Thousands of Indians in Northern California were landless, impoverished, and all but forgotten at the turn of the twentieth century. The Northern California Indian Association (NCIA), formed by Christian women in the Santa Clara Valley, sought to improve conditions for these people and spurred the federal government to provide them with land. After fifteen years of success and growth, in the 1910s the NCIA pivoted from supporting direct fieldwork among the Indians to establishing an Indian industrial school near Sacramento. A fire at the school in 1917 caused a devastating setback for the association. Despite having the financial health to survive this loss, the NCIA struggled to carry on. Decreasing membership numbers and an aging leadership indicated critical weaknesses in the organization. World War I and secularization exacerbated these structural problems. The NCIA viewed the emergence of a new organization, the Indian Board of Co-operation, founded by Frederick Collett and Beryl Bishop-Collett, as a significant threat. Frederick Collett accused NCIA members of subverting the fledgling board by maligning the Colletts among government Indian agents, attempting to prevent the board’s participation at the Panama–Pacific International Exposition, and urging the courts to remove a foster child from the Colletts’ care. With few voices advocating for the Indians of Northern California during this period, the NCIA succeeded in influencing government policy and shaping federal Indian policies and programs. The NCIA’s decline allowed a new organization to press for a new round of federal assistance while pushing state and local officials to take greater responsibility for California’s Indigenous peoples.

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