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Southern California Indians

I never planned to write Indian history. But when I was writing my very first local history book (at age 18), I knew you were supposed to start out with a chapter on the local Indians. In my case, that meant the Cupeño, a tiny little tribe (perhaps never more than 500 people) who once lived at Warner Hot Springs, in northern San Diego County.

So I read the usual books, and gathered the standard facts about food and dress and language. Then I met Roscinda Nolasquez, and that changed everything.

Roscinda was the matriarch of the Cupeño, and the last survivor of their "removal" to the Pala Reservation in 1903. She had dedicated the last years of her long life to preserving the language, culture, and traditions of her people. And because I was willing to listen, she shared some of that with me. She put a human face on the history I had been reading, and captured my interest. I have been trying my best to sort out some of Southern California's Indian history ever since.

--Phil Brigandi

Indian Removals in Southern California - A Legacy of Injustice

"Travelers in Southern California...would be greatly surprised at the sight of some of the Indian villages in the mountain valleys, where [there]...are peaceable communities, cultivating ground, keeping stock, carrying on their own simple manufactures of pottery, mats, baskets, &c., and making their living...independent and self-respecting.... From tract after tract of such lands they have been driven out, year by year, but the white settlers of the country, until they can retreat no farther; some of their villages being literally in the last tillable spot on the desert's edge or in mountain fastness." -Helen Hunt Jackson, "Report on the Conditions and Needs of the Mission Indians" (1883)

The Federal Government's policy of "removing" Indian tribes to reservations did not end with the long march of the Cherokee in the 1830s. It continued in Southern California on into the 20th Century, forcing hundreds of villagers from their ancestral homes. Helen Hunt Jackson fought for Indian property rights in the 1880s, but over the years, there were more failures than successes.

The village at San Pasqual was a recognized pueblo in Mexican times, but American law held that the Indians did not actually own the lands they had always lived on, and during the 1870s, the people of San Pasqual were pushed out bit by bit by the new American settlers. When Helen Hunt Jackson visited there in 1883, she found only a "half ruined adobe chapel". The villagers were "all gone; some to other villages, some living near by in canyons and nooks in the hills".

The village at Temecula was a prominent place, and the people there had tried their best to live in harmony with the new American settlers. Their village stood on an old Mexican rancho, and under Mexican law, had been protected. But the American owners of the rancho went to court in 1869 to have the Indian ‘trespassers' thrown off their land. They easily won their case, and in 1875, the Sheriff arrived to order the Indians out of their homes. They could take with them only what they could carry.

The Temecula people scattered. Some moved to other villages, others stayed close to their old home. A few of them finally settled at a place called Pechanga in the hills southwest of Temecula. In 1882 the area was finally set aside as a reservation. "In the spring of 1882," Jackson recalled, "when we first visited the places, there was a considerable amount of land in wheat and barley, and a little fencing had been done.... In the following May we visited the valley again.... The whole expression of the place had changed; so great a stimulus had there been to the Indians in even the slight additional sense of security given by the Executive order setting off their valley as a reservation."

Soboba, near San Jacinto, was a rare exception to the pattern of eviction and removal. Also located on an old Mexican grant, its owners went to court in 1883 to have the villagers removed. When government funds were slow in coming, Helen Hunt Jackson personally guaranteed a retainer to a Los Angeles law firm, who took up the Indians' cause. They carried the case clear to the California Supreme Court, which broke all precedent in 1888 by ruling in favor of the Indians. The village had been protected by Mexican law, the court found, and the United State's government had pledged to uphold all property rights in California when it was ceded by Mexico in the Treaty of Guadalupe Hildago in 1848. The Sobobas would face future challenges to their land, but somehow survived them all.

When Jackson visited the Cupeño village at Warner Hot Springs in 1883, she noted that "the Indians know very well that according to the usual course of things in San Diego County they are liable any day to be ejected by process of law". That day was 20 years in coming, and marked the last of the Federal removals in Southern California-probably the last in the United States.

The village at Warners was also on an old Mexican grant; four other small villages circled the valley-the Luiseño villages at Puerta la Cruz and La Puerta, and the Kumeyaay villages at Mataguay and San Jose. Over the ridge, towards the death, another Kumeyaay village, San Felipe, also awaited its fate.

Legal proceedings were begun in 1892, and took nearly a decade. The case went clear to the U.S. Supreme Court, which in 1901 ruled that the Indians had no rights to their lands. A government inspector was sent out, who selected an arid, treeless tract of land for a reservation. Local Indian reform advocates objected, and a special commission was authorized, which selected the Pala Valley as a reservation site.

