Essay about California Missions – Monuments or Tombstones?

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California Missions – Monuments or Tombstones?

Most Californians are introduced to the California Mission system in one of two ways: in their early education, or when they first visit a mission. Unfortunately, both methods are prone to simplification or bias in conveying the history of the missions. What this has led to is Californians who are ignorant of the history of the land they walk on. Consequently, visitors to the missions treat them as mere tourist attractions, instead of trying to embrace and understand the complex issues the missions represent.

The issue was brought sharply into focus for me recently, when I was in the cemetery of Mission Santa Barbara. It was a sunny afternoon and the tiny graveyard was crowded with
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Then you construct a model of a mission out of sugar cubes. For most people, this is all they will learn about the missions unless they visit one.

While each mission is unique, most of what you learn in one is the same. My first visit to a mission was as a child with my grandmother. We visited San Carlos Borromeo de Carmelo and San Juan Bautista. Both were presented as old churches that the Indians and Mexicans came to practice at and lived in. I looked through the glass cases and saw the tools and pictures and copies of the Bible. The placards described what the tools were used for and where the Bibles came from. The drawings showed Father Serra or the lands as they looked then.

The recent tour I did of the missions showed that things had not changed much. In fact, by the 8th mission, I was bored by seeing the same tools in the same glass cases, bored and frustrated, because that was the knowledge most people were content to leave with.

Now I will tell you why we shouldn't settle for artifacts with explanations of their use as the whole story. California had a population of at least 300,000 Native Americans who spoke at least 100 languages. These people lived on this land for centuries before the Spaniards showed up. Of course, you would never know that if you only learn from a mission or an elementary school. We are only told about the California Indians' use of tools or baking of adobe

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