The California Missions
This is the text for a unit on the California Missions that I student taught at a middle school in Beaverton, OR in 1999. The 7th grade social studies/language arts class was studying historical selected topics. Bolded words in the text indicate special vocabulary words needing to be discussed in class.
Lesson 1: Two Very Different Cultures
Remember in “Shogun” when Blackthorne first landed in Japan? He didn’t understand the language, and many things about Japanese culture were confusing and even unpleasant for him. At first, for example, he didn’t want to take a bath, expressing what he’s been taught, that “baths’ll make you foul sick.” By the end of the film, however, he’d learned to speak Japanese and adopted Japanese dress and customs. He even appeared to have adopted some Japanese beliefs. In many ways, Blackthorne was now able to live in two worlds: the English one in which he’d grown up and lived all his life and that of Japan. Because of her conversion to Christianity and her love for Blackthorne, Mariko also lived in two worlds. Sometimes those worlds conflicted, as when she prepared to commit seppuku, despite the Christian prohibition against suicide.
Blackthorne and Mariko show us that, though it isn’t easy, it’s possible to understand and participate in more than one culture. Because of choice or circumstance, some of us live that way today, as our world becomes more and more multicultural. That could be a good thing – the demands of the 21st century may require that we borrow from the best in many cultures to solve our problems.
Blending cultures can be difficult, especially if one culture conquers another and considers itself superior. In this unit we’re going to take a look at what happened when a European culture, an earlier version of our own in many ways, met a Native American hunter-gatherer culture.
The Spaniards’ Perception of the Indians
Many Spaniards, Mexicans, and Americans saw the California natives as inferior to them in culture, religion, and even intelligence. The Indians’ houses looked primitive to Europeans, and they appeared to have little art except for their baskets. Native religion appeared to them as “barbarous sorcery.” The Indians’ relative nudity and courtship and marriage customs seemed immoral, too, compared to European standards. The California Indians ate foods, like insects, the Spanish thought were disgusting. Some Spaniards described Indians as barely human and compared them to animals.
Different Economic Systems
How is personal property distributed in different cultures? Native Americans tend to share, value generosity, and have customs like potlatches or giveaways that result in everyone having a similar amount. In some tribes there was little or no private property. Hunter-gatherers have always lived this way, and, until relatively recently, all of us were hunter-gatherers.
How did we get from the hunter-gatherer economic system to the one we have today? The development of agriculture less than 10,000 years ago started things changing. In an agricultural society there’s often a food surplus that can be fought over, guarded, and converted into wealth. These surpluses allow specialized roles and social classes to develop. In our study of feudal Europe, the Aztecs, and medieval Japan we’ve seen class systems of nobles; knights or warriors; and serfs, commoners, or peasants. Tribes or clans fought, as you did in “Warlords,” to take control of larger and larger territories. Eventually, a unified nation or state can form. If this nation-state goes on to conquer other countries, it can become an empire, like that of the Aztecs. From the 1500s to 1700s, some European countries formed colonial empires in the Americas. Spain, one of the first to do this, brought its complex economic and political system to California – to a people who had no way of understanding or fighting it.
Lesson 2: Spanish Exploration and Empire
Part 1: The Caribbean and Mexico
Christopher Columbus’s “discovery” of the “New World” in 1492 was financed by King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella of Spain, so Columbus claimed the island of Hispaniola for Spain. He called the inhabitants of the island indios (Indians), thinking he’d arrived at his goal, the East Indies.
On Columbus’s second voyage he brought 17 ships, 1,500 men, and large quantities of livestock, seed, and tools. Indians were made to work for the colonists, each of whom was given a grant of Indian labor called an encomienda. The encomenderos were supposed to pay the Indians wages, offer them protection, and instruct them in the Catholic faith, but these regulations were ignored more often than not, and most Indians were treated like slaves. By 1520, most of them had died from mistreatment or European diseases.
Hernan Cortes, a wealthy encomendero on the island of Cuba, went to Mexico to explore and conquer a new land for Spain. He defeated the Aztec empire of central Mexico with 600 men, some horses, steel weapons, and several thousand Indian allies. A smallpox epidemic helped him take the Aztec capital of Tenochtitlan in 1521. The Spanish called Tenochtitlan “Mexico City,” and tore down the Aztec temples, replacing them with churches.
