In the novel Ramona, Helen Hunt Jackson emphasizes the social injustices that occurred in southern California at the beginning of American occupation of Spanish California. It focuses on the unjust treatment of Native American’s as well as Mexicans during the early parts of California’s history. This book was important because it helped establish a unique identity for the SoCal while portraying Mexican colonial life. This book goes to portray the Native American experience at the time of American settlement in California. It was written to stir up public opinion on the injustices that occurred and work towards advancing Native American culture. It also exemplifies the harsh treatment of Native American’s by the United States Government and its inability to understand their culture. Ramona explored the life of Southern Californian Indians and how they interacted with white society. It also goes to show how they were taken advantage off by both the Elite Latinos as well as the American immigrants. It also illustrates the great underbelly of the romantic vision of colonial California. The racism and discrimination of Native American’s is evident in all aspects of Spanish American culture. The book illustrates the American’s as villains and Native American’s as the noble savages. Both of the Latino land owners and American immigrants saw the natives as inferior race and exploited them for labor. Their culture was seen as savage and backwards and was not respected by either society. Ramona experiences this first hand from all the communities that discriminate against her family forcing them to constantly move around. One of the major themes of the novel is the dependence that the Native American’s had on the white community. They were stuck in a trap where they were forced to rely on the social and financial structures that the Americans had put in place. Capitalism and the manifest destiny prevail in the struggle for control of the land. United States is able to put a stake in California land by claiming it was their destiny from god to control the land and spread out from ocean to ocean. They used deceiving tactics to move away the Indians and prevent them from having any kind of social or political power as was shown in this novel. The theme of dislocation is also present in the novel. Even though the Native Americans have claim on their land, they must move around to avoid the greed of white settlers. The whites are interested in the land for settlement and exploitation, and they force the Indian settlers to move as their land gets slowly taken over by industry and capitalism. The story has a semi sweet ending with Ramona being rescued by her foster brother. They move to Mexico where she is safe from the greed of white settlers, but even the Mexican people look at Native American’s with similar disdain.
Jackson saw the dislocation of the people as a great blow to the Native American’s. The fact that they were not able to settle down in any land and continue their old way of life which was very much dependent on the land around them helped slowly deteriorate their culture. Settlers settling and building cities also disrupted the wild life which they relied on by their old way of life. Because of this