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Indians, Missionaries, and Merchants

Indians, Missionaries, and Merchants: The Legacy of Colonial Encounters on the California Frontiers

Copyright Date: 2005
Edition: 1
Pages: 355
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  • Book Info
    Indians, Missionaries, and Merchants
    Book Description:

    California's earliest European colonists-Russian merchants and Spanish missionaries-depended heavily on Native Americans for labor to build and maintain their colonies, but they did so in very different ways. This richly detailed book brings together disparate skeins of the past-including little-known oral histories, native texts, ethnohistory, and archaeological excavations-to present a vivid new view of how native cultures fared under these two colonial systems. Kent Lightfoot's innovative work, which incorporates the holistic methods of historical anthropology, explores the surprising ramifications of these long-ago encounters for the present-day political status of native people in California. Lightfoot weaves the results of his own significant archaeological research at Fort Ross, a major Russian mercantile colony, into a cross-cultural comparison, showing how these two colonial ventures-one primarily mercantile and one primarily religious-contributed to the development of new kinds of native identities, social forms, and tribal relationships. His lively account includes personal anecdotes from the field and a provocative discussion of the role played by early ethnographers, such as Alfred Kroeber, in influencing which tribes would eventually receive federal recognition.Indians, Missionaries, and Merchantstakes a fascinating, yet troubling, look at California's past and its role in shaping the state today.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-94035-2
    Subjects: Anthropology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Preface
    (pp. xi-xiv)
  5. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xv-xviii)
  6. 1 Dimensions and Consequences of Colonial Encounters
    (pp. 1-29)

    Voices of the past become muted over time. Such is the case with the telling of Californiaʹs colonial history. We accentuate Spanish recollections that indelibly mark the contemporary landscape with Mission Revival buildings, reconstructed missions and presidios, place names, and even Taco Bell restaurants. But the full diversity and significance of the stateʹs colonial past have been lost in the hustle and bustle of our twenty-first-century world. An eerie silence pervades the memories of thousands of native peoples and Russian colonists who, like the Spanish, participated in the creation of the California frontiers. We tend to forget that this state...

  7. 2 Visions of Precolonial Native California
    (pp. 30-48)

    A California condor flew majestically along the Pacific coastline in the mid-1700s, looking down on the many smoke plumes rising from hundreds of villages dotting the landscape below. From this lofty vantage the bird could see a distinctive pattern—that of village clusters demarcated by large settlements surrounded by one or more diminutive hamlets. Each village contained dome-shaped thatched houses with adjacent outdoor hearths and extramural work areas where people might be busily flaking stone tools, manufacturing fishing lines, nets, and cordage, tending fires, and preparing acorn gruel for meals. The larger settlements would have been quite impressive from the...

  8. 3 Franciscan Missions in Alta California
    (pp. 49-81)

    My quest to visit all twenty-one Franciscan missions in Alta California led me to La Purísima Mission State Historic Park on an unseasonably warm day in early November 2001. This magnificent park preserves the buildings and grounds of the second site of Mission La Purísima Concepción. Initially founded in 1787 in what is now Lompoc, California, this mission (the eleventh one constructed in Alta California) was moved five kilometers north to its present location after a devastating earthquake in 1812. On the day of my visit, the core of the mission complex—the remarkable church, cemetery grounds,convento, chapel, craft...

  9. 4 Native Agency in the Franciscan Missions
    (pp. 82-113)

    Once native peoples made the difficult decision to cross the portals of one of the twenty-one missions in Alta California, they entered an entirely new world, a world of alien social, economic, and ideological practices. In missions structured after monastic retreats, the padres expected the neophytes to follow principles of conduct devoted to self-discipline, religious fervor, fidelity, and sacrifice. Margolin (1989:15) observes that even at the height of monasteriesʹ popularity, very few Europeans ever chose to live in them. Yet the Fernandinos believed that Native Californians—who had little prior experience with agriculture, large aggregated settlements, or Hispanic life ways—...

  10. 5 Russian Merchants in California
    (pp. 114-153)

    A visit to Fort Ross State Historic Park after touring the Franciscan missions to the south is most instructive. Although Colony Ross differed in many ways from the Spanish settlements of Alta California, the contemporary presentations of the two colonial frontiers are similar. Park visitors walk through reconstructed buildings and interpretative displays that highlight European culture in colonial California. Whether by visiting a mission quadrangle or by viewing Russian log houses, we gain an appreciation of how foreign architecture and artifacts first took root in the frontier areas and how European life ways underwent multiple transformations in this new environment....

  11. 6 Native Agency in the Ross Colony
    (pp. 154-180)

    ʺIn the old days, before the white people came up here, there was a boat sailing on the ocean from the south.ʺ So begins a Kashaya story about the first glimpse of a foreign sailing vessel, probably one of the ships captained by Cabrillo, Drake, or Vizcaíno that slowly tacked northward along the coast. The sighting inspired considerable wonder and anxiety among the Kashaya, as they believed it was a ʺbig bird floating on the ocean.ʺ They promised to hold a feast and dance in honor of the ʺbig bird personʺ if it would not destroy their world. According to...

  12. 7 Missionary and Mercantile Colonies in California: The Implications
    (pp. 181-209)

    How did the missionary and mercantile colonies in California contribute to the divergent outcomes that reverberate to this day in the stateʹs Indian communities? This question will be addressed through a comparison of the seven dimensions of colonial encounters outlined in the preceding chapters for the Hispanic and Russian frontiers. By examining how native peoples negotiated the ʺintendedʺ colonial structures of the Franciscan padres and Russian merchants, we can better understand how the variations in these entanglements led to significant changes in local tribal organizations, social relations, and Indian identities. The cultural transformations that unfolded were not haphazard developments or...

  13. 8 The Aftermath
    (pp. 210-233)

    Native peoples endured tremendous difficulties following the collapse of the mission and mercantile colonies in the 1830s and early 1840s. The United States annexed California, the Gold Rush came and went, coastal cities mushroomed almost overnight, and thousands of foreigners displaced Indians from their lands. By the early 1900s, some prominent anthropologists claimed that Indians from a broad swath of coastal California had become largely extinct. These pronouncements had profound consequences for descendant communities. Indian groups perceived to have ʺmelted awayʺ were mostly ignored by early ethnographers, and tended not to receive land allotments from the federal government. Today, these...

  14. 9 Conclusion
    (pp. 234-240)

    The central thesis of this book is that we need to take a long-term diachronic perspective on the rise and fall of colonial frontiers in order to understand the status of Indian communities today—to know why some native groups are federally recognized and others remain unacknowledged. California offers a tremendous opportunity for examining how native entanglements with missionary and mercantile colonies produced a diverse range of multicultural experiences that reverberate among Indian populations to this day. Although both the Hispanic and Russian colonial regimes exploited Indian people, the ultimate goal of each was quite different: the Franciscan padres attempted...

  15. Notes
    (pp. 241-270)
  16. References
    (pp. 271-318)
  17. Index
    (pp. 319-338)