Condition of the Mission Indians of California in 1890

Search Fold3 for your
Native American Records

Report of Special Agent Miss Kate Foote on the Indiana of the 19 Mission Indian reservations in the counties of San Diego and Los Angeles, California, 1890-1891.

Names of Indian tribes or parts of tribes occupying said reservations: (a) Coahuila, Diogenes, San Luis Rey, Serranos, and Temecula. The unallotted area of these reservations is 182,315 acres, or 285 square miles. They have been partly surveyed.

These reservations were established, altered, or changed by executive orders December 27, 1875; May 15, 1876; May 3, August 25, September 29, 1877; January 17, 1880; March 2, March 9, 1881; June 27, July 24, 1882; February 5, June 19, 1883 ; January 25, March 22; 1886; January 29, March 14, 1887; and May 6, 1889.
Indian population 1890: 2,645.

Mission Indians

Early History And Character

The Digger or Mission Indian planted nothing, and lived on roots,. seeds, and maggots. See Digger Indians of California for more information.

Tribes

The Digger Indians were originally divided into many small scattered bands, each numbering about 300 and each having its own dialect; a fact which at first dismayed the Spanish priests in their efforts toward conversion. Some compromised by learning seven, but it was finally determined that all the Indians must learn the Spanish language, which was accordingly done, and they fell into two great tribes, namely, the Coahuilas, living about the mountains of San Bernardino and San Jacinto, and the, Dieguenos, in the extreme southern part of California. Still the early territorial lines are not wholly obliterated, seen by the variety of customs in different localities.

Labor

The Digger Indian is naturally clever with his hands, converting all natural production’s to his uses. His house, according to Spanish manuscripts, “was round in form, thatched with tules” (reeds). He made baskets, mats, and nets long before Spanish civilization touched him. Baskets were woven from grass or willow shoots of various sizes and forms, supplying the need of many household utensils. Granary baskets for seeds and grain held many, bushels, and, when filled, were placed upon rude, elevated platforms to preserve them from marauders. Baskets had a prominent place in their festivals, and a grass basket hung to a pole marked a woman’s grave. Nets of vegetable fiber were used for holding their water jars, for aprons in some of their observances, and for catching fish, using for sinkers round fiat stones with a hole through the center, carefully and toilfully drilled. On the coast rafts of reeds were made, rendered watertight by asphaltum, which the Indians had found oozing from the rocks in various places. An early chronicler says that the coast people had boats of pine boards tied together with cords and covered with asphalt, and as they got further up the coast the population was dense and was found eating fish. This was south of San Luis Obispo. Their stone mortars for grinding grain were but flat stones about 2 feet square tilted up at one end, with sometimes basket-woven funnels firmly fixed by asphaltum. The pestles were also of stone, and called metátes.

Their pottery usually took the form of water coolers of various sizes. The largest, for family use, were sometimes hung in a net or placed upon a three-pronged crotch cut from a tree for the purpose. They made, knives, beads, laid other articles from hard wood, stone, and bone with no mean skill.

Food

The, Digger Indian did not prepare soil, plant seeds, or raise vegetables, still lie possessed sufficient forethought to conduct water about the roots lie required for food in order to insure, a good harvest. Deer, quail, and rabbits were easily trapped, and an old chronicler mentions that “the natives were found firing the grass in order to catch rabbits”. Fish must; have been eaten by the coast tribes. Their principal food was the flour of the mesquite bean; the baked root of the mescal; acorns from the oaks, dried, “mantled, leached through sand until the tannin had disappeared, then dried again, and at last cooked in a porridge like New England hasty pudding. They had the pears of the giant cactus, two varieties, white and purple; the fruit of the yucca baccate; the seeds of another variety of cactus; also of a plant, which has a mucilaginous property. They boil it with other things until they have something like an okra stew, seasoning it with wild mustard pods and welter cress. They eat a maggot from the inside bark of one of their trees. A friend who had for a servant one of the girls of the Mission Indians found her one day eating something rather odd looking and said, “What is it?” The girl looked a little shy, and then said, “You think this bad, but ne very good; better than oyster”, and showed to her mistress the animal, cooked, and opened its whole length with a sharp knife. “It looked like the yellow part of an egg”, said the lady, “or like the sea urchin that you see for sale along the Mergellina in Naples, and really if I had seen it without knowing what it was I could truly have said that it looked good enough to eat “.

War, Weapons, and Missions

Of their weapons, besides the bow and arrow, Father Junipero speaks of sabers of hard wood with edges that cut almost as well as steel. They also had, flint knives. But the Digger did not go to war with the vigor and success of the Indian of the plains or of New England. He was more peaceable by nature than any of the other types. At San Diego, a year or two after the first mission was established there, in 1769, and before they had any converts, he made an attack upon the mission. One father was killed and another man died from wounds, and the buildings were burned. We have the record of one or two fights after that, one as late as 1851, but there was little bloodshed.

Rites and Ceremonies

The Mission, or Digger, Indians believed in the supernatural endowments of their shaman. They had annual festivities and dances handed down from their forefathers. The shaman still has a certain number of followers, who believe more in his power than in the white man’s doctor.