The removal finally came in May, 1903. Roscinda Nolasquez (1892-1987) was the last survivor of the trek. It was hot that day, she remembered, and there was much confusion. The government men spoke English, which most of the villagers could not understand. Their first night on the trail, many refused to eat the food offered to them. A few believed the rumors that it was poisoned; others simply did not want to accept charity.

When they finally reached Pala after three days, "It was dirty," Roscinda recalled, "nothing but trees. We had no homes...we had nothing, we had nothing to eat." The people lived in tents for six months before the government even provided houses. In September, the San Felipes joined them. People from six villages, speaking three different languages, were now crowded onto the Pala Reservation.

"I sometimes wonder that the Lord does not rain fire and brimstone on this land, to punish us for our cruelty to these unfortunate Indians," Helen Hunt Jackson once said. She put that passion into writing Ramona. "All I can do is tell about them," she said, yet many today still do not know their story.


Some 19th Century Southern California Indian Leaders 

Manuel Largo - Cahuilla

Manuel Largo followed Juan Antonio as one of the principal leaders of the Cahuilla people in the second half of the 19th Century. For many years, he struggled to resist Anglo encroachment in the Cahuilla Valley, in Riverside County.

The first written record of Manuel Largo seems to date from 1851, when he was described as an "officer" under famed Cahuilla leader Juan Antonio. A group of Cahuilla people, under Juan Antonio, were living in the San Bernardino Valley then, where they helped the Lugo family defend their rancho against horse thieves and cattle raiders. Largo was severely injured in a fight with a band of Utes that summer. [Los Angeles Star, 8-16-1851]

When the Lugos sold their rancho to a group of Mormon settlers later that year, Juan Antonio and his people moved to San Timoteo Canyon, to the village of Sahatapa. Manuel Largo is mentioned again in 1856, when he served as translator for a Mormon Bishop, who had came to San Timoteo and tried (unsuccessfully) to baptize the villagers. Largo also served as Juan Antonio's translator on several occasions, translating from Cahuilla to Spanish. He may not have been as proficient in English, as an Indian Agent in 1870 reported him using a translator of his own, while there on official business.

In the 1860 Census, Manuel Largo is shown living in San Timoteo Canyon, age 40, with his wife, Catalina, and his sons, Guillermo, age 14, and José, age 10.

After Juan Antonio died in the smallpox epidemic of 1862-63, Manuel Largo became Captain of Sahatapa. According to anthropologist William Duncan Strong, Largo was a Temechanic clan net, and was said to lead the singing during the traditional ceremonies. A few years after Juan Antonio's death, Largo "assembled all the younger people of his own and other Eastern Mountain [Cahuilla] clans and brought them to Paui (Cahuilla). Only the old people who refused to leave stayed on in their former clan homes....

"Manuel Largo was captain for a considerable period, at one time being taken to San Francisco and presented with a flag and credentials confirmong his leadership under American rule." [Aboriginal Society in Southern California, 1929]

Once Manuel Largo and his people had established themselves in the Cahuilla Valley, he did his best to protect their lands, as more and more Anglo settlers moved into the area. Around 1869 he made a compromise with some of the local ranchers, and "sold" them part of the lower end of the valley for $20 and a cow. The ranchers and the Indians established a boundary line, but before long, the ranchers had moved the line up the valley.

So Largo and a group of Cahuilla leaders went to Temecula to consult with Lt. Augustus P. Greene, Special Agent for the Mission Indians. Largo told him that while they never wanted to sell the land in the first place, since they had accepted the $20 and the cow, they would agree to let the ranchers keep the land below the first line, but not the second.

Lt. Greene visited the valley, and found that the paper Largo had been induced to sign was not for part, but for all of the valley. He sent for all the local ranchers, who continued to claim everything below the second line. But Greene believed Largo, and told them so. He ordered them to give up the upper land, and "after a short consultation" they agreed. "It appeared upon inquiry that, with this exception of dispute about dividing lines, the Indians and white settlers have lived on the most amicable terms," he noted. [Greene to Commissioner of Indian Affairs Parker, 1-31-1870; quoted in Some Last Century Accounts of the Indians of Southern California, 1976]

In 1875, the Cahuilla Reservation was finally established near the center of the valley.

Manuel Largo's authority extended far beyond the Cahuilla Valley. In 1873 he was described as the ‘General' of all the Cahuilla people in the San Jacinto mountains area. His authority seem to have extend as far south as what is now the Los Coyotes Indian Reservation, and perhaps even the Cupeño people at Warner Hot Springs.

