Teaching American History


California's biological and geological diversity has over the centuries influenced the human population that makes California home. Over one hundred Indian tribes live in California, each with their own unique customs, languages and territories. California State Parks preserves a vast number of archeological sites, including village sites, hunting and fishing grounds, and sacred places, and artifact collections of many of these native groups.

Key State Parks
Anderson Marsh State Historic Park (Pomo)
Link: www.parks.ca.gov/default.asp?page_id=483
Antelope Valley Indian Museum (Kitanemuk, Mojave, Halchidhoma, Quechhan, Kawaiisu, Southern Paiutes)
Link: www.parks.ca.gov/default.asp?page_id=632
California State Indian Museum (Central Valley groups: Yana, Yokuts, Monache, Patwin, Wintu, Maidu, Koncow, Nisenan, Tabtulabal, Nomiaki)
Link: www.parks.ca.gov/default.asp?page_id=486
Chumash Painted Cave State Historic Park (Chumash)
Link: www.parks.ca.gov/default.asp?page_id=602
Indian Grinding Rock State Park (Miwok, Maidu, Konkow, Monache, Nisenan, Tubatulabal, Washo, Foothill Yokut)
Link: www.parks.ca.gov/default.asp?page_id=553
Lake Perris State Recreation Area--Ya'l Heki' Regional Indian Museum (Serrano, Chumash, Cahulla, Cupeneo, Gabrieleno, Yanyume, Luiseno and Chemehuevi)
Link: www.parks.ca.gov/default.asp?page_id=651
Patrick's Point State Park (Yurok)
Link: www.parks.ca.gov/default.asp?page_id=417
Tomo-Kahni State Historic Park (Kawaiisu)
Link: www.parks.ca.gov/default.asp?page_id=610

Teacher's Guides
California State Indian Museum
Link: www.parks.ca.gov/pages/684/files/csimstudy.pdf

Additional State Park Resources
State Parks and Museums Interpreting California Indian Culture and Heritage. A list of state parks and the indian group(s) they interpret.
Link: www.parks.ca.gov/default.asp?page_id=24096
California Indian Language Groups. Includes a map of the root languages of California Indian groups.
Link: www.parks.ca.gov/?page_id=23548
California Indian Baskets. Showcases images of native baskets from collections in the State Museum Resource Center and State Indian Museum.
Link: www.parks.ca.gov/?page_id=24035
Rock Art. Articles on rock art in several state parks. Includes some detailed archeology terms.
Link: www.parks.ca.gov/?page_id=22691
Ahjumawi Fish Traps. Good article on fishing practices of the Ahjumawi Indian Group in northeastern California. Remnants of their fisheries are preserved in Ahjumawi Lava Springs State Park.  Includes photo gallery.
Link: www.parks.ca.gov/?page_id=23153
Wings of the Spirit: California Condor. Explores how the California Condor was incorporated into the cultures of California Indian groups.
Link: www.parks.ca.gov/default.asp?page_id=23527

Additional Resources
California Native American Heritage Commission. A great resource of information about California Indian History.  Site includes information about tribal and language groups, populations, and federal and state legislation.
Link: www.nahc.ca.gov/califindian.html
Four Directions Institute. Information on each California Indian Group.
Link: www.fourdir.com/california_indians_index.htm
The First Californians: The History, Geography, and Culture of California Indians. Workbook produced by the Four Directions Institute for Grades 3 and 4.
Link: www.fourdir.com/the_first_californians.htm
California Indian Museum and Cultural Center.  Links to lectures and educational resources, with the goal of educating the public about the history, culture, and contemporary life of California Indians and to honor their contributions to civilization.
Link: www.cimcc.org/index.html


During the eighteenth century, European nations jockeyed for positions as major colonial powers.  In Spain's American Territories the mission was considered the key institution necessary to establish a colonial society and to secure Spain's claim of ownership. By 1823 the Franciscan padres had established a total of 21 missions along the California coast, with Mission San Francisco de Solano in Sonoma the last mission to be founded and the only one created under the Mexican government. Designed to be self-supporting, the missions introduced intensive agriculture, cattle ranching, and artisan crafts, ultimately transforming the landscape and California's native peoples.  Four military garrisons, or presidios, provided protection to the missions and nearby pueblos. Explore the stories of this period within several of our state parks.

