Description of Grants Awarded, 2019-2021

Community Initiated Partnership Grants

Beyond Anger: Ensuring a Positive Legacy of Our Ancestors.
How does a tribe reconcile the harsh history of the missionization period and attempt to claim the “mission” as part of the legacy of its own ancestors? That is a question our tribe has been contemplating—and acting on—for over two decades. The San Luis Rey Mission Indian Foundation, on behalf of the San Luis Rey Band of Mission Indians, humbly proposes to research and document our experience in developing a contemporary relationship with the Old Mission San Luis Rey. We offer a unique case of a tribe that insists on the transparency of examining the horrendous treatment of California native Indians, while exploring a changing paradigm of how we relate to the mission today. We are on a journey to reclaim the Old Mission from its identity of “the” mission to “our” mission.

The year 1996 marked a significant shift in our relationship with the Old Mission San Luis Rey. In fact, we went from virtually no relationship to begin a partnership in co-hosting our largest community endeavor, the San Luis Rey Intertribal Pow-Wow. For the past 23 years we have been the only tribe to host its Pow-Wow celebration at a California mission site. The journey was not easy, but we knew it was important to change the trajectory of our relationship with the mission in order to contemplate the possibility of seeing the legacy of our ancestors in a different light. Equally important was our commitment to always acknowledge the real history of the missionization period, to never overlook the horrendous treatment of our ancestors, and to allow space for the anger that comes with the knowledge of the past. Ultimately, we realized we must accept the history, not try to change it. And, as a tribe we can chart a new future on behalf of our members and future generations.

We have kept the focus on our tribal Pow-Wow celebration, with the Old Mission as the background setting. In preparing for our 25th Pow-Wow, we want to take this experiment with the Old Mission to the next level. Our project will encompass a communications platform to promote our Pow-Wow tradition, capture the history of the partnership with the Old Mission in co-hosting the event, and launch an education portal on the tribal history as a mission-associated band as well as the individual histories of our members. It is vitally important for our members to see the relevance of our tribe’s activities today, and not be limited to a history curriculum. The platform will engage our members in the positive celebrations and traditions of present times and tailor the understanding, the struggle, the reconciling of our complex history with the mission. With the support of this grant, we will produce and compile content for distribution and dialogue through our traditional means of communication. We will also develop a mobile application that will enable a more effective method of engagement.

History of Capitan Grande and the Viejas Band of Mission Indians.
Working together, participant Ral Christman, Sr. and collaborator Oletha Leo, both members of Viejas, envision compiling writing a book about the Capitan Grande Viejas Band of Mission Indians. This book will focus on Capitan Grande: its families (schmuuls); their histories; histories of tribe as told by individual family members, oral histories about the Spanish Inquisition, and the Mission period, and the subsequent trajectory of the domination that began with the establishment of the Missions and culminates with the present. These histories will be considered within the context of insights based on our understanding of creation stories and other sources of life in pre-contact times. Thus, our goal will be to present some of the Family & Tribal histories out Capitan Grande tribal perspective. In the process, we will demonstrate the use of our Native Voices. The resultant history will demonstrate a unique and significant perspective for San Diegans at large.

Iya – The Esselen Remember.
YA The Esselen Remember, by Luis xago Juárez, is a dramatic telling inspired by accounts drawn from the history of the tribal chairwoman of the Esselen Nation, Louise J. Miranda Ramirez. Under her guidance this play incorporates the tribe’s creation myth, historical accounts depicting the Spanish Mission period, the Mexican-Californio era, and the United States occupation as well her present-day fight to protect the sacred sites of her people.
Set in present-day Monterey Peninsula a group of six estranged relatives reunite by chance after so many years to celebrate their take on the Thanksgiving holiday called “Survivors’ Supper.” It is during this supper where the lighthearted gathering turns into an emotional unearthing of past resentments thrusting one to overcompensate and rush to take action at the risk of losing everything that the matriarch, grandma Iapa, has fought for since the traumatic passing of her own daughter, Umunipsxa. In her physical presence she was the once beloved babysitter that taught the now adult returning family members the importance of their story and now in her spiritual form her love is the only thing that can keep them from falling farther apart.