The Aztecs thought the Spanish would be satisfied if they surrendered to them and paid tribute, but, unlike the Aztecs, who let conquered city-states keep their own language, gods, and customs, the Spaniards expected the Aztecs to learn Spanish, convert to Christianity, and adopt European customs. They also expected the Indians to work for them, as in Hispaniola, and over-work and epidemic diseases again took a heavy toll. Sixty years after the conquest, the Indian population of central Mexico had been reduced by almost 90%.
Part 2: California
In search of spices, silks, and precious metals and stones, Spain took the lead in exploring the New World and dominated it for almost 200 years. By 1531 Spain claimed the Caribbean islands, Mexico, Central America, and half of South America. There were also Spanish colonies in what are now Florida, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and the Philippines.
In 1542 a Spanish explorer landed on the southern California coast and claimed it, too, for Spain. But for more than 150 years there were no Spanish settlers there. Deserts and mountains made it difficult for people to travel overland from Mexico, and sea journeys were dangerous. Spain also needed to concentrate on protecting its ships from pirates in the late 1500s and 1600s. Spanish treasure ships carried silver from Mexico to Manila in the Philippine Islands. There, Spanish traders exchanged the silver for Chinese silks and porcelains. Knowing the richness of the Spanish ships, English pirates like Sir Francis Drake prowled the coasts of the Americas in search of them. They even started attacking the port cities of the Spanish empire, forcing Spain to build fortresses in Havana, Cuba; Veracruz, Mexico; and St. Augustine, Florida.
In the late 1700s, Spain’s empire was threatened by more than pirates. Other countries had begun exploring, trading, and settling in the New World, too. Russian trappers and traders were hunting seals in San Francisco Bay, British naval forces sailed the coast, and there were British fur traders in western Canada. American whaling and trading ships had also entered the Pacific. Fearing that one of these countries might claim land in California, Spain decided to establish settlements there to show that it belonged to Spain.
Lesson 3: Serra Starts Out
Spain already had hundreds of missions in the New World when Franciscan Father Junipero Sierra established the first Spanish mission in California at San Diego. He had been appointed head of the Baja (Lower) California missions in 1768 and ordered to found new ones in Alta (Upper) California.
It was a great and important adventure. Picture the departure of the first land expedition from Santa Maria, Mexico…With banners flying, hands waving farewell, and last words shouted to those who had come to see them off, the procession started, with Captain Fernando Rivera and 25 of his leather-jacketed soldiers in the lead. The soldiers were on horseback and armed with helmets, shields, and muskets. Following them were 40 Christian Indians with spades, pickaxes, crowbars, and machetes. Next came Father Crespi on a white mule, followed by a hundred pack mules loaded with leather sacks of food and other necessities and guided by muleteers. Bringing up the rear were 25 more soldiers, a cloud of dust behind them. Meanwhile, two ships sailed toward California, their holds full of sacks of corn, wheat, and peas and barrels of water, wine, dried beef, and chocolate. The ships also carried axes, hoes, and spades for farming and altars, bells, candles, and priests’ robes for the churches the padres planned to found.
Don Gaspar de Portola and Father Serra led the second land expedition, which took 40 days to arrive in San Diego. Indian cowboys called vaqueros were in this group, driving herds of cattle and horses. On July 1, 1769, the land and sea expeditions were united at San Diego – a sad and happy meeting. Many of the sailors had died of scurvy, and many of the Christian Indians had deserted, going back to their homes in Mexico. But Father Sierra said, “God be praised!” He was already thinking about where to build the first church.
The country is “pleasant and green with many fragrant herbs, wild grapes, and plenty of game,” one of the Spaniards wrote, and “the Indians are friendly and tractable.” The Spanish put up tents and started building. The Indians welcomed them, guiding them around the country and giving them food. The Spaniards give the Indians beads, the first metal knives they’d ever seen, and clothing.
Lesson 4: Native Peoples of California
Native Americans had been living in California for at least 10,000 years when the Spanish arrived in 1769. There were 50 tribes of 100 to 1,000 members, a total of 300,000 people speaking many different languages.
To its native peoples, California wasn’t one country, but many. It included the lush rainforest of the northwest coast, the marshlands of the central valley, the wooded foothills of the Sierra Nevada, the beaches of the southern coast, and the palm-shaded springs of the desert interior. Each setting fostered a different way of life.
