Lessons in Bronze: Why Good History Matters

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Thank you to the many local historians, activists, and leaders, who freely shared their knowledge, gave support, and made this paper possible.

In mid-March 2018, a plaque honoring the heroics of a man during one of the deadliest periods of Shasta County’s history was proposed. The plaque, containing only a few sentences, is one of the best examples of the need for the careful study of history. Titled “Pioneer Courage,” the plaque memorializes “… the rescue and protection from vigilante revenge on this ground of twelve innocent Yana First Nation people following the Allen-Jones pioneer family murders of 1864.” The bronze plaque attributes the salvation of the individuals to a man who owned a farm near the Sacramento River. Even though the text is presented as a straightforward account of an important but less-known event from local history, conversations with community members and research reveals much more (Benda, 2018). The plaque has become an important example that can help clarify what ideals we should uphold, who we acknowledge, and what a vibrant community that values its history looks like.… Read the rest