Largo "occupies with his immediate band a valley tract fifteen miles long and averaging a mile in width, of splendid agricultural land, which he claims as his personal domain, and upon which he will permit no settlers to enter. He had driven off all who have attempted to locate there, and takes toll from all stock men whose cattle may graze upon those lands.... Largo is a remarkably intelligent Indian, and feels the dignity of his position fully. He is in fact a monarch in that part of the county; his word is law among the Indians, and his mandates are executed without question." [San Diego Union, 7-3-1873]

But in 1877, Manuel Largo stepped down as Captain, and José Antonio took charge of the area. But Antonio it seems could not control the people, so Largo took command again and restored order. Then after a couple of months, he resigned again, appointing Fernando Lugo as Captain in his place. By then he was "old and almost blind." He was living at Duranzo or Peach Tree, on the southern side of the valley (later the Frank Clark ranch). "He is well known to the older settlers, and has aided many times in catching horse thieves.... He is an excellent old man and is deservedly respected. His authority over his tribe was absolute, and it was ably and justly used." [San Diego Union, 7-12-1877]

Yet in December of 1878, when newly appointed Mission Indian Agent S.S. Lawson first visited the Cahuilla Valley, he found Manuel Largo, "an intelligent man," was still considered their leader. Largo had "a very comfortable adobe house," but the reservation lines had been poorly drawn and about half the homes in the village -- including Largo's -- fell outside the reservation. A white man had bought the land adjoining the reservation and "took forcible possession of the chief's house and now threatens to dispossess of their homes all whose homes are on his land." The villagers, "resenting this injustice," tore down the man's fences and corral. "[T]hey lay the whole blame upon the government for allowing this man to come in among them when no other white man had ever disturbed them." [Lawson to Commissioner of Indian Affairs Hoyt, 12-27-1878]

In October, 1889, Manuel Largo was found dead near Duranzo. It was believe he had died some time before. "Largo was about 100 years old," the Los Angeles Times reported [10-26-1889], but that is surely an exaggeration.

Juan Bautista - Cahuilla

Juan Bautista was a prominent Cahuilla Indian leader in the mid-19th Century. Like Pablo Apis at Temecula, Juan Bautista tried to find ways of cooperating with the new American rulers of California.

Bautista was already well-known at the time of the Garra Uprising in 1851. He was the leader of the Cahuilla people living in and around the Cahuilla Valley, in what is now Riverside County. In fact, newspapers of the time speak of the area as "Juan Bautista's country." [San Diego Herald, 1-10-1852].

In January of 1852, Juan Bautista came to Temecula to help negotiate a "Treaty of Peace and Friendship" between the local Indians, and the Federal Government. He signed the treaty with his mark as Juan Bautista "Sah-at" of "Pow-ky" (a Cahuilla village in Terwilliger Valley). The treaty promised a huge reservation, and other concessions, in return for the Indian's ceding the rest of their lands to the government. But the treaty was never ratified and most of the lands were lost.

The government also asked the captains to assist them in capturing the surviving leaders of the failed Garra Uprising which had taken place just a few weeks before. In February of 1852, Juan Bautista was able to capture Cosme, another Cahuilla leader, who was working on the Yorba ranch, in what is now Orange County. Bautista turned Cosme over to Capt. C.C. Lovell of the U.S. Army. Cosme admitted taking part in the murder of several invalids camped at Warner Hot Springs, and said that he expected to die for his crimes. But he hung himself in his cell before the military could take action.

"Juan Baptiste [sic] is now in search of Pañito, another of the prescribed Indians," the Los Angeles Star noted. [2-21-1852]

Towards the end of 1852, Benjamin D. Wilson mentioned Juan Bautista as "a good old Indian chief," along with Captain Cabezon on the desert. [The Indians of Southern California in 1852]

In the 1860 Census, Juan "Baptiste," age 40, is listed as the Captain of the "Juan Baptiste Indian Village." But by the end of the decade, Manuel Largo had become the principal leader of the local villages, and Juan Bautista fades into history.

But his name survives. The area around the Cahuilla Reservation was once known as the Bautista Valley, and the little Anglo community above the reservation was known as Baptiste (a common misspelling of the name) until it changed its name to Anza in 1926. But even today, the canyon leading up to the valley from Hemet is still known as Bautista Canyon -- not for Juan Bautista de Anza, as many assume, for the Juan Bautista of the Cahuilla.

Jose Maria Moro - Cupeño

For more than 30 years, José Maria Moro was one of the most prominent leaders of the Cupeño people, a tiny tribe whose main village was located at Warner Hot Springs, in northeastern San Diego County. As early as 1851, Moro was said to be in control of the village when Antonio Garra was away. Whether he took part in the Garra Uprising of 1851 is not recorded, and even if he did, he must not have played a very major role, for he was never tried for any offense.

