California Indians and the Missions
The really first Franciscan mission was built in San Diego during 1769.
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.
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.
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.
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.