Saints and Citizens: Indigenous Histories of Colonial Missions and Mexican California

Saints and Citizens: Indigenous Histories of Colonial Missions and Mexican California

Saints and Citizens: Indigenous Histories of Colonial Missions and Mexican California

Saints and Citizens: Indigenous Histories of Colonial Missions and Mexican California

Synopsis

Saints and Citizens is a bold new excavation of the history of Indigenous people in California in the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, showing how the missions became sites of their authority, memory, and identity. Shining a forensic eye on colonial encounters in Chumash, Luiseño, and Yokuts territories, Lisbeth Haas depicts how native painters incorporated their cultural iconography in mission painting and how leaders harnessed new knowledge for control in other ways. Through her portrayal of highly varied societies, she explores the politics of Indigenous citizenship in the independent Mexican nation through events such as the Chumash War of 1824, native emancipation after 1826, and the political pursuit of Indigenous rights and land through 1848.

Excerpt

A Chumash artisan at Mission Santa Inés painted the Archangel Raphael as a Chumash leader thereby attributing the powers of Raphael to the Chumash figure and Chumash authority to a Christian saint (See Figure 4 in chapter 3). Indigenous translators, writers, and painters in colonial and Mexican California left records like this one that invoked Indigenous leadership and native access to power. Collectively they created documents that expressed an array of political visions and demands.

The representation of this figure as a saint corresponds to at least one translation for the word saint in an Indigenous language of California. in Achachemem, spoken at Mission San Juan Capistrano, nóonutum (“saint”) meant “any great men of the past in any line.” the church discouraged Indigenous painters from representing themselves or their histories and promoted a uniform iconography and consistent story of each saint. This painting of the Archangel Raphael is therefore unusual in that it defied church policies governing the religious image. It was painted at Mission Santa Inés sometime during the 1820s, perhaps after the reconciliation of the church and Mexican state with Chumash people at the end of the 1824 Chumash War. in representing this leader, the painting alludes to the strong system of Indigenous leadership that existed within the missions settled in Chumash territory.

The name and image of the Archangel Raphael and countless other saints’ names and images formed an integral part of the imposition of Catholicism in the Indigenous territories along the coast from the Presidio (fort and military district) of San Diego to the Presidio of San Francisco. Their stories conveyed Catholic beliefs and history yet also became significant within Indigenous systems of . . .

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