Reclaiming Homelands: Mapping Indigenous Place Names of North San Diego County.
This project is led by Ami Admire, director of the Rincon Youth Storytellers, and is a collaboration between Rincon Youth Storytellers and Dr. Amrah Salomón J. from UC Santa Barbara to train Indigenous youth to conduct archival research and oral history interviews with elders. This project seeks to redress the issues of genocide, settler colonialism, and Indigenous erasure by empowering Indigenous youth to reclaim their traditional place names of three north county Indigenous peoples- Kumeyaay, Payomkawichum (Luiseño), and Cupeño. This project centers intergenerational cultural revitalization by bringing youth and elders together to develop and revitalize Indigenous knowledge. This is also an opportunity for Native youth to critically engage the university and local archives as potential resources for their communities. Indigenous youth will design either a digital tool or a printed map that can counter the domination of the Spanish missions as the main extra-curricular center where local kids encounter Indigenous history. Our goal is that this map be disseminated to K-12 educators and Mission gift shops in order to provide a counter narrative to the Mission story learned by most Californians in which Indigenous knowledges and peoples are erased and settlers are centered. By reasserting the Indigenous names of places we will assert Indigenous California peoples’ survival instead of erasure.

Speaking Ancestral Truth: Amah Mutsun Tribal History at Mission San Juan Bautista and Mission Santa Cruz.
This project will address an unmet need of Amah Mutsun Tribal Band (AMTB), descendants of Mustun and Awaswas speakers taken to Mission San Juan Bautista (MSJB) and Mission Santa Cruz (MSC), to make our voices clearly heard and to share the true history of our tribe when people visit these missions. Through our research team of AMTB members, scholars, and UC faculty, we propose to carry out archival research, synthesize published histories, and work with tribal elders to produce rigorously supported historical content for the general public that redresses colonialist narratives about AMTB history at these missions. This content will be used to develop two booklets about tribal history at MSJB and MSC that will be distributed at visitor centers and to deliver two public presentations about AMTB history in the missions. We also propose to create a robust set of information about our tribe’s experiences in the missions to share internally among tribe members, which will include sensitive and confidential information that is not appropriate for public distribution. This information will be published in one or more issues of Mutsun Ways, an internal AMTB electronic periodical. The issue of Mutsun Ways will be shared and discussed with AMTB members at a tribal gathering. Finally, we propose to share information with Humanities Lab researchers at UCSC who are applying for a Critical Mission Studies grant to develop alternative curriculum materials for fourth grade classes (Co-P.I.s Dr. Renya Ramirez and Dr. Judith Scott).

Archival research will focus primarily on two data sets. The first is the ethnographic notes of John P. Harrington (Smithsonian ethnologist / linguist), who worked with AMTB and other local tribes in the 1920s-30s to produce over 75,000 manuscript pages on local Native languages, social practices, and history. The second data set consists of unpublished archives housed in museums and libraries such as the Milliken Museum (Los Banos, CA), the Bancroft Library (UC Berkeley), and others. All informational content produced by this project will be the intellectual property of AMTB, and AMTB will hold copyright over any published works.

Teaching Ohlone History, Changing Public Memory.
For the Teaching Ohlone History, Changing Public Memory project, San Francisco Bay Area Ohlone stakeholders, including representatives and student interns from local communities that trace their ancestry through Mission Santa Clara, will collaborate with Santa Clara University instructors and student interns to develop new curricular materials on Ohlone experiences at Mission Santa Clara. The primary focus of this project is the development of a public facing online digital database and the creation of database content that captures Ohlone perspectives on Mission Santa Clara. Missions are central to popular narratives of state history and educational curricula in California. However, the discourses frequently omit or decenter Indigenous experiences at the missions, despite the fact that Native Californians comprised the vast majority of historical mission residents. This project will aid in the decolonization of mission narratives by creating a platform to publicly present Native Californian perspectives on the mission system.

