lands they had occupied for generations, there was no legal recourse for their plight. In fact, Native Americans would not be recognized as citizens of the United States until 1924.
On September 28, 1850, the United States Congress appointed three Indian Commissioners to negotiate treaties with California Indians. These treaties were made for the protection of Indian people and their rights by setting aside large tracts of land for their use. By 1852, eighteen treaties with 180 bands of California Indians had been signed, allotting approximately one fourteenth of the entire state to native peoples. Not one of these treaties was honored by the federal government.
Angered by the unratified Treaty of Temecula (1852), Manuel Largo was among those who sought separate lands owned by Native Americans. To accomplish this he worked with the Indian Commission and made appeals to the local media. He once threatened to “go out upon the desert and die” if forced from his native lands.
Manuel Largo is credited as a key figure in the establishment of the thirty-plus reservations set aside for southern California Indians, held in trust by the federal government.