The Shaman

“Will you come and see it?” said the young lady teacher at one of the reservations, as we were sitting is her schoolroom surrounded with the books and desks and other appliances of an ordinary school of the present clay. She led its along past an adobe house and one or two tule thatched huts to a bower, rooted with bashes, but without sides, where lay a sick child that the agency doctor had been up to see the day before, bait who had not spoken or moved for 24 hours, and with only the slightest motion of breathing to show that she was not dead. A shawl was thrown over her lower limbs, and by her side, crouched on the ground, was an elderly woman with good features and expression, who kept the flies off the child with a fairly clean handkerchief. Another woman crouched near, and one or two men sat about on stools; one of them, a rather handsome, smooth-faced man, the father of the child; but all attention was centered upon an Indian in the dress of a white man, though soiled and frowsy, even to the battered old hat on his head. He had no robes or appliances for effect. In his ordinary clothes he was kneeling on the ground by the child, leaning over her, with his hands to his mouth and going through an extraordinary series of chokings, coughings, and occasional hawking and spitting, with writhings and contortions of his body as if he was having seine violent internal commotion. This went on for some moments, until presently he spat into his hand something which might have been a seed or an acorn, which he looked at and then put in the earth under the bed on which the child lay. Then pushing the clothes down from the child be pressed on her chest until the poor thing moved and cast a look of anguish at him from her fading eyes. Then he bent lower, and, putting his mouth to the breastbone, sucked hard, drawing in his breath, and, with noisy puffs, emitting it again. Then they lifted the child into a sitting position, the father helping and doing it all very gently, while the shaman put his mouth down and sucked between the shoulder blades in the same way he had upon her breast, and putting his hands to his month went through more coughings and gasping and produced another something in his hand and put that under the mattress. Timidly he got up and went to the edge of the awning and sat down without speaking. None of the Indians spoke through it all, whether from respect or from natural taciturnity I do not know. We looked on, sickening at the sight. One of our party was clever enough to get possession of the thing slipped under the mattress, a seed shaped something like an acorn, with a transverse stripe across it. The superstition was that the illness was caused by a worm in the chest, and the shaman was able to draw it out and spit it up from his mouth; but the child died the next day in spite of his offices.

The Feast of the Burning of the Eagles, 1890

The celebration of “the burning of the eagles” is an annual festival. Near the reservation is a canyon where eagles build their nests every year. In 1890 it was the 5th of July when they deemed the eagles of the right size, ready for flight in a few days. At there village the men firmed in procession, mounted on their ponies, bearing ropes strong and long, and went forth to the canyon singing and joyous. Two men were selected and lowered to different nests. Each captured an eaglet. With songs and rejoicing the eaglets are usually carried through the village and carefully placed in two brush huts which have been built for them, and there they are kept for two weeks. During this time they are well fed, and the people go to them, different ones alone, to tell the eagles of their grief at losing their friends. Those who still mourn recent, losses and those who have not forgotten their sorrow go to the eagles and send. messages to their dead friends. Meantime they build a bower of tree branches large enough to hold all the people of the village, with a place for a fire in the center, and on an appointed evening ceremonies begin. Four men are the leaders and sit together at one side of the fire.

The village is divided into two sets during this festival, the guests and the hosts, and while the ceremonies are going on it is strictly remembered which is guest and which is host. At sunset two of the leaders of the dancing, which begins at once, wear short aprons of net, fringed around the bottom with a row of eagle feathers hanging by the stem, over their customary clothes; and to mark the step and keep time one of them carries a flat blade a foot long and 2 inches wide at the widest part, made of wood or stone. In this case the broad end was wound with a decoration something like wampum, consisting of a string of fiat beads. Thus they danced around the fire to their peculiar aboriginal music, having no air, and only the measured beats to keep the time and the step of the dancers. At intervals strips of calico, torn off and rolled into a cylinder, were thrown on the fire, and if they did not fall so as to burn they were picked up and given to one of two or three women who sat near the fire, apparently for that purpose. Baskets were also thrown in, and if unburned they were also put into the laps of women and afterward given to poor and deserving people among the guests. At intervals during time night the young eagles were brought in and carried around in the hands of the leaders, and the people uttered invocations like prayers and gave messages to them to take to their dead friends. This went on until just before sunrise. The eagles were again brought in held by the leaders, with one hand around the feet and the other around the throat, and thus slowly choked to death. Then the men placed them on strips of calico, which they rolled tightly around them, and during the process occasionally sprinkled them with water in a devout way. More prayers were uttered, and then the eagles were laid on the fire, which had meantime been built up to a splendid brilliancy, and amid song and dance the eagles were burned. This closed the ceremony. The wing feathers of the birds are always taken out and make fringe for the net aprons. Besides the knife blade carried in the dance, there was a bunch of owl feathers carefully and strongly tied to a handsome, slender handle, made so that they would shake, and in with these, to make a noise, were two or three rattles of the rattlesnake.