Moro was a member of the Cibimoat clan, but used the family name Moro. Sometime after Garra's execution, he became the captain, or leader, of the Cupeño. In the 1860 Census he is listed as José Maria Moro, age 40, Captain of the Agua Caliente Indan Village (the Spanish name for Warner Hot Springs).

In the second half of the 19th Century, the hot springs became popular as a vacation spot with Anglo tourists. In 1872 the San Diego Union noted: "...the Indian Chief at Agua Caliente intends to commence erecting an adobe building, 100 feet long and 25 feet wide, in a few days. The building will be arranged with small rooms for the use of visitors to the springs. With accomodations of this kind the springs will be sure to attract a great many more visitors than during the past year. Chicken, beef, game and vegetables of all kinds can be obtained at low rates, and housekeeping can be conducted as cheaply there as any place in the country." [9-7-1872]

In 1873, Special Indian Agent John G. Ames met with Moro. "From a notched stick given me by the captain of the village, Jose Maria Moro, it appears that there are one hundred and sixty-eight Indians at that place...," he reported. "They are peacably disposed, and for the most industrious, and deserve better treatment than they get." [Federal Concern about Conditions of California Indians, 1979]

He was still in command when Helen Hunt Jackson visited the village a decade later. "The aged captain of the Agua Caliente Indians still preserves a paper giving a memorandum of the setting off of this reservation of about 1,120 acres for his people. It was by executive order, 1875. He also treasures several other equally worthless papers -- a certificate from a San Diego judge that the Indians are entitled to their lands; a memorandum of a promise from General Kearney [sic], who assured them that in consideration of their friendliness and assistance to him they should retain their homes without molestation, ‘although the whole State should fill with white men.' It is not to be wondered at that these Agua Caliente Indians find it difficult to-day to put any faith in white men's promises.... [T]he Indians know very well that according to the usual course of things in San Diego County they are liable any day to be ejected by process of law; and it is astounding that under the circumstances they have so perservered in their industries of one sort and another. They have a good number of fields under cultivation. They also make saddle mats and hats out of fibrous plants [probably yucca]; the women make baskets and lace. It is said to be the most industrious village in the county; the old captain dealing severely with any Indians found idle." [Report on the Condition and Needs of the Mission Indians, 1883]

Unfortunately, the Agua Caliente Reservation was rescinded in 1880 after a new survey placed it within the bounds of the Warner Ranch. After years of threats, the owner of the ranch, former California Governor John G. Downey, began the "process of law" in 1892 to have the Cupeño evicted from their ancestral homes.

The case came to trial in San Diego County Superior Court in the summer of 1893. In an effort to prove the Cupeño's long occupancy of the land, the government attorneys placed some of the oldest members of the tribe on the witness stand. One of the most interesting witnesses was Machola Moro, José Maria Moro's widow, then about 75 years of age. In part she said:

"I live at Agua Caliente or Warner's Ranch, right at the Hot Springs; I was born and raised right there...I remember when Juan Largo [J.J. Warner] came to live on the ranch, I was about [a] half-grown woman then. There were as many Indians living at Agua Caliente village then as now -- a little more then than now -- more old people then than now. The Indians then used to live a good deal on acorns and lots of other stuff that grows around the Hot Springs there -- grasses and cactus and one thing and another.... Here are some of the different seeds we used to use. We got the [acorn] and pounded it on the rocks and put some hot water on it and took the bitterness out of it, and made a kind of mush.

"My husband was José Maria Moro; he was the captain of the Agua Caliente village, had control over the people that lived there and advised them to keep quiet and work -- [he] was Captain a long time.

"The Indians had cultivation at Agua Caliente when I was a little girl, and my husband used to cultivate land. They didn't farm as much as they do now, because they had nothing to work with. They worked by a small stick with a little piece of iron on top of it and plowed with it by horseback from the horn of the saddle. [They] didn't farm much, but farmed a little wheat and beans and corn and one thing and another -- pumpkins and watermelons....

"I remember when the men were kind of broken up. The priests were coming along there, and we had church sometimes and prayed there; whenever the priests got there, we went to the church and prayed. The priest never lived there, he came down from some place else. The church had a kind of corral -- all around it there and big houses all around it, but there was a cross right in the middle, where the church is now -- right there standing up. It was not really a church-house, but a big house they kept the grain [in] -- a kind of grain-house; they moved the grain and one thing and another, and then would have the church inside sometimes; they brought their children and had church where the cross was.

