The missions Essay

The missions

The revolt of the Indians against the Christian missions in the 1775 at Mission Santiago De Alcala is one example of the revolts that the Indians of California made. There were plenty of reasons why the revolt and other similar ones took place. This was a precursor of many other revolts that arose as the treatment of the Indians by the missions worsened. The rebellion was unavoidable given the peoples grievances that included disruption of a good life and introduction of inhumane one.

The missions were introduced in California by Spanish missionary padres originally of Mexico upon the indigenous tribes of the Indian people. Indian tribes in several regions of California had well established cultures that were unsettled by the setting up of the missions in their midst.  One of the key goals of the establishment of the missions was to Christianize and educate the Indians in California such that they would later become the working class in the Spanish colony. Along the missions was the introduction of military garrisons; presidios that were meant for protection of the colony from European and Indian attack. There was also introduction of pueblos; communities of Spanish settlers which were meant to give supplies to the missions and the presidios. The missions were part of a strategy hatched by the Spanish missionaries in order to make the expansion of the Spanish empire into California more successful. The missions were scheduled to be established free from colonial settlers against whom massive Indians revolts had already taken place. The plan would see the missionaries first prepare the ground for colonists and avoid a situation of simultaneous grounding of the two.

The missions established labor camps where they coerced natives for labor that was aimed to benefit the colonizers. Again the introduction of domestic animals into the territory by the missions disrupted the economic independence of the natives as the domestic animals ate most of the native food. This led to depletion of domestic protein for the natives and hence susceptibility to introduced European diseases. The missions system worked by threat of disease coming upon the population as this ensured the Indians sought help from the missionaries. There was also an established system of intimidation and bribes.

The introduction of European diseases by the missions as a way of conversion of the inhabitants had a very negative effect on the population as they were later abused by the Spanish colonists and caused many deaths as a tool of overcoming native resistance at the beginning years of the 20th century. The diseases were inclusive of smallpox, syphilis pneumonia among others.

The natives resisted the missions following the labor demands and physical coercion by the padre’s authority. Labor camps included plantation missions and from this many of the Indian converts fled to practice their rituals secretly. Many Indians of the missions saw thought of the padres to be power wielding witches whose check was assassination. This view resulted in a few assassinations of padres.

The mission system disrupted the way of life of the natives. They were forced to live in dirty, overcrowded camps that were ridden with diseases unlike their well kept original homes.

 The mission system collapsed under the influence of the Spanish Government who moved in under the guise of freeing the Indians. However, the redistribution of missions’ lands was corrupted as government officials allotted the lands to themselves and only a few of natives got the distributed lands. Generally the Spanish missionary activities had both praiseworthy and bad results. The overall result of their activities led to increase of social problems and divisions among the Indian communities. The negative effects outlasted the good ones and hence the whole affair of the missions was bad.


Castillo, E. D.  (1998).Californian Indian History Retrieved 9 January 2009 from