Looking Through a Different Lens

As our nation continues to grapple with issues of racism, equity, and justice, it is more important than ever to explore and understand our relationship with the past. Examining our history can help us understand and work to fix the systematic marginalization of minorities, and strive for a better future. Bidwell Mansion State Historic Park and the lives of John and Annie Bidwell can be hard to examine; their presence as prominent white landowners during a time of slavery, racism, and intolerance makes their story a difficult one to tell, intertwined with highly emotionally charged topics.

John and Annie were philanthropists, activists for the women’s right to vote, and employed a diverse labor force in their ranch. John also supported the forced removal of Native Americans to the Round Valley Reservation on the Chico to Round Valley Trail of Tears, and paid his Chinese workers less than whites. Annie fought hard to allow the Mechoopda Maidu to own property, but pursued throughout her life their conversion to Christianity and western norms of life, doing much to alter their rich cultural heritage. John Bidwell stood with the Union against slavery during the civil war, but worked for John Sutter who kept and sold Native American slaves. Bidwell’s relationship to Sutter was not always agreeable, however Bidwell vocally supported Sutter until his death. The lives of the Bidwells are full of such contradictions. Examining their lives should be placed within the historic context in which they lived, but can also not absolve them of responsibility for their actions.

As we strive towards a greater understanding of the lives of those who passed through the mansion in its 150 year history, we hope you will continue to learn with us and in doing so reach a greater understanding of where we are today.