Native Americans in California Missions
Spanish wanted to colonize some of America, just like the Europeans. Building religious based Missions all throughout California was a way for them to maintain ultimate social, political, and economic control. Spanish explorers arrived on the border of California during the 16th century. The very first Franciscan mission was built in San Diego during 1769. By 1833, twenty two Spanish Missions existed from Southern California to Northern California. Native Americans made up about one-third of those who lived and worked at the Missions. There were an estimated 310,000 Indians living in California during the 16th century. The Spanish provided the Native Americans with the necessities such as food, clothing, and shelter. Although the California Missions had the right intentions of providing for the Native Americans, the Spanish acted in an inhumane and unfair way. Junípero Serra arrived in San Diego in 1768 and lead a group of Franciscans to find property and more importantly, workers. He welcomed the Native Americans with open arms and open doors. In a primary document written by Junípero Serra himself, he admitted that he used the Native Americans solely for work. However, he said that providing them with food and shelter compensates for their hard work. “So if families other than Indian come from there, it will serve the same purpose very well—that is, if we can provide for them…”(Serra). Serra’s defenders state that he respected the Natives’ culture. However, his criticizers argue that he used force to urge the Native Americans to live at the Missions against their will. Although the Natives did not agree with Serra’s beliefs and actions, they were very respectful for the most part. For those who did not respect Serra received physical punishment with “whips, chains, and stocks to enforce religious obedience” (Serra). Junípero Serra was a great leader who made sure the California Missions were in order. The California Mission had worthy intentions and plans for the Native Americans. The Spanish welcomed them into their ‘homes’ and provided them with the essentials such as food, clothing, and shelter. However, living at the Missions had its consequences. The Native Americans were forced to change their entire lifestyles – from their beliefs, their daily routines, to the way they dressed and what they ate. Although anthropologists conducted that some Native Americans enjoyed their new lives, more than eighty percent refused to convert their ways of life (Sandos, 13). For thousands of years, the Natives were accustomed with their own lifestyle and beliefs, and all of a sudden, everything was stripped away from them. Even their personal identity was taken away from them. The Franciscans provided each individual with Spanish names which were to be used instead of their native birth names. “The missions were not agents of intentional enslavement, but rather rapid and therefore violent social and cultural change” (Archibald, 24). The Native Americans ended up becoming tax pay citizens along with being under Spanish wing twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. The Franciscans had very different beliefs and traditions from the Native Americans. The Native Americans were forced to convert their religion to Roman Catholics. The Native Americans were more of a “spiritual” group rather than a religious group. Instead of believing in personified figures, such as Jesus, they believed spirits lie within their nature. Native Americans feed their energy off of nature. They believed that they are protected by the Mother Nature that surrounded them. The Spanish used religion to explain their actions, which made it ‘okay’ for them to convert the Native American’s beliefs because they were backed up by their god (California). Every person living and working at the Mission had to be officially baptized as a rite of passage. On Sundays and holidays everyone was obligated to go to church and worship....
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