On one of the expeditions we made to a family of 2 Indians, at the extreme end of the Santa Rosa canyon, within a few miles of the desert, we saw not far off our trail a pile of stones. We had a native Indian with us, a woman who spoke English very well, and she told us it was customary for the people pushing, to add a stone to it, and that the doing so was a sort of prayer. Whether it was to some special spirit could not be ascertained. The cairn was simply a rounded pile of the sort of stone found in its neighborhood, piled, as it would be when time stones are merely laid on by the passer-by. The difficulty of finding out the meaning of a custom from an Indian is always great. Among the whites they are reticent of their peculiarities, and even where one feels on friendly terms with them there is always a doubt of their language conveying their full meaning.

Celebration of the Age of Puberty

At the age of 12 girls are considered old enough to marry. Within this year at some of the villages the old ceremonies connected with their arrival at the age of puberty have been performed. A pit is dug in the earth, large enough, to hold all the girls who are considered to be of the right age and a fire is kindled and kept up in it for several hours, long enough to warm the ground. Then it is cleared out and a covering of rushes laid down. Then the girls, entirely naked, get in and lie down and are covered up with blankets, even their heads being covered, and the older women dance about the edge of the singing. This is kept up for several days. The girls have food given them during the time. At the end of 2 or 3 days the girls are required to climb out from the pit and run as fast as they can to certain rocks at a greater or less distance from them, and there each one makes a mark which designates herself and shows that she is old enough to be married.

Cremation

At the death of a Digger Indian the body is burned, also the house in which he died, and the ashes of both the burned body and the house are then covered with earth and smoothed over. There have been several instances of this practice within the present year among the scattered members who live near the deserts away from white habitations. The Yuma Indians, belonging to the same great family as the Mission Indians, but who have not been under Catholic or any foreign influence, still cling to this custom. In some eases the Mission Indian has compromised with his superstition; he leaves the house lawmen there has been a death for a year and then returns.

Religion

These Indians have no religion according to modern ideas, and it is difficult to penetrate the reticence and secrecy of Indian nature and know what they think of death. What little has been learned is uncertain and vague. The older writers speak of finding idols among some of the tribe, but it is uncertain whether they were for the purpose of worship or whether they were the image of the clan or gentes to whom the tribe belonged.

Superstition as to Fish as Food

The Spanish fathers speak of the natives bringing them fish during the first journey that Father Juniper and Father Crespi made inland up the coast looking for Monterey, so that the natives knew how to catch them. and also used them for food. There are traces at the present day of a superstition among them that fish poison those who eat them. Whether it is a superstition of late growth has not been determined.

Marriage Customs

Marriage ceremonies differed a little in the several tribes. With none of them was the ceremony either civil or religious, but simply an agreement between the families resulting from a liking between 2 young people. It commenced with an interchange of presents between the men of the 2 families, and between the women also. When matters had come to an agreement, the men of the groom’s family gave presents of shell money to the women of the bride’s family and the women gave baskets of meal in return. The bride, decked in her bravest attire, was carried on the appointed day in the arms of a member of her family toward the hut where her future husband awaited his bride. She was attended by a company of her friends, some of whom scattered seeds and berries along the pathway, which were eagerly scrambled for by the others. Half way between the houses this procession was met by a party of the groom’s friends and one of them took the girl in his arms and carried her to the door of the hut, where she was placed by her lover’s side. After more scattering of seeds and berries they were left alone until the wedding feast was held, during which the young men of the tribe acted the parts of hunters and warriors and the old women carried off game and dispatched the wounded enemy.

Marriage customs vary somewhat in the different tribes, also the custom respecting the number of wives a man may have, but in all of them the chief could have more than one if he chose. Husband and wife separated when they were tired of each other. They punished adultery of the woman severely.

Games

There are several games in use among the Mission Indians. One used in gambling is described as follows: a long bone, polished and slender, has attached to it by a string 5 or 6 rings made of the cup of the acorn, measuring an inch in diameter. The game is, with the turn of the wrist, to throw these rings in a line and catch as many of them as possible upon the point of the bone.

“Pione” is the Spanish name for a game of chance, and it is considered native in its origin. Six or 8 can play the game, seated opposite each other on blankets laid on the ground. The blankets are placed in front of them in such position that the player, holding the edge in his mouth, is hidden from his adversary in front of him. Each player has 2 slender bones, 3 or 4 inches long, one white and the other black, with a rawhide loop attached to them, which he slips over his hand down to his wrist. An umpire or referee is seated near the end of the lines of players, and in front of him are laid 30 sticks or wands, each a foot and a half long, ornamented sometimes with painted bands. If the playing is at night a fire is lighted and made to burn brightly, so that the player can easily see each other. When all is ready, the one who is to play first pulls up the blanket, holding it in his teeth so as to hide his whole figure front the waist up. Slipping the leather strings attached to the bones over his wrist, he folds his arms across his breast and conceals the bones, one on each side, under his clothes. When he thinks them thoroughly hidden, he drops the blanket, and his adversary, throwing out his hands before him, indicates on which side he thinks one of the bones is concealed, naming its color. If his guess is correct, the bone is given him and the referee also hands him one of time sticks. One will frequently guess away all the bones down a line of 6 Indians, and the stakes are sometimes so high on the game that $100 will change hands in one evening.

