GEOG 102 Big Chico Creek Watershed History Question Set

1. Which 2 Indian peoples appear to have occupied the Big Chico Creek watershed immediately prior to the arrival of the first settlers of European descent? 

Konkow (also known as the Northwestern Maidu) and the Yahi.

2. When did the first settlers of European descent arrive? ~1850

3.  Describe the Yahi’s subsistence strategies.  On what food resources (plant and animal) did they depend?

 "hunting and gathering economy, the Yahi sought deer, salmon, slow-water fish, rabbit, quail, rodents, and various other animals in addition to a wide variety of plant resources. Acorns (from oaks) were intensively gathered and processed, as were tubers, roots, nuts, berries, and bulbs."

4.  In which physical/natural regions were Konkow settlements at the time of European contact?

 "Villages were usually located on flats adjoining streams, and on ridges high above rivers and creeks, or along midslope benches, and were most intensively occupied during the winter months"

5. In which physical region did Konkow seek their subsistence during summers?  What food resources (plant and animal)?

"During the summer months, individuals and groups would venture into the higher elevations in order to procure various plant and animals. Small, medium, and large mammals were actively hunted within the mountainous regions east of Chico, with only the coyote, dog, wolf, and bear avoided. Several types of insects were collected during the summer, including yellow jacket larvae, grasshoppers, locusts, and crickets; all of which could be eaten dry, or roasted, the bulk of which were often stored for the winter months."

In spring "wild onion rhizomes and Brodea, which were contained within vernal pools."

6. Which food resources (plant and animal) caused the Konkow to migrate during late summer and late autumn?  To where did they migrate to harvest these resources?

"The transition between summer and autumn brought with it an abundance of food resources. Late summer fish runs were actively exploited, with salmon providing a large portion of the spoils. In addition to salmon, suckers, eels, and a variety of small, slow water fish were actively exploited, especially during the Late Prehistoric periods (Broughton, 1988). Fresh water mussels were also collected by the Konkow year-round, but were intensively exploited during periods of low water volume [late summer/early autumn] (Eugster, 1990, p114). Several types of nut seeds were collected during the early autumn months, with acorns provided by various oak species representing the greatest volume of nut meat harvested."

7. How and when did European contact upset native subsistence strategies?

"A malaria epidemic, brought by early explorers in 1783, greatly diminished the Indian population. Further reductions in local Indian populations occurred over the next thirty years due to diseases such as small-pox, typhoid, tuberculosis, and pneumonia."

"Miners and trappers (particularly those associated with the Hudson Bay Company) created scarcities of game by killing large numbers of deer, salmon, duck, and rabbit. Some species such as the condor, elk, antelope, and grizzly bear disappeared from the area. The introduction of domestic animals, such as cattle and hogs, further changed the environment and reduced the Indians’ traditional food sources by eating the plants, roots, grasses, seeds, and acorns on the best food-bearing lands."

8. When did the first Spanish and American explorers arrive in the Big Chico Creek watershed?  What specific purposes brought each group to the area?

"1808 a Spanish expedition, led by Gabriel Moraga, looking for a new inland mission site." 
"In 1828 a party of American fur trappers led by Jedediah Strong Smith entered the area."

9. When, in what form and size did the Spanish distribute lands in the Big Chico Creek watershed to settlers?

Mexico achieved independence from Spain in 1821. So, the Mexican government distributed the land, not the Spanish.  They distributed lands in the BCC watershed to settlers by dividing the land into 3 large land grants: Arroyo Chico, Farwell, Aguas Nieves.

10. What products did early agricultural settlers raise and harvest in the Big Chico Creek watershed?

"Livestock grazing was the dominant economic activity on the early land grants of Butte County during the late 1840s and the 1850s. Animals raised included cattle, horses, sheep and hogs (McGie, p90). John Bidwell’s ranch was the first center of agricultural activity other than grazing. In 1853 Bidwell was raising so much wheat that he built the area’s first flour mill. Among the other crops Bidwell grew over the years, were hay, barley, oats, peaches, apples, quince, pears, figs, and grapes (McGie p83)."

11. How did John Bidwell gain his wealth? What did he do with it that resulted in the town of Chico?  How did he attract settlers?

"A few months after the discovery of gold at Coloma on the American River in January 1848, Bidwell found gold at what is now Bidwell Bar on the Feather River. In addition to profiting from the gold he mined, he also established a successful trading post used by other miners flocking to the area."

 Bidwell bought Rancho Arroyo Chico and land south of Big Chico Creek and "arranged for the county surveyor to lay out streets on this area between Big Chico and Little Chico creeks. Bidwell believed the establishment of a nearby community would help his farming enterprise fulfill its potential and offered free lots to people who would agree to build homes and settle there."  

12. How long after Bidwell purchased his land did his promotional efforts result in the establishment of  the Chico Normal School?  Why “Normal”?
About 35 years after Bidwell acquired his land, the state agreed to build Chico Normal School in Chico on land that Bidwell donated.  Normal was the term for teachers' colleges at that time.

13. You really should visit the Bidwell Mansion State Historic Park.

14. What is your favorite part of Bidwell Park?  When did the city acquire it and/or when was it built?
One Mile, part of original land grant made by Annie Bidwell to city in 1905, constructed in 1918.

 15. What is the purpose of the Chico and Mud Creeks and Sandy Gulch Flood Control Project?  When was it built?
"The purpose of the project is to carry peak flows around the City of Chico via the Diversion Channel, Sycamore and Mud Creeks. Mud Creek eventually reunites with Big Chico Creek shortly before it enters the Sacramento River." 1965.