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John G Douglass – “Creating Community in Colonial Alta California”

Note: This post refers to an event that took place on May 15, 2017.

Map of the Los Angeles Basin area illustrating the locations of Mission period rancho boundaries and the approximate location of Native Californian villages, based on ethnohistoric and archaeological data. Map created by Stephen Norris, Statistical Research, Inc.

The arrival of settlers, soldiers, and missionaries representing the Spanish State to Alta California in 1769 fundamentally transformed Native life. Within a generation span, pueblos, presidios, ranchos, and missions were constructed up and down Alta California on lands previously inhabited and used only by Native Californians. Land previously used by Native Californians for hunting and collecting were transformed into pasture for sheep, cattle and horse or for agriculture, disrupting traditional lifeways. In short order, many Native Californians were recruited to Spanish missions and/or were incorporated into the political economy of this frontier Spanish colony.

This situation led to awkward, yet persistent, interactions between Native Californians and newly arrived Spanish settlers. Some of these sustained interactions led to relationships, which transformed into communities. This presentation looks at the nature of interaction amongst and between Native Californians and colonists during the Mission period in the Los Angeles Basin to better understand the creation and sustaining of communities. In what ways did interaction create and maintain communities? What was this interaction like, and in what settings? Using both archaeological and ethnohistoric sources, this talk creates a broad context for understanding these relationships.