Historians examining relations between Indian women and non-Indian men on the California frontier have focused on the gold rush era and later. These interactions were often violent and degrading to native women and a source of disease, despair, and population decline in Indian communities. Less attention has been paid the pre–gold rush period, in which a more complex social and sexual milieu emerged, influenced by the labor and familial relations of the fur trade. In California's Central Valley, white and Native Hawaiian settlers pursued relationships with Plains Miwok– and Valley Nisenan–speaking women with great enthusiasm. Closer examination of these interracial and interethnic relationships at John Sutter's New Helvetia colony suggests that intimate relationships between Indian women and settler men helped anchor these newcomers to communities that provided companionship, security, and access to labor and valuable resources. More than simply temporary arrangements of convenience, these relationships helped revitalize Indian communities and were essential to the colonization of central California.

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