Throwing bones or reeds through a rolling hoop is another of their games, and is played among the Yuma Indians.

Money

Their money was small round pieces of white shell, worked down with infinite pains and perforated with a hole so as to, be strung on a string. Their value increased or lessened with the length of the strings. A yard of this money was considered equal to about 12 of our cents.

Clothing

When the Catholic fathers first came among them clothing was limited. The men wore a short cloak of rabbit skin or nothing. The women and children wore a petticoat of bark fringe, and sometimes added to that a cape for protection from cold. Father Crespi in one of his journals describes one of these capes as made of the skins of rabbits and hares slicked together. The dress of different tribes of Indians varied considerably. The territorial lines between the tribes seemed to have been very carefully kept, and the customs differed sometimes with crossing the lines. The Indians about Santa Barbara wore rings of bone or shell in the nose; those around Los Angeles did not. The women had earrings of bone cylinder attached to the ears by a shell ring, and bracelets and necklace of fine bone ground and worked until it was smooth, also shells end pebbles perforated with holes so that they could be strung.

Disease

The, advent of the whites no doubt introduced new diseases among the Indians, such as measles and smallpox, but there are no records to indicate the death rate among them during the days of the missions.

Medical Practice

Their own medical practices were rude. They had sweathouses for paralysis, and one authority said they whipped the spot with nettles. They knew how to raise a blister with a paste made from dried and pounded nettle stalks, and practiced cautery with live coals. They allowed a fever patient to drink cold water, even after taking an emetic. When they were discouraged with the failure of their simple methods, they called upon the shaman:

Names and Dates of Establishment of Missions in California

The following is a list of all the missions established by the padres in California, with the dates of their founding. The population is as given by Humboldt in 1803:

Mission Founded Population 1903
San Diego do Aleala July 10, 1700 1,559
San Luis Roy de Francia June 18, 1798 532
San Juan, Capistrano November 1, 1776 1,013
San Gabriel Arcangel September 8, 1771 1,047
San Fernando Rey de Espagna September 8, 1797 614
San Buenaventura March 31, 1782 938
Santa Barbara Virgin y Martyr December 4, 1786 1,003
Santa Inez Virgin y Martyr September 1, 1804
La Purisima Concepcion Nueva December 8, 1787 (a) 1,028
San Luis Obispo de Tolosa September 1, 1772 699
Nuestra Senora do la Soledad October 9, 1721 663
San Miguel Arcangel July 25, 1797 614
San Antonio do Padua July 18,1771 1,052
San Juan Bautista June 24, 1707 958
San Carlos Borromeo de Monterey or Cannel June 3, 1770 688
Santa Cruz September 25, 1791 437
Santa Clara January 12, 1777
San José June 11, 1797 622
San Francisco de Delores October 9, 1776 814
San Francisco do Solano July 4,1823
San Antonio de Pala, a branch of Mission San Leis Roy, and 25 miles to the east of it. 1816
a. Removed April 28. 1811.

Architecture Of The Missions

The church of San Fernando is entirely in ruins, as are also those of San Diego, San Antonio, and San Juan Bautista; the latter not so mach of a ruin as those filth mentioned, and still with a nuns school for Children within its borders. The, style of architecture in all of these missions was the same. It is following of the half Spanish, half Moorish forms, simplified by the material they had to work with, and for the sake of the workers. They have no great beauty of carved stone, like cathedrals of the gothic epoch; they are very simple in their style and owe their interest largely to the melancholy history and the decay which have befallen so many of them. The mind of the beholder is struck with a sense of the loss and, ruin, of the scattered, decimated Indians, of the fathers wandering forth never to return, and regards them with a heightened interest which their architecture would not call forth. To follow the example of De Mofras as he regrets the loss and despoliation, even when, in 1842, it, was much less than it is now, is the disposition of every one who sees San Luis Rey or San Antonio de Pala, where the bells still hang in the low campanile standing on a base of masonry at the sidle of the church, but where the buildings are in decay. They were not built with square and compass, with the accuracy of an accomplished civil engineer. There would be a difference of 6 inches sometimes in the width of the two ends of a room. In the ceiling of the rooms of San Juan Capistrano one end was almost invariably found to be higher than the other when tested, by the appliances of the modern builder in the repair’s which were made a part of’ it.

Foliage About The Missions

At San Fernando there are still many of the olive trees which were planted by the padres, bearing bushels of fruit. Two or three stately, graceful date palms still stand, with their slender trunks 60 or 70 feet high. At Pala a long stretch of the old cactus hedge still survives, their leaves high enough for a man to stand under easily. At San Gabriel there is also a huge cluster of the cactuses that were once a hedge around the land of the mission standing near the yellow ruins of churches and cloisters and quadrangles of shops that were once so full of quiet, pleasant pastoral life.