Key State Parks
El Presidio de Santa Barbara State Historic Park
Link: www.sbthp.org/presidio.htm
Fort Ross State Historic Park
Link: www.parks.ca.gov/?page_id=892
La Purisima Mission State Historic Park
Link: www.parks.ca.gov/default.asp?page_id=598
Monterey State Historic Park
Link: www.parks.ca.gov/default.asp?page_id=575
Santa Cruz Mission State Historic Park
Link: www.parks.ca.gov/default.asp?page_id=548
Sonoma State Historic Park
Link: www.parks.ca.gov/default.asp?page_id=479

Teacher Guides
Fort Ross State Historic Park Environmental Living Program Manual
Link: www.fortrossstatepark.org/elpmanual.htm

Additional State Park Resources
California Missions Trail. Traces the missions north from San Diego to Sonoma, providing a brief background of each mission site and contact information.
Link: www.parks.ca.gov/default.asp?page_id=22722
History of Fort Ross. Good historical overview.
Link: www.parks.sonoma.net/rosshist.html
La Purisima Mission State Historic Park. Good historical overview. Includes pictorial tour of mission buildings, and information on school group programs and interpretive activities.
Link: www.lapurisimamission.org
Missions of the Californias. A comprehensive list of missions founded in Alta and Baja California.
Link: www.parks.ca.gov/default.asp?page_id=22679
Santa Cruz Mission State Historic Park. Information on on-site school group programs.
Link: www.santacruzstateparks.org/education/school.php#mission

Additional Resources
California Mission studies Association. Abundant resources.
Link: www.ca-missions.org/
A Virtual Tour of the California Missions.  Provides histories of each mission and sound recordings of mission music.
Link: www.californiamissions.com/menu.html


In 1821 Mexico gained her independence from Spain and Alta California came under the jurisdiction of the Mexican government.  The secularization of the missions in 1833 closed California's only manufacturing centers. Cattle ranching became the province's sole industry, and a rancho society, closely identified with the Mexican period (1833-1848) in California history, developed.. Explore this pastoral period from within the residences of some of the prominent Californios, now state parks.

Key State Parks
Los Encinos State Historic Park
Link: http://los-encinos.org/
Monterey State Historic Park
Link: www.parks.ca.gov/default.asp?page_id=575
Old Town San Diego State Historic Park
Link: www.parks.ca.gov/default.asp?page_id=663
Pacheco State Park
Link: www.parks.ca.gov/default.asp?page_id=560
Petaluma Adobe State Historic Park
Link: www.parks.ca.gov/default.asp?page_id=474
San Juan Bautista State Historic Park
Link: www.parks.ca.gov/default.asp?page_id=563
Sonoma State Historic Park
Link: www.parks.ca.gov/default.asp?page_id=479
Sutter's Fort State Historic Park
Link: www.parks.ca.gov/default.asp?page_id=485

Teacher Guides
A Teacher's Guide to School Tours at Petaluma Adobe State Historic Park (4th grade) (PDF)
Link: www.petalumaadobe.com/educational/tourS.pdf
Petaluma Adobe State Historic Park Environmental Living Program Teacher Resource Handbook (4th grade)
Link: www.petalumaadobe.com/educational/elpmanual.html

Additional State Park Resources
California In Time: From the War with Mexico to Statehood. A good timeline. (PDF)
Link: www.parks.ca.gov/pages/735/files/chronology%20from%201836%20to%201850%20statehood.pdf
Los Encinos Archives Resource Center. Collection of online historical documents and photographs.
Link: http://historicparks.org
Petaluma Adobe State Historic Park. Provides more detailed information about the site.
Link: www.petalumaadobe.com
Sonoma State Historic Park Kids Only. Provides information about the historic sites, including the mission, that comprise Sonoma SHP.
Link: www.napanet.net/~sshpa/kids.htm


A unique event, the Gold Rush of 1849 had a profound effect upon the development of California, transforming it from a quiet agrarian economy with population centers located along the coast to a populous industrialized state. Evidence of gold mining in California still remains today in state parks. Piles of gravel and diverted streambeds along the American River and other tributaries record the efforts of prospectors and gold dredging. Miles of abandoned tunnels snake their way underground as rusty headframes, mining equipment, tailings and buildings mark the sites of hard rock mining operations at Empire Mine State Historic Park and Plumas-Eureka State Park.  Naked hillsides and twisted rock formations are the scars of hydraulic mining at Malakoff Diggins State Historic Park.  Some mining communities like Columbia State Historic Park remain as growing towns.  Others, like Bodie State Historic Park and Shasta State Historic Park, have become ghost towns.