What the California Indians had in common was the belief that each of the life forms on which they depended came to them as a gift from the spirit world, and that nothing in their environment should be taken for granted.
Mount Shasta in northern California was sacred to the Modoc and Achumawi tribes. The Yurok, who lived closer to the coast, used long-handled dip nets to catch the salmon, surgeon, and steelhead that came upriver to spawn. In the wetlands of central California, the Pomo ate waterfowl and gathered tule reeds to make houses and boats. The Yokuts who lived in the western foothills of the Sierra Nevada ground acorns into meal in stone mortars. Some of the biggest tribes lived along the southern California coast. One of these, the Chumash, lived in large villages of over 1,000 residents. They were skilled navigators and fishermen, traveling to offshore islands in ocean-going canoes. The Cahuilla living near the desert oasis of Palm Springs ate dates from palm trees.
The original Californians were dismissed by Europeans as primitive hunter-gatherers, but they managed and improved their environment by burning, pruning, sowing seeds, weeding, irrigating, tilling, and harvesting according to sound ecological principles. In this way, California supported one of the highest concentrations of people north of Mexico. California Indians were peaceful because the land gave them plenty, and natural barriers like mountains and deserts separated many of their groups. Lightly clothed and with few possessions, the California tribes seemed to the Spanish to be inferior to the Aztec, who had developed a city-state civilization based on settled agriculture. The California tribes’ knowledge of the environment, gained over thousands of years, went unrecognized by the Europeans.
Some Indians lived in houses made of brush or tule reeds, and others built houses of bark or wooden planks. The choice depended on the climate and available materials. Several families might live together in one house, and most Indian houses had a firepit in the center for cooking and warmth. There weren’t any windows – smoke from the fire went out an opening in the roof.
Most villages had at least one sweathouse, in which the men made a big fire, poured water on the hot rocks around it, and sweated out impurities in the steamy heat. At the end of their sweat, the men ran outside and jumped in the cold water of the nearest ocean, river, or lake. This kept them clean and healthy. Most Indian villages also had a meetinghouse for meetings, dances, ceremonies, or storytelling sessions.
Indian men hunted, fished, and trapped. Meat that wasn’t eaten right away was cut in strips and dried in the sun or over the fire, and fish were smoked. Women gathered plant foods and cooked. Many varieties of oak trees grew in California, and most tribes used their acorns as a major food source, pounding them into meal to make bread or mush.
The Indians needed little clothing in California’s mild climate. If the weather turned cold, capes made of rabbit skins kept them warm, and deerskin moccasins were worn on long journeys. There were also special clothes for dances and feasts: beautiful feather capes for the men and skirts trimmed with shells for the women.
Women used grasses and reeds dyed in different colors to make beautiful baskets. These baskets were used to carry babies, hold food and water, cook, and to wear as caps. California Indians are still the most skilled basket makers in the United States.
Lesson 5: The Founding of the First Missions
Thousands of Kumeyaay Indians lived in villages around the new Spanish settlement at San Diego. When the Spanish stopped giving them gifts, they sometimes took what they wanted from the presidio, or fort, the soldiers had built or from the wooden chapel erected by the missionaries. The Spanish saw this as stealing, evidence of the natives’ “heathen” ways that they hoped to change.
In 1775, after six years of efforts by the Spanish priests, there were 500 Kumeyaay converts at the San Diego mission. Often there were problems between the Indians and the soldiers at the presidio, because the soldiers molested the Indian women and let their horses eat the crops the padres had taught the Indian men to grow. Finally, two of the Indian men organized an attack on the presidio and the mission. The attack on the presidio failed, but the mission was burned. When Father Jaime ran out to try to stop the attackers, crying, “Love God, my children!” he was killed. The other Spaniards at the mission barricaded themselves inside and scared the Indians away with their muskets. Later, the Indians said they’d tried to drive the Spanish away so they could “live as we did before.”
Father Serra established a total of nine missions before he died in 1784, and his successors founded 12 more for a total of 21. The missions were built a hard day’s journey apart on what came to be called El Camino Real, the Royal Road or King’s Highway. Along with missions, the Spaniards built forts, called presidios, and towns, called pueblos. The priests tried to concentrate groups of Indians around the missions so they could control them and keep them from being influenced by unconverted tribesmen. They needed the Indians to work at the missions: to build and decorate them and to raise the crops that would feed the soldiers and settlers.
