The flags of several nations have flown over California over the course of the last 500 hundred years. At various times the flags
of Spain, Mexico, and The United States have flown over the state. In addition from 1812 until 1867, the flag of the Russian-American
Company flew over Fort Ross in northern California. For very brief periods the flags of England, Argentina, the Mexican Empire,
and the California Republic, have also flown over parts of the state.
California, a free state, became the 31st state admitted
to the union on September 9, 1850.
The year 2000 Census ranks California 1st by population with 33,871,648 residents.
The estimated 2005 population was 36,132,147.
Sept. 9, 1850
2000 Population: 33,871.648
2005 Population (est): 36,132,147
Highest Elevation: Mount Whitney at 14,494 ft.
Lowest Elevation: Death Valley at -282 ft. Area: 155,959
Avg Annual Rain: 17 in.
Location: The West and Pacific regions
State Bird: California Valley Quail State Flower: Golden
Poppy State Gem: Benitoite
State Mineral: Gold State Tree: California Redwood State Animal: California Grizzly
Bear State Insect: California Dogface Butterfly State Fish: California Golden Trout State Reptile: Desert Tortoise
State Fossil: Sabre-toothed
State Colors: Blue & Gold
State Song: I Love You, California
As is the case with the entire western United States, the first inhabitants of California were immigrants, travelers from Asia, following
big game herds across the Bering Strait into Alaska, down through Canada and into the United States (and even all the way to the tip
of South America). These migrations took place over thousands of years beginning at the end of the last ice age, perhaps
13,000 - 15,000 years ago. Archaeological evidence from this period is scarce. Santa Rosa Island, one of the Channel Islands
of California off the Southern California coast, is the site of Arlington Springs Man, human bones dated to 10,000-13,000 B.C.,
among the oldest remains discovered in the Americas.
Due to various climates existing within the geographic area of California,
the indigenous peoples evolved differently in different areas of the state. These different cultural evolutions are roughly
split into the following categories, based on their geographical location primarily:
The northwestern culture area extends
from northern California to Alaska, and is distinguished by far greater rainfall than other areas of the state. Included
among these cultures are the Yurok, Hupa, and Shasta peoples. The northeastern cultural area included the Achumawi and Atsugewi
The central culture area covers about half the present territory of California and is marked by a mild climate.
This area comprised about two-thirds of all the native people living in the state at the time of the European invasion. Included
among these cultures are the Yokuts, Miwok, Maidu, and Pomo peoples. The Southern culture area was marked by abundant sea life,
and contained the most populous tribes in the state. Among these tribes are the Kumeyaay, Cahuilla, Tongva, and Chumash Indians.
Great Basin culture area includes most of California's eastern border with Arizona, Nevada, and Utah, and includes the Tubatulabal,
and the Owens Valley Paiute tribes. The Colorado River culture was part of the western periphery of the greater Southwest culture
area and includes the Ouechan (Yuma), Halchidhoma, and Mohave tribes.
It is estimated that at the time of the European invasion
of the 1700's there were perhaps 300,000 Native Americans, formed in hundreds of small groups, speaking more than 100 different languages, living
The Early Peoples
For two hundred years beginning in the early 1500's, the coast of California was explored by adventurers from several European nations
including Spain, England, France, and Russia.
The Spaniards were the first explorers of the California coast. These
early explorers were either looking for the "northwest passage", or they were looking for gold. The fabled "Seven Cities of
Gold" were long sought after by Spanish explorers in the southwest United States. These early Spanish explorers included Hernan
Cortes, Fortun Jimenez, and Francisco de Ulloa. Hernan Cortes is credited with the first exploration of southern California
beginning in 1527. After several preliminary expeditions, in 1533 Cortes sent an expedition northward along the west coast of
Mexico. This was the first contact between the Spanish and the local indians, and it did not go well for the Spanish.
The pilot of the expedition was killed in a mutiny, and twenty mutineers were in turn killed by the local Guaycura Indians.
sent more expeditions in 1535 and 1539 and explored the west coast of Baja California, even establishing an outpost in the Baja Peninsula
in 1535. In May of 1535 Cortes claimed "Santa Cruz Island" (he was mistaken, this was in fact the Peninsula of Baja California),
There were more expeditions
In 1539 Cortes sent yet another expedition, under Francisco de Ulloa, that made it
all the way to the mouth of the Colorado River, and around the penisnula to Cedros Island.
Iin 1542, Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo,
a Portuguese navigator sailing for the Spanish Crown, sailed from western Mexico north to San Diego Bay, claiming the "Island of California"
(he was mistaken) for Spain.
Other explorers included Pedro de Unamuno in 1587 and Sebastian Rodriquez Cermeno in 1595,
and Sebastian Vizcaino in 1602 - 1603. Vizcaino explored the coastline as far north as Monterey Bay.
The Spanish King, Carlos III, decided that Spain would have to physically occupy California or risk losing it. In 1697, the
Jesuit missionary Juan Maria de Salvatierra established the first permanent mission in Baja California Sur, which was part of New
Spain at that time. This established the Spanish presence in the Californias for the first time, and for the next 125 years
the Spanish built missions reaching from Loreto, north to San Diego to just north of the San Francisco Bay area. The Spanish
crown thus laid claim to most of California from San Diego to San Francisco.
By 1820 Spanish influence in California was indisputable,
however, war was coming and things would soon change.
British captains James Cook and Sir Francis Drake also explored the California coastline. In 1778, Captain Cook mapped the entire
coast of California all the way to the Bering Strait. In 1786 Jean-Francois de Galaup, Comte de La Perouse, led a scientific
expedition commissioned by Louis XVI.
None of these explorations resulted in any permanent settlements in California.
The Russians Arrive
Beginning in the early 1800's fur trappers from the Russian Empire explored the west coast of the Americas, as far south as San Diego.
The Russian-American Company was a semi-official colonial trading company chartered by Tsar Paul 1 in 1799. The company constructed
forts in what is today Alaska and California. Fort Ross, completed in 1812, on the California coast just north of San Francisco, was
the southernmost outpost of Russian America. The company ceased its commercial activities in 1867, when the Alaska Purchase transferred
control of Alaska to the United States.