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The treatment of Native Californians within the Spanish Mission System

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Junipero Serra is considered to be a very important figure in the development of what came to be known as California. He had mission that not only served as very important for development of Catholicism in California but was also key foundation to growing of metropolitan cities like San Diego and San Jose.

       The mission system was implemented by the Franciscans and Serra under guidelines given by the Catholic Church and the government of Spain. They were set up to train the natives to become successful tradesmen and women in the in the newly formed society of the Spanish.  They also served to become center of evangelization to convert the Native Americans to Christians. The missionaries welcomed the natives into the mission system who were able to join the Catholic Church through baptism. They then underwent catechism, confirmation and oftenly married at the mission because of the main of salvation of their souls.

       However though, the Spanish missionaries forcibly converted the native people into Christianity and utilized the labor from the natives. Californian natives were made to work and live in mission lands and had to do away with their believes, customs and cultures. Since they had been striped off their way of life many perished in the mission system due to mistreatment and hunger.

To very many people, Serra is considered to be more than just a founding father of what became the state California. To the Catholic Church Serra is considered to be an embodiment of timeless virtues that include obedience, charity and devotion.

However though, Serra has been considered as one who embodies an evil system that advocated corporal punishment, cultural genocide and led to collapse of California’s Indians. It is his name that is closely associated with institutions of colonization that lead to death and oppressive labor.


In my opinion, it is not good to criticize the actions of the past. This is because what has already passed cannot be reversed but what should be done is finding ways of avoiding such future problems. Criticizing won’t help but will induce feelings of hatred. Therefore lessons should be learnt from what happened in the past so that measures can be put in place to ensure that such do not repeat again. The brutal mistreatment of Californians by the Spanish missions is most likely not going to occur again because through history measures can be put in place to combat that.

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