Because there were so many different Indian languages in California, few of the priests made an effort to learn them. The mission Indians were expected to learn enough Spanish and church Latin to get along, but they may not have fully understood the prayers and rituals they memorized. The missionaries never taught the Indians to read or write.
Lesson 6: Life at the Missions
The mission Indians’ lives were ruled by the bells that rang to call them to worship, work, meals, and sleep. Their day began at sunrise when the Angelus bell called them to prayers in the mission church. An hour later, another bell announced breakfast. Each family sent someone to get its share of the atole (corn mush) the Indian women had cooked in the communal kitchen. After breakfast the work bell rang. Everyone physically able to work, including the children, had tasks to perform. Twice a day the padres gave the children over five religious instruction in Spanish or Latin. At midday the bell rang for a meal of posole, a corn and vegetable stew that sometimes had meat added to it. This was followed by an hour’s siesta. The afternoon was spent working. The Angelus bell rang at six, calling the Indians to evening prayers, followed by a supper of atole and tortillas. At 8 PM everyone was expected to be in bed. Unmarried girls and women slept in a locked dormitory, and widowers and single men, too, were often locked in at night to prevent them from leaving the mission.
Indian men and boys farmed with hoes and wooden plows pulled by oxen. They grew corn, wheat, barley, beans, and peas, as well as vegetables like tomatoes, onions, garlic, and peppers; fruits such as oranges, lemons, peaches, plums, apples, and figs; and nuts (walnuts and almonds). The Indians learned to make oil from olives and wine from grapes. Indian herders cared for sheep, cattle, and horses, as well as the work animals – oxen, mules, and burros. Chickens, pigs, and goats were also raised. Indian men and boys also learned trades in the mission workshops. In the blacksmith shop tools, nails, bolts, hinges, locks, keys, bits, stirrups, and horseshoes were made out of iron brought from Mexico. In the carpentry shop doors, beams, and furniture were fashioned. Some of the most important mission products came from the hides and fat, or tallow, of the cattle. Leather was made into shoes, sandals, sacks, harnesses, saddles, and rope. Tallow was used to make soap and candles. In the pottery shop Indian workers made jars, roof and floor tiles, clay pipes, and adobe bricks. The women worked in the gardens, washed the clothes, cooked, and spun, wove, and sewed, using the sheep’s wool to make blankets.
The farming and other work done by the Indians at the missions supported not only the padres and the Indians themselves, but the Spanish soldiers who guarded the missions and manned the nearby presidios. Products from the missions were also sold to settlers from Mexico who lived in neighboring towns. Some mission products, especially hides and tallow, were traded with ships from New England that stopped along the coast. In addition to food and other products from the missions, Spanish miners, farmers, and ranchers also expected the mission Indians to work for them occasionally.
The work they did at the missions and elsewhere was different from what the Indians were used to. It was harder and took a lot longer than hunting and gathering. Sometimes the Indians missed their freedom and resisted the mission schedules and rules, especially the one that said they couldn’t leave. When Indians broke the rules, the padres had them whipped or locked in the stocks (a heavy wooden frame with holes for the prisoner’s wrists and ankles). Wearing leg shackles while they worked was another punishment.
Why did the Indians come to the missions? First of all, it was the missions that had come to the Indians. The Spanish had purposely built missions where many Indians already lived, in order to convert them and make use of their labor. Second, the Indians were curious about the spiritual powers of the priests, the leaders of these strange new people with horses, metal, and guns. Some of the first Indians to approach the missions and agree to be baptized were actually medicine men and women trying to add to their spiritual powers. None of the Indians who came to the missions gave up their old beliefs when they started practicing Christianity. Like the Mexican Indians before them, they ended up with a mixture of the old and the new.
The Indians didn’t come to the missions initially for food, because they had plenty to eat when the Spanish came. After the Spaniards had been living in their country for a while, however, many of the seed-bearing grasses and other plants the Indians depended on disappeared, eaten by the Spanish livestock and untended by the Indians who worked at the missions. Wild game became scarce as well. Thus, in later years many Indians did stay at the missions in order to have enough to eat.
Lesson 7: Understanding the Spanish
To understand the point of view of the Spanish soldiers and missionaries in California in the 1700s we have to go back over a thousand years when the ruler of Spain made Christianity the state religion. That meant everyone in Spain had to be a Christian, and all Christians in those days were Catholic. Two hundred years later, Muslims from North Africa conquered most of the country. The reconquest of Spain from the Muslims, called the Reconquista, took 700 years. This long fight for their territory and their religion gave the Spanish a permanent crusading spirit.
