On This Day: In 1848 the California Gold Rush began. The gold rush started when James W. Marshall found gold at Sutter’s Mill in Coloma, California. Over the next two years, over 300,000 people arrived in California looking for gold. The human and environmental costs of the Gold Rush were substantial. Native Americans, dependent on traditional hunting, gathering and agriculture, became the victims of starvation and disease, as gravel, silt and toxic chemicals from prospecting operations killed fish and destroyed habitats and the surge in miners brought new diseases to the area. The surge in the mining population also resulted in the disappearance of game and food gathering locales as gold camps and other settlements were built amidst them. Later farming spread to supply the camps, taking more land from the use of Native Americans. To this day, Native peoples of California have never been compensated for the millions of dollars in gold taken from their lands.
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