"The big house for keeping grain in was built by some of the men who lived right there at the Hot Springs; under orders from the priests, the Indian men, women and children all worked on it, and built the house. I was never at San Luis Rey Mission while the priest had charge of it." [Harvey v Barker, Transcript on Appeal, 1897]

But the court held that the Cupeño had not rights to their land, and after appeals to both the California and United States Supreme Court, the people were taken from their homes by the U.S. Government in 1903, and marched off to the reservation at Pala. Machola Moro died there around 1910, well past 90 years of age.

José Maria Moro had died in 1885, long before the eviction [San Diego Union, 7-31-1885] His son-in-law, Adolfo Moro (who had adopted the name of his famous father-in-law) followed him as Captain. Moro's grandson, Domingo Moro (1866-1931), was also a prominent community leader, and served as tribal Policeman at both Cupa and Pala.

Alejandro Barker -  Cupeño

Alejandro Barker's name is perhaps best known as the lead defendant in the Cupeño removal lawsuits of the 1890s. But he was also a prominent member of the tribe until his early death.

Barker was born around 1854. His father was a white man, who he never knew. In those later Gold Rush days, there was still a good deal of travel along the Southern Emigrant Trail, which crossed the Cupeño territory in northeastern San Diego County. Perhaps his father was one of those travelers. It is also worth noting that there is a Barker Valley up on Palomar Mountain -- though it is unclear if there is any connection.

Barker owned several of the bath houses near the hot springs at Cupa (now Warner Hot Springs) that were popular with vacationers in the late 19th Century. In July of 1894 the Ramona Sentinel reported there were 125-150 tourists staying at the hot springs. The rental of homes and bath houses, and the sale of meat and vegetables to the tourists were an important source of income for the Cupeño during those years. "Alec Barker expects to put up new bath houses this spring," the Julian Sentinel reported in 1890. "This is an innovation much needed and will be a good advertisement for the place." [5-9-1890]

But Barker was best known as the interpreter for the Cupeño. He was fluent in Cupeño, Spanish, and English. He was also the only registered voter in the village in the 1890s.

Cupa, and the other villages around the Warner Ranch, survived for many years after most other Southern California villages were driven out or destroyed. But in 1892, John Downey, a former governor of California and the owner of the ranch, filed suit for their removal. Barker's name was listed first among the Indian defendants, and the case became known as Downey v Barker (and later, Harvey v Barker, when Downey's nephew was substituted as plaintiff).

The case came to trial in San Diego County Superior Court in the summer of 1893. With no other interpreter available, Alejandro Barker was pressed into service.

"Being deeply interested in the ultimate outcome of the suit," the San Diego Union noted, "Barker may consider himself highly honored by the council for the plaintiff, who, in thus allowing him to interpret the remarks of his fellow citizens in a tongue that nobody but himself understood, evinced a faith in his honesty that should be gratifying in the extreme."

Barker was also a witness in the case: "In the afternoon, Alejandro Barker, the principal defendant in the case and the most intelligent Indian of the lot, took the stand and gave his testimony in good English. He couldn't account for his Anglo-Saxon name except by saying that his mother told him that his father was a white man. He didn't know the old gentleman himself. He showed his thorough acquaintance with Agua Caliente's best familes by giving the pedigree one generation back of all the defendants in the case, as the names were called by Attorney [Shirley] Ward....

"Governor Downey, the plaintiff in the case, sat near his attorneys and frequently insisted on putting in a question of his own to the witness, but was in each instance checked by Senator [Stephen] White or other friends. When Barker was leaving the stand, however, the governor couldn't hold back any longer and commanded Senator White to ask Barker where the Indians came from when they settled at Warner's ranch. The senator persisted that Barker couldn't possibly know anything about that, for the witness was only 39 years old, and to expect to get from him any definite information as to where his ancestors originally came from was something that could not be looked for....

"However, to please the governor, the senator asked the question, and Barker answered that so far as he knew the Indians had always lived at Agua Caliente." [San Diego Union, 7-19-1893]

"When the case came to trial, after many delays" the Union wrote a few years later, "the Indians, headed by Alejandro Barker, a very intelligent Indian, were present in full force, and for days the corridors of the court house appeared like a great wigwam by reason of the horde of Indians who were called either as witnesses or defendants." [San Diego Union, 12-30-1896].

To add to the pressure, Barker was also obviously in failing health during the trial -- probably from tuberculosis. The Missionary Report of the Women's National Indian Association for 1897 notes: "When the suit for ejectment opened, the Indians were present in full force, headed by Alejandro Barker, a very intelligent Indian whose bearing throughout the proceedings was quiet, manly and dignified. He was there at the risk of his life to act as interpreter, and the proceedings had often to be stopped because the effort he made produced hemorrhages from his lungs. But he was too patriotic to give up when so needed by his people."