The Mission Indians

The characteristics of these Indians are peculiar to the race and still cling to them. They are more i in provident than the white race around them, which is saying much. They have fewer wants and take life more easily than the Anglo-Saxon, Born in. a cold climate, with which he has to wrestle to gain a living, the Anglo-American can not see or meet the care-free, easy life of the Mission Indian without astonishment and a large amount of mingled pity, indignation, and contempt. The pity is chiefly extended because of his not having so many wants as the white man, and the indignation lifts led to driving. him from the lands that the white man covets, and the contempt shows itself in killing him when lie becomes too troublesome and resists robbery of his lands, and in giving him opprobrious epithets whenever mentioned. The Indians in 1851 made a slight attempt at an insurrection and filled the white inhabitants with fear. By virtue of the treaty of Guadalupe ‘Hidalgo, in 1848, the Indians became subject to the jurisdiction of the United States.

Legal Status

The United States court of the territory of New Mexico, which is another part of the same cession as California to the United States, decided that by virtue of the provision of the eighth article of the treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo the Indians within its territory were citizens of the United States, and that they could not therefore be treated as the government had been used to treating the wild tribes. Their position was different from the will tribes; therefore the government did not make any treaty with them, and it was not necessary to buy their lands of them. The result in California was that the Indian was left a prey to any white settler who came along. In that state the whites decided that Indians were not citizens and had no right to public lands, and that they had a perfect right to file on any land, no matter whether Indians were upon it or not.

The Indians in the valley of Temecula were in 1873 driven out one day by a sheriff followed by it posse of wined men. They hind obtained, unknown to the Indians, a decree from the courts of San Francisco permitting the proceeding. The sheriff and his men took the little belongings and furniture out of the adobe houses of the Indians and tore the houses down. They and their forefathers had lived in the valley for 106 years, peaceable, quiet people, with their orchards and gardens and same additional tillage sufficient to give them ease and comfort. Every vestige of their village is now gone. The only reminder is a little half-neglected graveyard at the lower end of the valley. The Indians, a melancholy, broken-hearted little procession, took what they could carry of their goods and went away. Of their cattle the whites retained enough to pay the fees of the sheriff who had to do the work of forcing the Indians away from their homes.

The story of San Pasqual is similar. It was a regularly organized Indian village. The records of its founding in 1831 are preserved in the Mexican archives at San Francisco. The valley was at one time set off by all executive order, but the influence of white men brought about a revocation of the order. These white men pre-empted the lands of the very village in which the Indians were living, on the theory that the Indian has no right to public lauds. The best of the Indians now live in the little canyons among the hills, emerging from them to work for the whites who now possess their old homes. The worst of them hang around the outskirts of the towns and live a vagabond life.

The Pachanga Indians

The Pachanga Indians who went out from Temecula have had a hard time on the barren hillsides to which they were relegated. Part of the little valley is under cultivation, but it suffers for want of irrigation. They have a well, but it dries up often, and then the nearest water for stock, for domestic use, for the gardens, is 1.5 miles away. The tract was set off in 1882 by executive order for the Indians, and such as it is they are secure upon it, but the need of water makes it a barren heritage. The men have to go off the reserve to work in order to earn enough to support their families. By the kindness of the agency physician they have been allowed to get water at the nearest point; 1.5 miles away, at a spring upon land secured from the land office; so that no settler can intrude to drive them off. They have a good schoolhouse.

The Pachanga Indians are within 2 or 3 miles of Temecula, with its saloons and temptations, so that a temperance society is needed as much as a knowledge of the alphabet, and a good teacher knows this. A liquor license law would aid munch.

Agua Caliente Indian Village

Here is a neat little village of adobe houses at Agua Caliente, where there are hot sulphur springs. The village is upon a ranch called Warner’s ranch, which was granted in 2 patents in 1880. The first was for 26,000 or 27,000 acres. The whole is now owned by er-Governor Downey, of Los Angeles. It is well watered and wooded, and is very valuable as a sheep and stock ranch. There are 4 other villages within its boundaries, Puerta de la. Cruz, Puerta de San Jose, San Jose, and Mataguay, Agua Caliente is the largest.

It was formerly set apart as a reservation, but the executive order was canceled immediately after the patent had been granted to San Jose del Valle ranch, the second of the 2 grants, although whether the boundaries of the village were included within the grant is doubtful; the first 3 surveys of the ranch do not take the village in.

The Indians rent their little adobe houses to white people who wish to come there for the benefit of the water of the springs, and thus are able to save a little money. They themselves-move into brush huts in a little canyon 2 miles away, where they cultivate some of the land. The uncertainty of their title acts as a drawback to their industry. They have a good government school.

Coahuila Valley Mission Indians

The Coahuila valley is high among the San Jacinto mountains, and is rather barren and inaccessible. The land is better fitted for grazing than tilling. The houses are adobe, thatched, and are tolerate to heat. The people are intelligent and more independent than the others. Their name signifies “masters”, they are said to have taken the lead among the tribes in former days. They raise stock, and great many of the Indians go every year to shear the sheep upon the ranches in the counties of San Diego and San Bernardino. They have the outdoor granaries, huge baskets made of willow twigs and set up on a platform. Although it is a government reservation, there are doubts about the correctness of the lines, and there have been some encroachment of the whites upon it. They have had a good government school for some years.