Key State Parks
Bodie State Historic Park
Link: www.parks.ca.gov/default.asp?page_id=509
Columbia State Historic Park
Link: www.parks.ca.gov/default.asp?page_id=552
Empire Mine State Historic Park
Link: www.parks.ca.gov/default.asp?page_id=499
Malakoff Diggins State Historic Park
Link: www.parks.ca.gov/default.asp?page_id=494
Marshall Gold Discovery State Historic Park
Link: www.parks.ca.gov/default.asp?page_id=484
Old Sacramento State Historic Park
Link: www.parks.ca.gov/default.asp?page_id=497
Plumas-Eureka State Park
Link: www.parks.ca.gov/default.asp?page_id=507
Shasta State Historic Park
Link: www.parks.ca.gov/default.asp?page_id=456
Sutter's Fort State Historic Park
Link: www.parks.ca.gov/default.asp?page_id=485

Teacher Guides
Columbia State Historic Park: Gold Trek, 4th Grade Pre-visit Activity Guide (PDF)
Link: www.parks.ca.gov/pages/552/files/goldtrekprevisit.pdf
Shasta State Historic Park Teacher's Guide (PDF)
Link: www.parks.ca.gov/pages/456/files/shasta_cmbd_teachers_guide.pdf
Gold Rush Unit of Study. Park Online Resources for Teachers and Students (PORTS) program
Link: www.ports.parks.ca.gov/?page_id=24816

Additional State Park Resources
California In Time: From the War with Mexico to Statehood. A good timeline that puts the gold rush in perspective on a state and national level. (PDF)
Link: www.parks.ca.gov/pages/735/files/chronology%20from%201836%20to%201850%20statehood.pdf
Gold Rush Overview. Examines gold rush history from 1846 to 1855.
Link: www.parks.ca.gov/default.asp?page_id=1081
Stronghold of Pioneer Memories Sutter's Fort State Historic Park Museum Collection. Showcases photographs and artifacts from the state park's collections.
Link: www.parks.ca.gov/default.asp?page_id=24501
Stagecoach Days. Good information on stagecoach and transportation routes in early California.
Link: www.parks.ca.gov/stagecoachdays


California was originally home to the widest diversity of native cultures and languages in the United States. Through the Spanish-Mexican period of California history this cultural diversity was enhanced with the arrival of Europeans and Americans.  As people travelled to California from all over the world in the gold rush, California's cultural demographics rapidly expanded. Representations of the diversity of people in the state are reflected in traditional tribal buildings, historic structures and communities, prehistoric archaeological sites and cultural landscapes preserved in California State Parks.

Key State Parks
Colonel Allensworth State Historic Park -- California's only town founded, financed and governed by African Americans
Link: www.parks.ca.gov/default.asp?page_id=583
Angel Island State Park -- Immigration Station (known as "Ellis Island of the West")
Link: www.parks.ca.gov/default.asp?page_id=468
China Camp State Park -- Historic Chinese shrimp fishing village
Link: www.parks.ca.gov/default.asp?page_id=466
Weaverville Joss House State Historic Park -- Oldest continuously used Chinese temple in California
Link: www.parks.ca.gov/default.asp?page_id=457

Teacher Guides
Allensworth: A Piece of the World, A Teacher's Guide with Student Lessons and Resources (4th, 8th grade) (PDF)
Link: www.parks.ca.gov/pages/583/files/allensworthteachersguide_2008.pdf

Additional State Park Resources
Allensworth's Centennial Celebration: 100 years of the California Dream Listing of upcoming activities, events and supporting educational materials celebrating the centennial.
Link: www.parks.ca.gov/?page_id=24825
Angel Island Immigration Station Foundation.  Provides detailed history of the Immigration Station, teacher's guides and other resources for teachers and students.
Link: www.aiisf.org/
Angel Island Association. An organization that supports California State Parks in preservation and interpretation of the island.  Detailed history of the immigration station and photo documentary of the restoration of the original buildings.
Link: www.angelisland.org/immigr02.html