From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
[Tongva people-Gabrieliño] Medicine woman
Personal details
DiedMay 22, 1799
Mission San Juan Bautista
Spouse(s)Manuel Montero
  • Cesario
  • Juana de Dios
  • Maria Clementina
Nickname(s)Regina Josefa

Toypurina (1760–1799)[1] was a Tongva/Kizh Medicine woman from the Jachivit village.[2] She is famous for her opposition of the colonial rule by Spanish Missionaries in California, and for her part in the planned 1785 rebellion against the mission San Gabriel, where she recruited 6 of the 8 villages which participated in the attack.

1785 rebellion[edit]

The causes of the San Gabriel rebellion were complex. The rebellion originated from both the Tongva people's frustration at the Spanish mission's imposition on their traditional territory, as well as their oppressive rule over the Tongva's culture, language, labor, and sexual life,[3] and the dissatisfaction and anger of the Neophytes (the Spanish term for newly Baptized Indigenous people) due to both poor treatment at the hands of the Spanish, and legal suppression of their culture and ceremonies.[4]

The tangible threat imposed by the Spanish colonies to the Tongva nation's territorial boundaries and settlements was a primary factor for growing anger among the Tongva. There was also a rapid growth in the population of new Neophytes at Mission San Gabriel, some of whom were from villages who had had previous conflicts with the Tongva. Their presence, along with the rapid increase in livestock numbers in the area which increased pressure on the Tongva's ability to survive off their land, created further tension and resentment of the Mission.[5]

Baptized Indigenous peoples within Spanish missions experienced exploitation of labour and second-class citizenship under the Spanish. Tensions and resentment rose further, however, when in 1782, the Spanish governor ordered soldiers inside the missions to never allow baptized Indigenous people to have dances in their villages. In the fall, the season of the rebellion, the Tongva held their annual Mourning Ceremony, a culmination of a series of death rituals, and through its performance the souls of the deceased achieved release from the earth and entrance into the land of the dead. By the end of October 1785, Nicolás José—a Neophyte and key figure in the 1785 rebellion— and others at the mission seem to have concluded that the ban on dances was intolerable and that it jeopardized the repose of their dead relative's spirits.[4]

Nicolás José approached Toypurina, who was widely renowned as a wise and talented Medicine person and whose brother was the head of her village—a kinship connection which was another likely reason for José coming to ask for her aid. José reportedly gave her beads—as for Tongva people it is customary to give a gift to doctors in return for their services[5] —in exchange for her calling together a meeting of unbaptized Indigenous peoples from the area[4] Toypurina agreed, and went on to contact leaders of other villages to convince them to join the revolt.[4]

On the night of the attack, the men involved in the attack went to the mission armed with bows and arrows, Toypurina coming along unarmed with the intention of encouraging the men's will to fight.[4] However, someone had betrayed the Tongva to the Mission guards, and the participants and ringleaders, Toypurina included, were captured. Spanish officials sentenced five of the attack's participants to twenty-five lashes, and another twelve to fifteen or twenty lashes. The punishments were carried out in public as a warning and lesson to all members of the mission.[4][5] Toypurina, Nicolás José and two other leaders of the rebellion, Chief Tomasajaquichi of Juvit village and a man named Alijivit, from nearby village of Jajamovit, were put on trial.

When questioned about the attack, Toypurina is famously quoted in as saying that she participated in the instigation because “[she hated] the padres and all of you, for living here on my native soil, for trespassing upon the land of my forefathers and despoiling our tribal domains. . . . I came [to the mission] to inspire the dirty cowards to fight, and not to quail at the sight of Spanish sticks that spit fire and death, nor [to] retch at the evil smell of gunsmoke—and be done with you white invaders!’[4] This quote, from Thomas Workman Temple II's article “Toypurina the Witch and the Indian Uprising at San Gabriel” is arguably a mistranslation and embellishment of her actual testimony. According to the soldier who recorded her words, she stated simply that she ‘‘was angry with the Padres and the others of the Mission, because they had come to live and establish themselves in her land.’’[4]

Spanish officials found her and the three other men on trial to be guilty of leading the attack. The three men were held at the prison (presidio) in San Diego, and Toypurina was imprisoned at the prison in San Gabriel while they awaited word of their punishment. In June 1788, nearly three years later, their sentences arrived from Mexico City: Nicolás José was banned from San Gabriel and sentenced to six years of hard labour in irons at the most distant penitentiary in the region.[4][5] Toypurina was banished from Mission San Gabriel and sent to the most distant Spanish mission.