Sabola Mission Indians

Sabola is reservation on which the Indians have lived for 100 years. They have comfortable, adobe houses, and the men go off the reservation in troops as sheep shearers and to gather the grapes in the time of the vintage. The village is within the boundaries of a Mexican grant patented to the heirs of Juan Estudillo ??uary 17, 1880. The greater part of the grant has been sold to a company which, in dividing up its lands, alloted, the tract where the Sabola village lies to a person who proposed to eject the Indians unless the government would buy the whole 700 acres of which the Italians occupy 200 acres of the best part. The case was brought before the courts, and as no one appeared for the Indians it went against them by default. The Indian Rights Association of Philadelphia then pledged themselves to pay the necessary fees, and had the case put again upon the calendar. It was tried once more, and the reservation war secured to them by possessory right, under the Guadalupe Hidalgo treaty,

San Gorgonio Mission Indians

The San Gorgonio reservation, or, as it is more commonly called, the Potrero, is the second in value, that of Mesa Grande being first. The title to this reservation is in litigation. It is a large tract in a valley open to the desert winds, and hot in. summer, but with a great deal of good land within its lines. The Southern Pacific, railroad passes through it, and claims the odd sections on the ground that they were theirs before the reservation was set off. The town of Banning is also in this district. There are two or three valuable springs, and near one of them, an ever flowing brook, is little Indian village called The Potrero. Here, and scattered about to a distance of 3 miles, live 119 Indians. The question of the allotment of lands on this reservation will be an especially troublesome one, because of the conflicting claims; the reservation has the even sections, the railway claims the odd ones, and the Banning Water Company claims the right to all the springs but the one near the Indian village. The town of Banning also has a claim. The Indians raise only such crops as are for the season, fearing that they may he dispossessed in another year.

Pala, Pauma, La Jolla, and Rincon Mission Indians

At Pala, in the valley of the San Luis Rey River, are 5 Indian settlements, Pala, Pauma, Apeche, La. Jolla, and Rincon. At Pala, La Jolla, and Rincon are reservations. From the Pala reservation tracts of land have been taken and given to the whites, until the Indians have the same feeling of restlessness and disturbance that is to be found on so many others. The Rincon reservation has the best land. It is at the head of the valley directly on the river, with a range of high hills on the south. The village contains nearly 200 Indians, who live in neat adobe houses and are more thrifty and provident than on many of the other reservations. They have an excellent government school. The schoolhouse is a little wooden shell, unpainted, but the pupils have bright faces and pleasant manners, and a devoted teacher gives them without stint the best sort of training, which includes more than a mere acquaintance with readers and geographies.

The title of the Indians to La Jolla is in dispute. The Indian villages may or may not be outside the reservation. It lies high on the mountain, and had nothing but a trail leading to it until within a few years ago. It is well wooded and watered, and the soil is good.

The Indian village had some neat adobe houses, and the Indians, notwithstanding their poverty and lack of tools, are struggling to do a little farming, They have a good school. The schoolhouse is like the one at Rincon, a mere, shell, and situated as it is, on the windy side of a hill, fairly creaks and groans if there is a heavy wind.

Captain Grande Mission Indians

Captain Grande is a reservation. 15 miles long in a, canyon through which the San Diego River flows. It is very well wooded, and has along the sides of the river Wide intervals and meadows. There is a small band of Indians here, with less enterprise than the inhabitants of other reservations have. They are poor and shiftless. A water company has ran a line of pipe line one side of the wall of mountains that bounds the canyon, but it is high enough to be out of the way. Through the foresight of their agent the privilege was granted with a clause which permitted the Indians to tap the pipe at certain interval, along the line, and thus bring the water down into their lands; but they seem to have made- no use of this privilege. In one place only they had brought down a short line, but it was a very little distance, and the water seemed to be running to waste.

Mesa Grande is a high tableland of good quality, and with water. It is high enough to have good grass, good farming lands, and the fruits of the temperate zone. There have been many disputes about the lines, and it has had the usual ‘encroachments by the whites.

The village is neat, with adobe houses, a good school, with the schoolhouse pleasantly situated and neatly painted.

Mission Indians off Reservations

There are groups and clusters of Indians living off the reservations worthy of notice in order to give a complete history of the Mission Indians as they are in the year 1890. Sometimes it is only 2 families, as at Mr. Bergman’s ranch, 18 miles from Temecula. Here they leave lived, and Mr. Bergman owned the land around them. He, was not only ready to admit their possessory right, but he used his influence with them to file their lands and have a clear title given them from the land office. The Indians did so, and have a little cottage or two by the side of some running water, with fig trees and land enough to raise all they need to live on.

The Pauma ranch, belonging to Bishop Mora, has upon it a village of Indians called Pauma. They are thrifty, with comfortable, houses and a neat little church. They should have possessory rights there by a clause in the original grant of the ranch, but this has never been granted them. They have no school. Bishop Mora offered to sell the ranch for $31,000 to the United. States, and kept open the offer for a year, and nothing was done about it by Congress. They are a self-sustaining, worthy little cluster of people.