Walk for the Ancestors.
In 2015, Caroline Ward and her son Kagen Holland embarked on a 780-mile pilgrimage to each of the 21 California missions in honor of the ancestors of the hundreds of thousands of Indigenous Californians who walked these same paths nearly two hundred and fifty years ago. The plan for the Walk was formed while dealing with the aftermath of the Pope’s decision to canonize Junípero Serra, the infamous founder of the missions of Alta California. Caroline and Kagen followed a call to honor the ancestors in this long journey. Along their travels southwards beginning from Mission Solano on September 7th, they met with Tribal leaders, community members, and allies, held ceremony at the mission sites, shared stories and historical documents relating to the struggles the ancestors faced at the various missions, and built alliances and connections across the diversity of Californian tribal communities. Our project seeks to document this historic journey, and to bring this story to a wider public with the hopes to build on the alliances and communication that began on this Walk. We are working to interview many of the participants in the Walk, along with telling the truth about the California missions, and the histories of those who struggled to survive the impact of the colonial occupation of their homelands. Ultimately, our project intends to remind the larger public about the continued presence and resilience of California Indian communities, while honoring the ancestors who drew on their strength and ingenuity to persevere in the face of terrible atrocities.

Mapping Kumeyaay Placenames from San Diego Mission Records.
We plan to gather, translate and map the Kumeyaay place names listed in the records of the San Diego mission (the Libros de la Mision: Baptisimos). The majority of these records are available online through the Huntington Library’s website: The Early California Population Project (ECCP). Using this resource and others, we will examine the places of origin recorded by the Spanish for the approx. 7,000 Kumeyaay people who were baptized between 1775 and 1840. We will map as many of them as we can, using information noted in many cases by the Spanish clerics writing them down, as well as by researching other historical documents and more recent archaeological findings. Finally, we will present this information in the form of an interactive online map of Kumeyaay village names together with an explanation of their meanings, whether they were predominantly ‘Iipay- or Tiipay-speaking, and any other useful information about them we can find. We plan to use ESRI Storymap software to create the online interactive map, and willmake it available as an educational tool to be shared with the general public and in classes offered at SDSU, KCC, and anywhere else that teaches content on Kumeyaay history and culture.

“The Sacred Sharper” Preston Arrow Weed, (Quechan – Kamya)
The Sacred Sharper will be rewritten into a novel.  The play itself has been written and can be adapted to read as a radio play as is.  A podcast version is also planned.

Birdsongs – Harry Paul Cuero, Jr., Campo
Birdsongs are like metaphors for life. The Birdsongs deal with the emotions and experiences that we all have, experiences that the Creator has given to us. The songs impart their messages through stories. However, the Birdsongs, along with many other songs, were almost lost, when the Missionaries arrived and forbid us to sing them. The Birdsongs remain, though. The history and meanings of our Birdsongs is part of a larger puzzle that we are gradually piecing together. The lost songs likely contained other parts of a larger body of knowledge.
Why were the Missionaries opposed to our songs? After all, some of our stories were similar to some of the things that the Church taught. But the Missionaries just didn’t want us to know that stuff. One of the issues that was a big thing was that we used to cremate, a practice that the Missionaries opposed since they believed that you cannot be resurrected if you are cremated. If you didn’t have a body you, can not be resurrected. As a result, they forbid the practice of cremation, and then imposed their knowledge on us. As a consequence, many of our people don’t know our ways.

This grant is going to part of a larger tribal movement in which many tribal members are beginning to once again talk about our beliefs, our life ways, and our traditions. In my book, I will be following in this trend, discussing our beliefs and our philosophy, as expressed through our Birdsongs. In the process, I will be explaining how Birdsongs touch on life’s experiences and challenges and how the Creator gives each of us the opportunity to deal with these challenges. These experiences not only involve feelings such as happiness, sadness, getting tired, being hungry; but also basic human needs and how to meet them. The Birdsongs probably only dwell on a part of life and its challenges. Whereas, the lost songs probably addressed many other issues, experiences, all parts of a larger puzzle. But, with the pieces that we still have, as expressed through the Birdsongs, we should talk and think about them, and to the best of our abilities.
This practice of cremation is part of our songs. Some of our Birdsongs talk about: a road that splits. While we are alive, we don’t know which road to take. But at a funeral, the person we are singing for, he or she will know which road to take. They’ll know which path to go down. Because they’re there. We are not there, so we can’t know. But the songs describe it like this: There are two paths, and they are going to take one of them. They know which way to go. We don’t know, because are not there. But we sing about it, to support the persons as they decide and make their choice. Towards the morning, we sing the songs that tell the person to get up. The song says: “Get up.” Because we’re going to get ready to cremate them. So, there’s a series of songs telling the person to: Get up! Get up! Before we start the fire; but today, it’s like: Get up, before we bury you. In the past, it happened. Somebody did wake up, just when we were getting ready to cremate them. Suddenly, they sat up. So, now, when we’re singing those songs towards the end, we are telling them to: Get up! Get up! Just in case, you know. We’re giving them one last chance. So, that’s how the songs play a role in what’s happening during a funeral ceremony. And again, you’re dealing with emotions and experiences. At funerals, people are sad but we know what we have to sing these songs.