Later life[edit]

According to trial records, Toypurina was forcibly coerced into being baptized in 1787 at Mission San Gabriel.[4][5][6] Shortly after, she was moved to Mission San Carlos Borromeo. Two years after her Baptism, she married a Spaniard and soldier named Manuel Montero, who had been serving at el Pueblo de Los Angeles, and received a tract of land from the governor. They lived in Monterey and had 3 children together (Cesario, Juana de Dios, and Maria Clementina).[4] There is debate between scholars over whether her marriage to this soldier was a sign of her accepting Spanish religion and ways of life, or whether the marriage was one of convenience; Toypurina seeking marriage as a way to protect herself from the often harsh conditions of Spanish missions.[5] On May 22, 1799, Toypurina died at Mission San Juan Bautista in northern Alta California at age 39.[4]


Following the Spanish authorities’ arrest of twenty-one Gabrieliños on the night of the rebellion, four of the Indians identified by the guards as the revolt's leaders were interrogated in early January 1786.[4] Genealogist and descendant of some of the first Spanish partakers at the mission in Alta California, Thomas Workman Temple II, was the first scholar to study this interrogation's testimony, and published an article in 1958, “Toypurina the Witch and the Indian Uprising at San Gabriel”. To this day, despite the book's exaggeration of events[4] it is one of the most complete accounts of the rebellion organized by Toypurina, used as a major reference in subsequent articles and books.[4]

Toypurina's popularity has stretched beyond the academic realm to Californians and Americans who now regard her as a symbol of Gabrieliño resistance to the missions, as well as a primordial figure among California Native women's protests against Spanish colonialism.

Her rebellion against Spanish missionaries was inspired by a matriarchal power structure in which women were at the center of a tribe's ritual and spiritual life. After Toypurina's death, Native American women continued to resist colonialism by forming a religious-political movement that awarded power and influence to female deities and entrusted women with maintaining the health and well-being of their own communities.[7] As William Bauer writes in Toypurina, she “emerges from the historical record as a woman who not only confronted Spanish expansion in southern California but also charted a path for her survival and the endurance of her people.”

Well-known accounts of Toypurina's rebellion often depict her as a treacherous witch or seductive sorceress, including Temple's article, regarded as one of the most influential for subsequent writings on the Native woman. Nonetheless, Toypurina's resistance against the colonial authorities through medicine and dialogue was coherent with the women's “other means of creating counter-histories,” such as through “oral and visual traditions”. These are how subjected women under the Spanish missions succeeded in remaining within the collective memories and resist throughout generations.[7] In “Engendering the History of Alta California, 1769-1848,” Castañeda suggests that “women themselves used witchcraft as a means of subverting the socio-sexual order sanctioned by religion and enshrined in the colonial honor code."[7] Using “sexualized magic to control men and subvert the male order by symbolically using their own bodies” was their way of re-asserting their power physically, in face of the overbearing colonial rule, manifested through torture, cruelty, and cultural repression and eradication.

The ongoing portrayals of Toypurina's revolutionary endeavor as being shrouded in dark magic and ominous mystery testify to the consistent undermining of Native women's own resistance feats and tools, from the onset of colonial rule to the present.

Artistic references[edit]

Toypurina has become somewhat of a pop icon for Native American female resistance in her region today, with many sketches and cartoons of her appearing on Google Images.