In the San Yeidro canyon is another village not on a reservation. It is high on the mountainside, and the next hills rim the Yuma desert. There has been no road to it until within a year. There are only 26 Indians here, and it is a miracle how they wring an existence from the barren hillsides and the mere pocket of a valley below them.

On the ranch Santa Ysabel are several Indian villages. It is in a rough part of the country among the mountains, but has much good land. There is in the original grant of this ranch a clause saying, The grantees will leave undisturbed the agricultural lands which the Indians of San Diego are occupying”.

In the village of Metaguay the Indians are poor and rather lazy, but contented, and if they had the incentive to work winch owning their lands would give might become ambitious and industrious.

The Desert Indians

The Desert Indians are still another band, who have a reservation of 60,000 acres upon which they can not live. They are largely wanderers, going into the surrounding country for work. They are under the control of a chief called Cabezone, and are very poor. Their settlements are in a barren spot, depressed below the sea level, but dry and hot for want of water and shade. They are more nearly heathen than any but the Yuma Indians, and have declined to allow themselves to be enumerated in the United States census, from the superstition, common among aboriginal tribes, that it will give a. power over them. They have been counted and number 167.

It will be seen that the reservations are widely scattered. The situation of the agent is very different from that of the ordinary Indian agent. Other agents have one reservation and can stay on it quietly, having their work immediately around them. Here the settlements are 30 to 40 miles apart, and to make the rounds requires a journey of many hundreds of miles over rough mountain roads. The Indians need protection and. oversight constantly, from the feeling of the white settlers toward them, and the agent, besides the regular rounds, has to make many trips, requiring him to be away from his office for 2 clays at a time. This is also true of the physician, who has the duties of a clerk added to those of a physician. His quarterly returns must be made out and sent in at the proper time, whether the Indians are ill or well.

The term Mission Indians was given from the work of the Franciscan fathers among them, and they are divided into 4 bands, viz: Coahuilas, Dieguenos, San Luisenos, and Serranos, They are subdivided again by their places of residence, and it is under this subdivision that they are spoken of here in order to be as definite as possible. Very little was done for them by the general government until within the last few years, but now there are a number of good government schools established, with 257 children enrolled as pupils. There is also a Catholic industrial school at Banning, built as a gift by Miss Drexel, which has 100 boarding pupils. The government has also negotiated for the land necessary to establish another industrial school, which is to be built at Perris, San Diego county.

Condition of the Mission Indians in 1890

The condition of the Mission Indians in the year 1890 is a fitting subject for the last of this report. Their reservations and villages are in the counties of San Diego and San Bernardino, in the southern part of California. Their villages, as stated on a previous page, are often not on a reservation, and sometimes there are 2 or 3 families, not enough to be called a village, hidden away in a canyon, as in the Santa Rosa canyon, where there are 3 families only, living on government land.

The Mission Indians all dress like white people. They are short; a man 6 feet high is a very uncommon sight; are dark skinned, but not black, with features that, vary is respect to the nose and mouth; they always have the rather high cheek bones typical of the plains Indians. The women show this as well as the men. They have good teeth, well-developed chests and shoulders, but the arms and legs in the young are without taper. In middle life they often acquire flesh, and then the limbs become more shapely.

For 20 years the number of these Indians has remained practically the same; their families are never large, 4 or 5 children at the most; twins are found as often as among the whites. The girls marry very young, often at 14 and 16 years. Occasionally cousins may marry; otherwise the ties of consanguinity are regarded. The women sometimes marry white men or the so-called Spaniards, Indians in whom there is some Spanish blood. The priest often performs these ceremonies, but there are many connections unblessed by the church.

The mixture of white blood among them is large, and the degree of virtue and vice among both men and women differs as greatly as among whites. They have no form of disease peculiar to themselves or hitherto unknown to white men. Several new diseases were introduced among them by white people. The measles, smallpox, and probably syphilis and scrofula were unknown before the foreigner came. Among themselves they are quarrelsome, and occasionally they carry it to the extreme of bloody fighting. They are apt to deal more severely with their shaman than with any one else. If they think a shaman has caused the death of one of their number their anger is great and they will kill him if they can. They are honest in their own way and will carry oat a contract, not-within the time specified always, because they are never punctual, but they are not addicted to thieving. In their houses, made of adobe or of brush, sufficiently wattled at the sides to be secure, they are tolerably neat. They cook with an open fire in many of the families. In the better villages, though, cooking stoves, with the usual paraphernalia of kettles and saucepans, fire in use.

Their only manufactures are baskets and a coarse, red pottery, which they bake themselves, making ollas and jars. These are their only home sources of earning money. The men hire themselves for a part of every year either as sheep shearers or as workers among the vineyards and orange groves of their white neighbors. Occasionally the women become house servants, though this is rare.