Barker died a little more than three years later. He was "locally famous for intelligence and ability," the San Diego Union reported. [9-14-1896] "The Indians held a long pow-wow Saturday and yesterday, and will elect a chief this week," the Los Angeles Times added. [9-15-1896]

This seems to be the only reference to Barker being the "chief" (or rather, Captain) of the Cupeño, but except for his poor health, it is not unlikely. By the 1890s, the job of Captain had been an elected position, open to any capable man in the village. Each year, elections were held to select a new slate of leaders. An 1889 visitor explained: "Agua Caliente ... has a regular form of city government. The officers are designated as Captain, or Mayor, Sheriff, two judges and Zanjero [ditchkeeper].

"They have a calaboose, or jail, which is constructed of adobe. The prisoner is first tried by the justice and, if found guilty, his case is referred to the Indian agent, who is stationed at Colton. All the proceedings are conducted in the Indian language. With this form of government the Indians are satisfied and rarely, if ever, occasion any disturbance." [Some Last Century Accounts of the Indians of Southern California, 1976]

Barker's widow, Valerianna, survived him by nearly 40 years, dying in 1935 at more than 90 years of age. His son, Sam Barker, lived until 1971.


Indian Ranchos

One seldom noticed aspect of Southern California's Indian history were the small ranchos granted to Indian leaders by the Mexican government in the 1840s. It appears to have been an effort used by the last of the missionaries to try to provide a land base for local tribes.

The opportunity came several years after the secularization of the California Missions. Few, if any of the civil administrators were able to manage the vast mission estates once the padres were pushed aside. So in 1843, Governor Micheltorena asked the Franciscan Fathers to again take over the management of a dozen of the missions, including missions San Diego and San Luis Rey.

At San Luis Rey, Father José Maria Zalvidea seems to have taken advantage of return of some of the mission lands to his control. For example, on July 9, 1843, he had his superintendent, José Ortega, write out the grant for the lands around the Luiseño village of Temecula.

"Whereas Pablo Apis has solicited of this Mission a field of land which he might cultivate for the sustenance of his increased family and on which he can have his movables [i.e. livestock] and attending to his prayer, and considering the good services which he has done to this Mission, since its formation, and the honesty which both he and his son have shown, the Mission grants to him with said land which has been marked out to him in the Rancho of Temecula by the acting Superintendent of the Mission Don José Joaquin Ortega, remaining likewise owner of 150 stocks of vines which exist on the land that has been marked out to him, from this time in legitimate possession, without leaving to solicit of the Superior Departmental Government the legitimacy or ownership in which he has been granted, this serving him as a document that he be not prejudiced by anybody and that he may cultivate it as his own with intense liberty."

These mission grants were strictly provisional, and had to be confirmed by the government. Apis lost no time in submitting his petition for a government grant, but for reasons that are unclear, it was almost two years before he managed to secure a formal grant for half a league from Governor Pio Pico, dated May 7, 1845. His grant was later upheld by the U.S. Government, and a Federal patent (deed) was issued to his heirs in 1873.

There seem to have been several other small Indian land grants in what is now San Diego County. Rancho Guajome was granted to Andrés and his brother-in-law, José Manuel, in 1845. It was soon purchased by Abel Stearns, who gave it to his brother-in-law, Cave Couts as a wedding present in 1851.

A half-league (about 2,200 acres) at Buena Vista was granted to Felipe Subría, who later gave it to his daughter.

In 1845, Governor Pico gave a grant a La Jolla to Pablo and José Apis. (This La Jolla is at the foot of Palomar Mountain, not the famous seaside resort.) It was never submitted to U.S. Government for confirmation, but Cave Couts bought the Indian's interest anyway, and sought a special Act of Congress to secure title.

The Cuca rancho, just north of La Jolla, was another half league grant (a typical California rancho was more like five to ten leagues). It was given to Maria Juan de Los Angeles, who was also apparently an Indian. It was approved by the Federal Government.

All this needs more research. Some day when I have the opportunity, I hope to spend some time in the Land Commission records at the Bancroft Library looking for clues. If my explanation is correct, these Indian grants represent an interesting episode in the relations between the Franciscan missionaries and the native people.


Some Thoughts on The Hunt for Willie Boy

James Sandos and Larry Burgess' recent book, The Hunt for Willie Boy (1994) has proven controversial, to say the least. It's even been to court. So I hesitate to comment on it. But I think it raises important questions about the nature of historical inquiry.

My first objection to this book is philosophical. I cannot accept the authors' premise that Indians are somehow so very different from Caucasians (pp 5-6). Not just that they come from a different cultural tradition, but that they really are somehow different in their very nature -- not just a different race, but a different species, if you will, which cannot be described, understood, or explained in terms of our own culture.