Spain wasn’t really united until King Ferdinand of Aragon and Queen Isabella of Castile married in 1469. In 1482 the Spanish Inquisition, famous for its cruel treatment of people suspected of heresy against the established church, began. In 1492, the year Columbus sailed west to what he hoped would be the Indies, all non-Christians (mostly Muslims and Jews) were forcibly expelled from Spain. Spanish Catholic faith was intense – today we’d probably think it close-minded. At the time, however, fervent and militant religious belief, merged with patriotism, was the Spanish frame of reference. It led them to create a vast, mighty, and extremely wealthy empire in the New World, where they were able to extend both Spanish territory and the Christian faith.
Lesson 8: Indian Resistance
Because they needed a constant labor supply to keep the mission system going, and because the Indian death rate from European disease was high, the padres were always looking for new converts. By the early 1800s, they were sending soldiers into the interior of California looking for new tribes to convert. Soldiers went into the mountains, rounded up Indians, brought them back to the missions, and locked them up. Indians who escaped often came back and tried to steal the Spaniards’ horses.
Occasionally, the Indians revolted. In 1824 some of the Chumash, who had five missions in their territory and had suffered terrible losses from disease, got tired of working so hard and being whipped for minor rule infractions. They attacked the missions of Santa Ines, La Purisima Concepcion, and Santa Barbara. After weeks of fighting, the Indians were defeated by the soldiers, but 450 of them fled east to the San Joaquin Valley, and another 50 escaped to Santa Cruz Island.
In 1795, 280 converts ran away from the San Francisco mission. Two hundred more ran away the next year. In 1798, 138 Indians left Santa Cruz, and 200 left San Juan Bautista in 1805.
In general, there was growing Indian resistance to the Spanish after 1810 when the war for independence from Spain began. This may have been because supplies were no longer getting through, and because there was more pressure on the missions to supply military garrisons. Indian rebellion, flight from the missions, and horse raiding all increased. Indians living in the Sacramento, San Joaquin, and other interior valleys also fought with the Spanish soldiers who came to find fugitives and seek new converts.
Lesson 9: The End of the Mission System
In 1823 Mexico declared its independence from Spain. Six years later, the new government ordered the Spanish padres to leave the California missions. In 1834 Mexican officials and settlers took most of the mission lands and property, including equipment and livestock. By law the Indians were supposed to get half of everything, but they didn’t know that, and would have had no way to defend their rights anyway.
The missionaries had said they were planning to give the missions to the Indians when they were ready to live independently as Hispanicized Christians. But they did little to prepare the converts for self-government, saying the Indians were too ignorant, backward, and prone to backsliding into their “heathenish” ways. In reality, many Indians had probably learned enough about Western civilization to get along in colonial society, had the colonists and padres been willing to accept them as fellow citizens. As it was, the mission Indians either tried to go back to their old life of hunting and gathering, or went to work on Mexican cattle ranches for whatever food, clothing, and shelter the rancheros were willing to give them. Most of these workers soon found themselves in debt to their patrons, according to the records the colonists kept, and were thus unable to leave.
Lesson 10: The Americans Take Over in California
California became a United States territory in 1847 after the Mexican War. Under the Americans, as with the Mexican rancheros, Indians were legally free, but required to work. According to a law adopted by the state’s first legislature in 1850, unemployed Indians could be arrested and hired out. Whites were also allowed to obtain Indian children as “apprentices” if they fed and clothed them. In 1860 this practice was extended to adult Indians with “no settled habitation or means of livelihood.” As many as 10,000 Indians were indentured without their consent in this way. An editorial in the Sacramento Union in 1860 said, “If this doesn’t fill the measure of the constitutional term ‘involuntary servitude,’ we shall be thankful if someone will inform us what is lacking.”
The abduction and sale of Indians, especially children, was carried on as a business. White farmers, ranchers, and miners bought kidnapped Indians and used them as slaves. Some whites argued that the Indian children working for them were being “improved” or “civilized,” but an observer wrote that “these involuntary wards often die at an early age. If they attain maturity, they abscond to their native mountains.” Approximately 4,000 Indians were victimized by this practice from 1852 to 1867.
