Mass Murder in California’s Empty Quarter

Mass Murder in California’s Empty Quarter is a contemporary journalistic work about Cherie Rhoades, a native woman who killed four and wounded two others in 2014 at the Northern California Paiute’s Cedarville Rancheria offices in Alturas, California. Rhoades is the second of only three women to commit mass murder in the United States, and she is the only woman to be tried, convicted and given the death sentence.
            Deeper, this is the story of a family of urban natives who took Bureau of Indian Affairs federal funding and moved from the city to the reservation. The displacement was a trial they were unprepared for. They met lineal ancestry requirements for tribal enrollment, but they knew nothing of the Northern California Paiute’s cultural heritage, traditions, spirituality, customs, language—and predictably they did not know tribal laws that governed them.
             The dysfunction of the small tribe was so severe that it led to the four deaths and two attempted murders. That is the story’s outline, but not its boundaries. Mass Murder in California’s Empty Quarter details not only the killings, but tribal treachery, the death penalty, rural racism in Northeastern California and the ineptitude of the Bureau of Indian Affairs.


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