I disagree. It is my firm belief that (in the simplest terms) people are people. That despite our cultural differences we all start with the same basic psychological make-up and emotions. I think this is an important lesson human history teaches us. I also believe that it is key to establishing a commonality not only between races, but between ourselves and the people who came before us -- wherever and whenever they lived.

In a similar vein, the authors also bring up the question of subjectivity in historical accounts (pp 4-5). Let me begin by stating categorically that I do not believe there is any such thing as objectivity as the word is popularly understood. All knowledge is subjective in so far as it passes through human channels.

In historical research all the primary sources are subjective. They were created by certain people, with certain backgrounds, for certain reasons. Likewise, all secondary sources (including history books) are also subjective for the same reasons.

The authors themselves state that "Indians have told us their version of events explicitly to correct prevailing white views that to them are wrong." (p 6). In short, they presented their subjective viewpoint, which sometimes conflicts with the incontrovertible facts.

To my mind, the best a historian can do is to try and recognize the subjectivity of both their sources and themselves, and to address it directly. They need to follow the facts wherever they lead them. The authors' blithe comments about their "potential biases" (p 16) are not enough for this type of study. They also need to keep a very clear view of what is historical reporting, what is historical analysis, and what is historical speculation.

Thus, throughout the reporting of the Willie Boy manhunt in 1909, the newspaper reporters' stereotyped views about Indians influenced the way they interpreted the facts of the matter, and colored their judgment as to what was important.

This is exactly what can happen in ethnohistory, as well. The authors in this case take a generalized understanding of a people and their culture in the broad sense, and try to apply it to one particular man in one very unusual situation (pp 133-34). It is a form of stereotyping, which ignores individuality (see Patricia Limerick's comments on p 128). In the end, the authors' subjective opinions color their interpretation of the facts.

The authors, in effect, have gone up against their own stated view that history is not a science (with which I agree), and that simple logic cannot provide definite answers. History is often illogical because people are often illogical. Ethnohistory cannot yield guaranteed results, because there are too many variables.

Nowhere does this show up more clearly than in the authors' discussions of the liquor question. Had Willie Boy been drinking the night he shot William Mike?

Rather than accept the testimony of two contemporary witnesses -- that Willie Boy could have had access to liquor -- the authors construct an elaborate scheme of suppositions to show that it was unlikely that Willie Boy had been drinking. Their logic may be outlined as follows:

1) Willie Boy was Chemehuevi (p 44).

2) The Chemehuevi had a Runners Cult (p 94).

     a) Willie Boy was one of the last members (p 97).

3) The Chemehuevi adopted the Ghost Dance (p 99).

     a) Willie Boy internalized these views as a child (p 15).

     b) Willie Boy retained these views into adulthood (p 101).

(The lengths the authors have gone to create this argument can be seen in their suggestion [p 103] that Willie Boy's clothing in the famous 1909 portrait of him is a result of his Ghost Dance-based beliefs!)

One of the main problems with this sort of reconstruction is that it relies heavily on probability. Let us say that, for example, that the odds are 99 out of 100 that Willie Boy was Chemehuevi. We next need to consider the odds that he was truly one of the Runners, and that he adopted the views of the Ghost Dancers . . . and so on. With each new layer, while the probability of any one premise may be high, the probability of the whole becomes less and less.

But did the authors really arrive at this conclusion by logic? There is certainly evidence in their book to suggest that they were forming conclusions before they had all available facts. Consider for example their admission that they had formed their opinion about Harry Lawton's 1959 book on Willie Boy before they were aware of all the research behind it.

Their treatment of Lawton -- and every other person who ever wrote about the Willie Boy manhunt -- is one of this book's chief weaknesses. If the authors would like to present a new version of the story, go ahead. Build it up and document it just like any historical account. When they actually do this, they make some good points. But too many of their arguments seem based on the notion that "the others are wrong" -- which can never prove "so we are right".

Like far too many revisionists, the authors seem to have formed their conclusion (subjectively) and then selected from the available sources to bolster their position.

For instance, they claim to have "culled only [newspaper] materials that can be corroborated from other sources" (p 13), but never directly tell us what those "other sources" are -- though they repudiate the recollections of the posse members (pp 38-42), the government documents (p 84) and all the secondary sources except their modern Indian informants. Yet clearly they could not get the sort of detail needed from non-eyewitnesses. So what is left?

The authors' most questionable use of sources, however, is their insistence on not just the validity, but the supremacy of modern Indian oral sources -- none of whom were even alive at the time of the event in question! Even the authors are forced to call this "family lore" (p 15) and are also forced to differentiate it from "older source[s] of Mike family tradition...." (p 117).

