February 22, 2009

Missionaries considered Indians animals

Newcomb:  Justifying a legacy of dehumanizationWikipedia says that Engelhardt’s work is “considered the standard authority regarding California mission history.” This is unfortunate because of the shocking degree of ignorance and racism that is reflected in Engelhardt’s writings.

Regarding Native spirituality, Father Engelhardt wrote: “It may be said that, before the advent of the missionaries, the California savages had no Religion whatever. … As he [the Indian], brutelike, only aimed at fulfilling himself and gratifying his animal instincts, the subject of Religion did not interest him until the missionaries raised him up and made him realize that he was something more than an animal and that he existed for something higher than eating, drinking, sleeping and amusing himself.”
Newcomb's conclusion:In 2009, it seems strange indeed that fourth grade school children throughout California are still required to make replica missions in a celebration of an invading and colonizing Catholic mission heritage that was dehumanizing, brutal, and resulted in the deaths of some 60,000 Indians from 1769–1834. With a total of 21 missions, that’s more than 2,500 deaths per mission.

Historical truth ought to be taught at the Catholic missions and in the public schools in California. Furthermore, the State of California ought to change its curriculum so Indian and non-Indian children alike will have the option of making a replica Indian village in celebration of the indigenous peoples that have been existing in California for thousands of years, and who have survived what esteemed Cahuilla scholar Rupert Costo termed, “a legacy of genocide.”
Comment:  This posting suggests why Andrews's comments in Europeans and Indians Equally Evil? are ridiculous. He focuses on acts of war and claims they were equally bad. Maybe so, although I don't think so. But his claim ignores the 500 years of context surrounding the warfare.

The warfare was brutal and savage on both sides. And when the two sides weren't at war, the Euro-Americans tried to destroy the Indians' way of life. They depleted the Indians' food sources, forced them into servitude, and stamped out their cultures and religions.

Nothing the Indians did compared to these centuries of genocidal onslaughts. Hence the inescapable conclusion that the Euro-Americans were much more evil than their Native counterparts. They're the ones who wanted to wipe out the opposition.

Visiting the missions

I've visited a few of the missions in recent years. I've spent the most time at San Juan Capistrano, which is supposedly the "jewel" of the missions.

For more on San Juan Capistrano, see Mission Threatens Burial Ground and Pix of Juaneño Indian Country. For more on the missions in general, see Mural Depicts Subservient Indians and How Missionaries Destroyed Native Life.

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