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 forcibly relocated from their traditional dwellings, villages, and homelands to live and work at twenty one 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.

Ruin of the Indian quarters, Mission San Luis Rey


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 relocated and conscripted into forced labor on the mission, stretching from San Diego to San Francisco. Disease, starvation, over work, and torture decimated these tribes.[1] Many were forcibly[citation needed] converted and baptized as Roman Catholics by the Franciscan missionaries at the missions.

Mission Indians were from many Californian Native American tribes that were relocated together in new mixed groups and renamed after the responsible mission. For instance the Payomkowishum were renamed "Luiseños" after the Mission San Luis Rey and the Acjachemem were renamed the "Juaneños" after the Mission San Juan Capistrano.[2] The Catholic priests forbade the Indians from practicing their native culture, resulting in the disruption of many tribes' linguistic, spiritual, and cultural practices. With no immunity to European diseases, and changed cultural and lifestyle demands, the population of Native American Mission Indians significantly decreased during the mission period and after.

Mexico gained control of Californian missions in 1834 and abuse persisted, but the missions were soon secularized and lands were transferred to non-Native administrators. Many of the Mission Indians then worked on the newly established ranchos, with little improvement in their conditions.[1]

The term "Mission Indians" was initially applied to Southern California Native Americans as an ethnographic and anthropological label around 1906 by Alfred L. Kroeber and Constance G. Du Bois at the University of California, Berkeley at Mission San Luis Obispo de Tolosa and south.[3][4] 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.


Missions that the tribes were associated with including the following:

  • Those with ancestors at the Missions, Asisténcias, and Estáncias of:

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.[5]

Current Mission Indian tribes include the following in Southern California:


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 County, San Luis Obispo County, and Orange County do not contain any tribal trust lands. However resident tribes, including the Tongva in the first and the Juaneño-Acjachemen Nation in the last (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 came under the early 20th century allotment programs, which broke up common tribal holdings to assign property to individual tribal members, identified on such lists as the Dawes Rolls. The most important of these 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 on the site of San Antonio de Pala Asistencia (Pala Mission) of the Mission San Luis Rey de Francia in Pala. These and 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. ^ a b Pritzker, 114
  2. ^ Pritzker, 129
  3. ^ Kroeber 1906:309.
  4. ^ Du Bois 1904–1906.
  5. ^ After Kroeber, 1925
  6. ^ "California Indian Tribes and Their Reservations: Mission Indians." SDSU Library and Information Access. (retrieved 6 May 2010)
  7. ^ "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]

  • The Mission Indian (newspaper, 5 volumes). Banning, California: B. Florian Hahn. OCLC 15738708
  • 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]