A few reservations patterned after the mission system were tried in California. The Indians were to farm and learn trades, their work supporting government agents and troops. In 1857 as many as 10,000 of the estimated 50,000 California Indians were involved in this system. However, several agents were found to have pocketed money meant for the Indians. Starving, the tribes stole cattle and horses in order to survive. Angry settlers then felt justified in killing every Indian they could find. In northern California miners and ranchers banded together for the purpose of hunting and killing Indians, and as late as 1870 frontier communities paid bounties for their scalps or heads.
The state’s Indian population declined from about 150,000 in 1845 to less than 30,000 in 1870. An estimated 60% of the population decline was due to disease.
During the late 19th century, the majority of California Indians subsisted on the fringes of white settlements, working as farm laborers and domestic servants. During the 20th century, their material situation improved, but not to the level of the general population. In the 1960s, ’70s, and ’80s, Indian people showed a growing interest in the revival and preservation of their native cultures, some of which, tragically, had disappeared.
The tribes that have been able to remain on at least a portion of their traditional lands have been the most successful in keeping their culture. The Cahuillas, for example, have been able to remain on their land in south central California during more than 200 years of white contact. Traditional foods are still eaten at ritual and social events, kin relationships remain important, precontact songs and dances continue, and traditional funeral and personal rituals are performed. In northern California, the Hupas also have a history of uninterrupted occupancy of their homeland. The Hupa language continues to be spoken, and there are efforts to perpetuate traditional beliefs and activities.
Even among the tribes removed from their lands the old ways haven’t disappeared entirely. Pomo tribal leaders maintain traditional philosophical and religious principles, and schools teach ceremonial dances and songs. Several Pomo shamans still use ancient curing methods. The Achumawis have also maintained extensive knowledge and use of aboriginal medicines, foods, and rituals. Their faith in their shamans remains strong, and they still know where the traditional “power places” are in their old territory.
The U.S. government returned most mission buildings and some land to the Catholic Church in the late 1850s and ’60s, but by then many of the buildings had been torn down or were in disrepair. Artists recorded the ruins in paintings and photographs, inspiring growing numbers of tourists to visit in the early 1900s. Soon wealthy individuals and groups began to campaign for the missions’ restoration, and this has now been done at practically all the old sites.
Lesson 11: What Can We Conclude about the Missions?
European and Native American cultures have very different – we might even say opposing – values. It was inevitable that they would meet and that when they did Native Americans would be at a disadvantage. Indians didn’t realize until it was too late that Europeans wouldn’t recognize their right to continue living as they had for thousands of years on their land. Not understanding European culture, they had no way of knowing that the newcomers would eventually want all of the land for themselves, and that they would expect Indians to assimilate. For these reasons, Native Americans didn’t unite against the intruders, or did so too late. They lacked the technology to defeat Europeans in battle, and, in the case of the California tribes, also lacked training in fighting, not having warred much with each other. By the time many California Indians decided they didn’t like the effect the Spanish and their missions were having on them, their numbers had been depleted by European diseases, and the Spanish sheep, horses, and cattle had eaten up or driven away many of the food sources they depended on.
Why did 80% of the California Indians gathered into the missions die? First, they hadn’t had the opportunity to acquire immunity to European diseases, and the padres unwittingly spread these diseases by visiting Indian villages and baptizing as many infants and children as they could. Native Americans also died because of the stress of being forced to change their way of life so drastically. Their families and societies were torn apart, their workload was heavy, and their diet poor.
Most of what happened as a result of the meeting of these two cultures was negative, especially for the Indians, whose culture was neither valued nor respected. Today, however, many people of European descent recognize the need to listen to Native Americans, as well as other tribal peoples around the world, whose remaining cultures have much to tell us about how to live in harmony with the earth. We’re starting to realize that we need this kind knowledge not only for our survival, but for our happiness.
The missions succeeded materially, establishing the foundation for California agriculture. They’ve also given us much in the way of Hispanic culture. Today the restored missions stand as monuments to those who sought to spread what they considered to be the most valuable assets of mankind: Christianity and Western civilization. When we judge their actions today we must remember that the Spanish rulers, padres, and colonists, like all people, viewed the world according to what they’d been taught. They acted in accordance with this worldview, following the values of their particular culture and time. Perhaps we who study their history can benefit from it, learning to better respect and appreciate different cultural viewpoints, and using them to solve some of the problems we all share.