On either side of El Monte, Toypurina is celebrated through monumental public works of art: Raul González, Ricardo Estrada, and Joséph “Nuke” Montalvo painted a 60-by-20-foot mural entitled Conoce Tus Raíces (2009) (Spanish for “Know Your Roots”) in East Los Angeles. The mural was completed on the main wall of Ramona Gardens, a public housing complex historically inhabited by Latin-American families. The radiant visage placed at the center of the work of Art, flashing a defiant stare and proud posture, is that of Toypurina. She is surrounded by the Ramona Gardens’ community's numerous activities, such as children enjoying the recent library at the time of the mural's creation, and the young residents’ sporting activities. One of the mural's creators qualified Toypurina as incarnating “the ultimate strength, the woman fighter, the mother who protects her children from harm at Ramona Gardens.”[8]

Gabrieliño traditionalist and Chicana artist, Judy Baca, also designed a 20-foot arch and a 100-foot plaza prayer mound named “Danzas Indígenas” (Indigenous Dances) in 1993, on a Metrolink commuter train platform in Baldwin Park. It was conceptualized as a public memorial dedicated to Toypurina, and as an artistic recreation of the nearby San Gabriel Mission's historical archway.[7] Baldwin Park also is known as a working class Latino suburb of Los Angeles, which speaks to the present relevance of Toypurina's original struggle and her efforts’ universal appeal to all those who feel estranged from their cultures and lands under another civilization's powerful influence, and seek to reconnect with and celebrate their roots. Some have hinted at the irony of the memorial's location, a commuter train platform, which is typically associated with anonymity, unfamiliarity, transience, and separation of family, home, and work, in contrast with Native tribes’ communitarian organization.[7] Baca described her work as seeking to “put memory back into a piece of the land.” A stone mound in her installation specifically was created as a replica of an original stone mound which Gabrieliños would have used for prayer.

Baca's reminder of these monuments as active efforts to incorporate Toypurina's memory in the land may be related to the ongoing legacy of Toypurina and other resistant Native women's own protests against colonial rule through oral and visual transmissions that became absorbed in their people's collective memory that was constantly acted upon as it was passed down from generation to generation after their disappearance. The artworks’ remoteness from the San Gabriel Mission's original location also attest to the relevance and celebration of her fight among various communities.

On January 13, 2007, the Studio for Southern California History included Toypurina as one of the many women who made significant contributions to California history.[9]

In 2014 the play Toypurina, about her life, premiered at the San Gabriel Mission Playhouse, 320 South Mission Drive, San Gabriel, California.[10][11]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Hackel, Steven W. (2003-01-01). "Sources of Rebellion: Indian Testimony and the Mission San Gabriel Uprising of 1785". Ethnohistory. 50 (4): 643–670. doi:10.1215/00141801-50-4-643. ISSN 0014-1801. S2CID 161256567.
  2. ^ Hernández, Kelly Lytle (2017). City of Inmates: Conquest, Rebellion, and the Rise of Human Caging in Los Angeles, 1771–1965. UNC Press Books. pp. 30–34. ISBN 9781469631196.
  3. ^ Castañeda, Antonia I. (2014). Three decades of engendering history: selected works of Antonia I. Castaneda. University of North Texas Press. pp. 75–79.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o Hackel, S. W. (2003-10-01). "Sources of Rebellion: Indian Testimony and the Mission San Gabriel Uprising of 1785". Ethnohistory. 50 (4): 643–669. doi:10.1215/00141801-50-4-643. ISSN 0014-1801. S2CID 161256567.
  5. ^ a b c d e f Bauer, William (Spring 2006). "Toypurina". News from Native California. 19 (3): 34–36.
  6. ^ Ruiz, Korrol, Vicki L., Virginia Sánchez (2006). Latinas in the United States, set. Bloomington: Indiana University Press. p. 761.
  7. ^ a b c d e I., Castaneda, Antonia (2014). Three decades of engendering history : selected works of Antonia I. Castaneda. Heidenreich, Linda. Denton. ISBN 9781574415827. OCLC 898420976.
  8. ^ "Toypurina: A Legend Etched in the Landscape". Tropics of Meta. 2014-01-23. Retrieved 2018-10-30.
  9. ^ "Studio for Southern California History". Retrieved 27 September 2015.
  10. ^ "Toypurina 2014 – San Gabriel Mission Playhouse". Retrieved 27 September 2015.
  11. ^ San Gabriel Mission Playhouse. "Events @ The San Gabriel Mission Playhouse Online Box Office -". Retrieved 27 September 2015.

External links[edit]