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No Somos Animales: Indigenous Survival and Perseverance in 19th Century Santa Cruz, California

Creative Commons 'BY-NC-ND' version 4.0 license

This study sets out to answer the questions: who were the Indigenous people in the Santa Cruz region and how did they survive through the nineteenth century? Between 1770 and 1900, I argue, the linguistically and culturally diverse Ohlone and Yokuts tribes adapted to and expressed themselves politically and culturally over three distinct types of colonial encounters involving Spain, Mexico, and the U.S. They persevered through a variety of strategies developed through social, political, economic, and kinship networks that tied together Indigenous tribes, families, and individuals throughout the greater Bay Area. Survival tactics included organized attacks on the mission, the assassination of an abusive padre, flights of fugitives, poisonings, and arson. In some cases, strategies included collaboration with certain padres, tracking down of fugitives, service, labor, or musical performance. Indigenous politics informed each of these choices, as Indigenous individuals and families made decisions of vital importance within a context of immense loss and violent disruption.

This project examines Indigenous survival and persistence through different colonial circumstances. The dissertation begins with a look at local Indigenous landscape and the tribes that lived in the coastal mountain range and continues to explore the establishment of Mission Santa Cruz, relocation of local Indigenous tribes, and the Quiroste led attack on the new establishment (chapter 1). Between 1798 and 1810, the mission population expanded to include Mutsun speaking tribes and families from the east, forming new social, economic, political, and kinship relations (chapter 2). In 1812, a recently arrived female Spiritual leader collaborated with a local kinship network to orchestrate the assassination of the sadistic Padre Quintana (chapter 3). Newly arrived Yokuts filled the leadership vacuum after the arrest of these conspirators, during a time of transition into Mexican political rule (chapter 4). Surviving Indigenous families expanded onto small plots of adjacent lands in the years following secularization in 1834 (chapter 5). In the American era after 1850, families struggled to survive despite genocidal policies and demographic eclipse. Throughout, Indigenous peoples relied on community and networks, drew on spiritual and cultural practices, and fought back to persevere through over a century of violent disruption.

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