While oral tradition is valuable (and desirable) in any historical study, it has to be treated just like any other source. That is, the historian must ask is this a primary source, or a secondary source? How much information did this source have access to, and how capable are they of conveying that information? How much of the material can be cross-checked against other sources, and how does it stand up to cross-checking?

In the case of the authors' Indian informants, none of them could remotely be considered a primary source. All the information they have is secondhand, based on the few comments of tight-lipped elders. Much of the family information cannot be cross-checked, and some of the other statements (like the old assertion that Willie Boy survived and died years later, which at least two of their informants seem to have claimed [pp 100, 107]) simply do not square with the known facts (in this case, the fact that Willie Boy's body was seen, photographed, and burned).

In the end, the authors come up against just the same problem that Lawton encountered in the 1950s -- we do not know why Willie Boy did what he did! No source, primary or secondary, written or oral, past or present, can tell us that. We barely know what he did after the shooting. Thus, both Lawton and his modern detractors have been forced into reconstructions. And as with all reconstructions (and revisionism) their conclusions can always be called into question.

In the case of The Hunt for Willie Boy, a number of their key assertions are based on the thinnest of evidence, or downright supposition. Others, seem self-contradictory. Was Willie Boy a traditionalist, strong in his culture, who would never drink? Or was he a rebel, who ignored tribal marriage taboos? Was he a hard-working, quiet man? Or was he a running dreamer, caught up in the Ghost Dance visions of his youth?

The distressing fact remains that Willie Boy did defy tribal custom in his relationship with Carlota. And if, as the authors assert, he had not been drinking the night of the murder, then he shot an unarmed old man in cold blood. To my mind, that is far worse than if alcohol was involved (see esp. p 80). Isn't that act a reversion to "savagery" (p 130)? Their attempts to explain Willie Boy's suicide (p 122-25) raise even more interesting questions, and still leave us with the fact that he killed himself.

So both books use reconstructions, but there is a key difference between this book and Lawton's. Lawton clearly states (quoted on p 9) that he is reconstructing the event, with solid facts inserted where available. But these authors purport to present a factual account, which jumps from facts to reconstruction with little warning (see esp. Chpts. 2 & 8).

But what disturbs me the most about this book is the authors' belief that Indian history (that is, historical events in which Indians played a part) should best be presented in Indian forms (pp 6, 112-13, and Chpt. 7). That might be true if one were writing for a strictly Indian audience, but if the goal is to educate and integrate both the Indian and Caucasian cultures of today, then their approach is at best silly, and at worst, simply panders to those Indian interests who will only listen to an Indian-centric view (p 5) of the past (that is, one which does not put the events into perspective, but favors one race at the cost of another -- or even, as the authors point out [p 55] -- one tribe at the expense of another).

The authors seem to place modern and historic Indian oral tradition on the same level as modern Caucasian historiography. To me, this is like comparing apples and oranges. Both are fruit, and both are eaten, but that does not make them identical, or even equal.

Oral tradition exists in both Indian and Caucasian cultures, and while in a pre-literate era, the Indians may not have had any other form of historic records, today both peoples use written historical records. But oral tradition and documented history are not interchangeable terms. They function in different ways, and follow different rules. The only connection between them is that they both address that basic human need to know where we came from.

And that is where I will leave this, more or less where I came in. All peoples have some basic human needs. A knowledge of the past is one of them. Honest inquiry into the past is a great tradition of free people. True, the resulting accounts are subjective, but they are subjective because the facts were being filtered through the culture of the writer.

With revisionism, however, the views of the writer come first, and the facts must be subservient to them. For revisionists, historical inquiry has become a way not just to change our perception of the past, but to change our view of the future -- to change it to their view. Like the party faithful in 1984 they seem to believe that "Whoever Controls the Past, Controls the Future". We have gone from honest subjectivity to intellectual weaponry. The process has been going on for some time now in the halls of academia, so I suppose we should not be surprised that it has reached down into local history as well.

A Call for Reform

It has been gratifying to see Helen Hunt Jackson coming back into fashion in recent years. Many know her only as the author of Ramona (1884), and much of her non-fiction work has been forgotten. Recently my friend Val Mathes and I compiled a collection of her non-fiction Southern California Indian writings, adding notes and introductions. They are valuable, eye-witness accounts from the 1880s. Our book was published by the University of Oklahoma Press; you can find some excerpts on Google books: A Call for Reform.

"Still it is an error to argue in front of your data. You find yourself insensibly twisting them round to fit your theories." -- Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (as Sherlock Holmes), "The Adventure of Wisteria Lodge" (1908)

© Phil Brigandi