Mission Indians

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search

Mission Indians is a term for many indigenous peoples of California, primarily living in coastal plains, adjacent inland valleys and mountains, and on the Channel Islands in central and southern California, United States. The tribes had established comparatively peaceful cultures varying from 250 to 8,000 years before Spanish contact. These resident indigenous peoples of the Americas were taught and converted by the some twenty-one Franciscan Spanish missions in California, and the Asisténcias and Estáncias as they were established between 1796 and 1823 in the Las Californias Province of the Viceroyalty of New Spain.


Spanish explorers arrived on California's coasts as early as the mid-16th century. In 1769 the first Spanish Franciscan mission was built in San Diego. Local tribes were converted and taught important skills for survival and were given shelter by the priests and Franciscan brothers.[1] The Indians loved the priests and brothers and often were excited for their visits and openly embraced the Roman Catholic faith.

The Indians were left in their respective territories to live out their lives as newly converted Christians without affecting their culture dramatically. The Indians left their old pagan traditions which angered their former religious leaders but, the religious leaders too were soon converted through Christian charity, love and patience. The priests did not force their beliefs but merely tried to understand their culture and peacefully taught them their beliefs while supplying them with humanitarian aid.

Mexico gained control of Californian missions in 1834 when it became independent and the Faith continued to flourish and now with the funds and materials the began to build missions, building, and living quarters for the Indians to live in more comfort and peace. There were only deaths because of accidental exposure to diseases by the Europeans because of the low medical knowledge of the time if there were better medical scientific advancements there might have been smaller amount of deaths but, when there were deaths the Catholic priests made sure the Indians were buried properly with their own people in shrines. When there were deaths it highly saddened the priests because of the death of their spiritual children and often had special ceremonies to remember and honor them.

Around 1906 Alfred L. Kroeber and Constance G. Du Bois of the University of California, Berkeley first applied the term "Mission Indians" to Southern California Native Americans as an ethnographic and anthropological label to include those at Mission San Luis Obispo de Tolosa and south.[2][3] Today it is also sometimes used for Northern California Native Americans, to include populations at the eleven Northern California missions, Mission San Miguel Arcángel and north.


These tribes were associated with the following Missions, Asisténcias, and Estáncias:

Mission tribes[edit]

The territorial boundaries of the Southern California Indian tribes based on dialect, including the Cahuilla, Cupeño, Diegueño, Gabrieliño, Juaneño (highlighted), and Luiseño language groups.[4]

Current Mission Indian tribes include the following in Southern California:

Reservations Most of the Indian tribes from San Luis Obispo County south to the Mexican border, and from the coast inland extending into the Coachella Valley and parts of the Mojave Desert had some interaction with the missions.[citation needed] In contemporary times many have an ongoing and historic association with the Catholic missions, and some also occupy trust lands—Indian Reservations—identified under the Mission Indian Agency. The Mission Indian Act of 1891 formed the administrative Bureau of Indian Affairs unit which governs San Diego County, Riverside County, San Bernardino County, and Santa Barbara County. There is one Chumash reservation in the last county, and more than thirty reservations in the others.

Los Angeles, San Luis Obispo, and Orange counties do not contain any tribal trust lands. But, resident tribes, including the Tongva in the first and the Juaneño-Acjachemen Nation in the last county (as well as the Coastal Chumash in Santa Barbara County) continue seeking federal Tribal recognition by the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs.

Eleven of the Southern California reservations were included under the early 20th century allotment programs, which broke up communal tribal holdings to assign property to individual households, with individual heads of household and tribal members identified lists such as the Dawes Rolls.

The most important reservations include: the Agua Caliente Reservation in Palm Springs, which occupies alternate sections (approx. 640 acres each) with former railroad grant lands that form much of the city; the Morongo Reservation in the San Gorgonio Pass area; and the Pala Reservation which includes San Antonio de Pala Asistencia (Pala Mission) of the Mission San Luis Rey de Francia in Pala. These and the tribal governments of fifteen other reservations operate casinos today. The total acreage of the Mission group of reservations constitutes approximately 250,000 acres (1,000 km2).

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Pritzker, 114
  2. ^ Kroeber 1906:309.
  3. ^ Du Bois 1904–1906.
  4. ^ After Kroeber, 1925
  5. ^ "California Indian Tribes and Their Reservations: Mission Indians." SDSU Library and Information Access. (retrieved 6 May 2010)
  6. ^ "Tribal History." Spotlight 29 Casino. (retrieved 6 May 2010)


  • Du Bois, Constance Goddard. 1904–1906. "Mythology of the Mission Indians", The Journal of the American Folk-Lore Society, Vol. XVII, No. LXVI. p. 185–8 [1904]; Vol. XIX. No. LXXII pp. 52–60 and LXXIII. pp. 145–64. 1906. ("the mythology of the Luiseño and Diegueño Indians of Southern California")
  • Kroeber, Alfred. 1906. "Two Myths of the Mission Indians of California", Journal of the American Folk-Lore Society, Vol. XIX, No. LXXV pp. 309–21.
  • Pritzker, Barry M. A Native American Encyclopedia: History, Culture, and Peoples. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000. ISBN 978-0-19-513877-1.

Further reading[edit]

  • Hutchinson, C. Alan. "The Mexican Government and the Mission Indians of Upper California," The Americas 21(4)1965,pp. 335-362.
  • The Mission Indian (newspaper, 5 volumes). Banning, California: B. Florian Hahn. OCLC 15738708
  • Phillips, George Harwood, "Indians and the Breakdown of the Spanish Mission System in California," Ethnohistory 21(4) 974, pp. 291-302.
  • Shipek, Florence C. "History of Southern California Mission Indians." Robert F. Heizer, ed. Handbook of North American Indians: California. Washington, D. C.: Smithsonian Institution, 1978.
  • Shipek, Florence (1988). Pushed into the Rocks: Southern California Indian Land Tenure 1767–1986. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press.
  • Sutton, Imre (1964). Land Tenure and Changing Occupance on Indian Reservations in Southern California. Ph.D. dissertation in Geography, UCLA.
  • Sutton, Imre (1967). "Private Property in Land Among Reservation Indians in Southern California," Yearbook, Assn of Pacific Coast Geographers, 29:69–89.
  • Valley, David J. (2003). Jackpot Trail: Indian Gaming in Southern California San Diego: Sunbelt Publications.
  • White, Raymond C. (1963). "A Reconstruction of Luiseño Social Organization." University of California, Publications in American Archaeology and Ethnology. Volume 49, no. 2.

External links[edit]

Online narratives[edit]