The men who live outside of the towns own ponies, in greater or less number, and a few cattle. Hens and chickens may be seen around their houses, but very rarely a cow or any other sort of live stock, except dogs, a numerous mongrel, half-fed crowd, not kindly treated as pets, but given a grudging existence. The poverty of an Indian may often be very great, yet he always has a serene, contented air, if he only has bread enough for the day. To teach him care is one of the lessons the whites have striven to instill without much success. Both men and women receive white people with ease and dignity in their little huts. Their care of the old people of their race seems like indifference, and yet they were never treated with actual cruelty. The old women sat about in the sun, often very dirty. They seemed dull and torpid and probably were indifferent to the comfort of cleanliness. Indians permit individual freedom in each other to a greater degree than is found among white people. Where the old people still took an active interest in life they were well dressed and bright looking. They sometimes live to be very old, but there are not enough such instances to warrant one in speaking of them as a long-lived race. Their traditions have come to us as from word of mouth, as from father to son, or through the writings of the padres and the first voyagers and travelers, Grijalva and Viscaino and Venegas. They have been broken up and. intermingled, first by the Spaniards among them, and later by people from the United States, until they have lost their distinctions as tribes. They are divided into Coahuilas, Dieguenos, San Luisenos, and Serranos, as already mentioned, but these are names given from the missions near which the Indians are or have lived, and mark no tribal difference handed down from their ancestors. They are nearly self-sustaining, but the agent is allowed to give them a few rations where they have to come long distances to consult him on some vexed question, but the Whole amount thus given is small. The government has made a feeble attempt within a few years to distribute a few wagons, plows, and other implements among them, and that is all the help they have had. At Riverside there are in the course of the season many hundred workers in the orange groves. At San Bernardino there are many more, quiet, self-respecting men, who earn their own living as mach as if they were white men. They know there is an agent appointed by the government, and often in their disputes go to him. Sometimes the matter is sufficiently serious to have what is really a trial of the question. Such trials are well conducted. Each side has an interpreter who understands both Indian and Spanish; each side presents its case in turn, and finally the agent weighs the evidence and makes his decision. There is no objection made by the defeated party as to the result. They are not given to hunting or fishing, the latter perhaps because the rivers of southern California have, few fish, and on the seacoast there are no Indians. A few of the younger men trap the rabbit and in the autumn hunt quail, but that is all. These Indians retain but one form akin to tribal government Each community or reservation has it headman or captain, and a second man, an alcalde. These men are elected, and serve as long as they are popular. Their office is to keep the peace and decide the neighborhood differences that come up in small communities. When their decisions are doubted they appeal to the agent. They have never voted; neither do they act as citizens, though that privilege was granted them by the treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo. They have always been treated as aliens and as, people who had no rights on their own soil. They have ceased to burn their dead in any but some of the most remote districts, and in several of their graveyards each little mound is marked with a wooden cross. They are desolate looking places, because grass does not grow as in the east, and these homes of the dead have a bare, unblanketed look, without the friendly green turf to cover their repose. At Pala, there was a graveyard behind the campanile of the church. At Temecula was an old burying ground with its adobe wall somewhat broken down. At Pauma was another, a recent one, and there were others at various places.

The passage of the Mission Indian bill, which was signed by the President on January 20, 1891, is the greatest act of justice the government has done for these Indians.

The bill requires that 3 commissioners appointed by the Secretary of the Interior shall examine and pass upon the vexed questions of the lines of the reservations and have them clearly defined by a correct severalty, and its also provides for allotment of lands to the Indians with 25 years holding before the right of alienation in fee lies. in the allottee. The allotment provision is as follows:

Section 4. That whenever any of the Indians residing upon any reservation patented under the provisions of this act shall in the opinion of the Secretary of the Interior, be so advanced in civilization as to be capable or owning and managing land in severalty, the Secretary of the Interior may cause allotments to be made to such Indians, out of the land of such reservation, in quantities as follows;

To each head of a family not more than six hundred and forty acres nor less than one hundred and sixty acres of pasture ori???ing land, and in addition thereto not exceeding twenty acres, as he shall deem for the best interest of the allottee, of arable land ??? ???? suitable locality; to each single person over twenty-one years of age not loss than eighty nor more than six hundred and forty acres of pasture or grazing land and not exceeding ten acres of such arable land.




MLA Source Citation:

Department of the Interior. Report on Indians Taxed and Indians not Taxed in the United States, Except Alaska at the Eleventh Census: 1890. Washington DC: Government Printing Office. 1894. AccessGenealogy.com. Web. 30 March 2014. http://www.accessgenealogy.com/native/condition-of-the-mission-indians-of-california-in-1890.htm - Last updated on Oct 21st, 2012


Categories: , ,
Topics: , , , , , ,
Locations: ,

Contribute to the Conversation!

Our "rules" are simple. Keep the conversation on subject and mind your manners! If this is your first time posting, we do moderate comments before we let them appear... so give us a while to get to them. Once we get to know you here, we'll remove that requirement.

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Page Contents

Newsletter Signup

We currently provide two newsletters. Why not take both for a run?

Genealogy Update: We send out this newsletter whenever we feature a new, or significantly updated, collection or database on our website.

Circle of Nations: We send out this newsletter whenever we feature a new (or significantly updated) Native American collection or database on our website.

Once you've clicked on the Subscribe button above you'll receive an email from us requesting confirmation. You must confirm the email before you will be able to receive any newsletter.