Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

American -- Indians, Franciscans, and Spanish Colonization: The Impact of the Mission System on California Indians by Robert H. Jackson and Edward Castillo

Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

American -- Indians, Franciscans, and Spanish Colonization: The Impact of the Mission System on California Indians by Robert H. Jackson and Edward Castillo

Article excerpt

Indians, Franciscans, and Spanish Colonization: The Impact of the Mission System on California Indians. By Robert H. Jackson and Edward Castillo. (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press. 1995. Pp. vii, 213. $32.50.)

The impact of the Franciscan missions on the Indians of California long has been a subject of intense debate. Even during the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, when the missions weft in their ascendancy, visitors expressed widely different views. The debate continues today as the founder of the California missions, Father Junipero Serra, O.F.M., moves toward canonization as the first saint of the Golden State.

Indians, Franciscans, and Spanish Colonization is a major contribution to this ongoing controversy. Historian Robert H. Jackson and anthropologist Edward Castillo (Cahuilla/Luiseno summarize and advance the critical view of the missions, challenging various contentions held by mission defenders. The authors criticize especially the "parochialism that has characterized a century of writing on the missions, both professional and popular" (p. 6). Their intention is to place the history of the California missions within the larger context of Spanish colonization of the Americas. Thus, in their analysis, the fundamental purpose of the missions was "to acculturate the Alta California Indians and prepare them for their role in a new colonial order" (p. 6).

Jackson and Castillo challenge specifically the contention that the Indians of California were attracted to the missions by the promise of a steady food supply. Through extensive statistical analysis, the authors find little correlation between levels of grain production in the missions and the numbers of new recruits. "Food supply," they conclude, "was therefore not a major determinant in the ability of the Franciscans to relocate Indians to the missions" (p. 47). This conclusion supports the earlier view of physiologist S. …

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