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California Indians and the Missions

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Spanish wanted to colonise some of America. merely like the Europeans. Building spiritual based Missions all throughout California was a manner for them to keep ultimate societal. political. and economic control. Spanish adventurers arrived on the boundary line of California during the sixteenth century. The really first Franciscan mission was built in San Diego during 1769.

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The California missions began in the late 18th century as an effort to convert Native Americans to Catholicism and expand European territory. There were 21 missions in all, lasting from 1769 until about 1833. The California missions began in the late 18th century as an effort to convert Native Americans to Catholicism and expand European territory. Spain was responsible for the missions, which scholars believe were attempts to colonize the Pacific coast of North America. There were 21 missions in all, lasting from 1769 until about 1833. The mission system brought many new cultural and religious ideas to California, though critics charge the systematic oppression of Native Americans amounted to slavery.Although Spain claimed California as its territory in 1542, Spaniards didn’t try to occupy the land until the late 1700s. Around the time of the first missions, Spain had a considerable presence in Mexico. In 1769, the Spanish king ordered land and sea expeditions to depart from Mexico to California. He also sent military troops and Franciscan missionaries to the new land. Franciscan priest Father Junipero Serra founded the first mission in 1769. This was known as Mission San Diego de Alcalá and was located in present-day San Diego. The native Indians who occupied the region were initially resistant to the mission. In 1775, hundreds of local Tipai-Ipai Indians attacked and burned the San Diego Mission, killing three men, including Father Luis Jayme. The missionaries rebuilt the mission as an army fort.

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If there was such an abundance of natural resources and endless amount of game, how is it that the Indians were drawn to the missions out of desperation for food? One theory is presented by Florence Connolly Shipek who wrote her concept of food deprivation of Native Californians in the essay titled “Saints or Oppressors: The Franciscan Missionaries in California.” She explains that up until the Spanish arrival, the Indians were well off. Native Californians had their own style of cultivation (Asisara, Lorenzo., 2001). However, this method was not at all like the plowed fields the Spanish were used to seeing. Instead, the native cultivation seemed somewhat wilder, at times mistaken as “natural pasteurs” by the Spanish. The arrival and establishment of the missions and presidios drastically reduced the Indian food sources. With the introduction of domesticated animals like sheep, cows, and horses, these grazers ate away at the cultivated food supplies of Indian towns and villages. During the drought seasons, mission grazing animals stripped hillsides bare where emergency food supplies, for the Indians, were located (De Ascencion, Antonio, 2001). Free roaming domestics went wherever they pleased and destroyed a great deal of the native crop.

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In either case, while work itself was not the immediate cause of the horrible population decline, the forced labor system of the missions could accurately be described as the underlying reason for the decimation of the Native Americans, since they were brought to the missions primarily to work. The diet, disease and living conditions that actually killed the mission Indians followed their transformation from subsistence hunter-gatherers into forced laborers creating a surplus for their Spanish masters. Unfortunately for the Native Americans--California's first working class--things were only to get worse in the coming years.

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Asisara, Lorenzo. “The Killing of Fr. Andres Quintana as Mission Santa Cruz.” In Lands of Promise and Despair, edited by Rose Mary Beebe and Robert M. Senkewicz, Santa Clara: Heyday Books, 2001, p. 284-92.

De Ascencion, Antonio “1620: The First Plan for Missions in California,” In Lands of Promise and Despair, edited by Rose Mary Beebe and Robert M. Senkewicz, 51-3. Santa Clara: Heyday Books, 2001, p. 52-3.

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California Indians and the Missions
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