Largo Circle

Largo Circle

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Manuel Largo with other Cahuilla men

Courtesy of the Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley


LIVED: Circa 1820 - Unknown

Following the death of Cahuilla leader Juan Antonio, a victim of the 1862-63 smallpox epidemic, Manuel Largo emerged as a leader of Cahuilla groups in the mountains and western desert.  At this time, Cahuilla groups were divided into two sections: one under Cabezon (eastern desert) and the other under Manuel Largo.

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.