California Studies Association

The latest news, events, and perspectives from the CSA

A Rich History in the CA Delta

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In her blog, The California Spigot, Patricia McBroom writes about efforts in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta to resurrect a long human history of living and farming in this watery  heartland.  Descendants of Gold Rush immigrants still live there, watching the waterways and maintaining the levees, as they have done for 150 years.  Their agricultural livelihood is threatened by political forces that want to build huge tunnels under the Delta and return large tracts of farming land to original marshland.  Now, leaders and scholars in the Delta are moving to stitch together the historical and prehistorical narratives that shaped the area, hoping that wider public recognition will help preserve their tenure on the land.  Applications have been submitted to the Federal Government for a National Endowment for the Arts grant and for recognition as a National Heritage Area site.  If  Congress approves legislation, it would be the first such NHA in California.

From the article:

The area deserves the best we can do,” said (Robert) Benedetti (professor of political science at University of the Pacific in Stockton). “This is our Jamestown.  From prehistory to industrialization, the Delta is the place that held California in its infancy.”
Along the winding waterways are the remnants of a river culture that barged food, coal and other products from Sacramento to San Francisco for more than 50 years from 1850 to the 1930s. Before them came Native Americans, a large population who thrived for thousands of years in California’s rich Central Valley, including the Delta.  It is a history, however, that is still mostly unknown, scattered in archives throughout the state.  Efforts are now being made to bring it together and none too soon.
But, while public awareness of its history and new recreational opportunities are certainly needed in the Delta, these things alone can not counter the threats to agricultural viability there.  Agriculture is by far the most important economic engine in the Delta, and it is being challenged from several directions. 
To read the whole article, click here


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