Why This Land? Our Tribe’s Quest to Understand What Connects Us to the Land – San Luis Rey Band of Mission Indians

Our Voices, Our Stories.
Our Voice, Our Stories will draw upon the Fernandeño Tataviam Band of Mission Indians’ (FTBMI) strengths and storytellers to deliver messages that illuminate the community’s unique relationship with Mission San Fernando and provide counternarrative curriculum about the Mission System. Our Voices, Our Stories is vital to establishing spaces for the FTBMI to tell its own story of the Mission without compromising historically accurate facts and community perspectives.

Through partnerships and guidance with UCLA, Our Voice, Our Stories will create a consolidated electronic archival database documenting the Tribe’s historical and contemporary relationship with the Mission, thus allowing for stories that are supported by evidence to be developed into media projects centering on the FTBMI. A multimedia plan will be developed and executed for the production of an interactive webpage to host a PSA, maps, photos, and historical documents for public consumption, thereby allowing the FTBMI to meaningfully contribute to Critical Mission Studies by providing untold stories that are contrary to the current widespread text used in schools. Inquiries about this project can be directed to Kimia Fatehi [].

Theatre for Young Audiences Reframing the History of the California Missions.
Blindspot Collective will collaborate with a team of local indigenous leaders to create a new work of theatre mixing traditional oral storytelling, primary historical sources, and personal reflection with contemporary culture bearers. The production will be developed with an ensemble of indigenous actors, musicians, and designers to ensure the integrity of the project while also providing professional experience in an industry in which Native Americans are regularly underrepresented. The project will culminate in a workshop presentation or reading to gather feedback and propel the program toward a future full production for schools serving students in grades 3-6.

Humanities Lab Collaborative Research award

The UC Santa Cruz Humanities Lab grant collaborates with Amah Mutsun tribal members, works with the tribe’s archival records. and conducts historical and ethnographic research on local missions in order to provide educators with accessible materials to challenge the dominant narrative surrounding the missions. Our goal is to emphasize Indigenous perspectives and expand current practice in teaching about the missions in elementary classrooms. Native scholars Drs. Renya Ramirez (History) and Judith Scott (Education) will work closely with the UCSC History and Civics project (Drs. George Bunch and Daisy Martin), an Amah Mutsun affiliated researcher (Dr. Rob Cuthrell), tribal leaders, teachers and administrators in districts surrounding Mission San Juan Bautista and Mission Santa Cruz, and a dedicated steering committee of both indigenous and non-native scholars who will support this work. There are three branches of this research endeavor: 1) collection of past and present stories from the Amah Mutsun tribal band; 2) a literature and document review regarding current practices and curricular materials in use in California schools regarding the missions; and 3) the development of an on-line repository of educational materials from an Indigenous perspective for use by teachers and community members in developing curricula. Inquiries about this project can be directed to Renya Ramirez [] or Judith Scott [].

UC Postdoctoral Research fellowship

As a Critical Mission Studies Postdoctoral Fellow, Luiseño scholar Dr. Olivia Chilcote (Assistant Professor of American Indian Studies at San Diego State University) will complete her book manuscript that interrogates historical and contemporary tribal legal status across California. With the mentorship of Distinguished Professor of History at UC Riverside, Dr. Clifford Trafzer, Dr. Chilcote’s manuscript presents a case study of the San Luis Rey Band of Mission Indians and will provide the first in-depth analysis of the San Luis Rey Band’s history in Southern California, the tribe’s federal recognition petitioning process, and the complexity of the band’s unrecognized tribal status. In-depth interviews with tribal members give voice to the tribe’s and individuals’ relationship with the San Luis Rey Mission and how that is connected to California Indian identity formation. The manuscript also builds on and extends previous scholarship to interrogate how federal acknowledgment policy has unfolded in California and how it disproportionately affects tribes that were subjected to Spanish and Mexican colonization. Dr. Chilcote’s book will be the will be the first study about the San Luis Rey Band of Mission Indians, the first book on the status of recognition in California written by a California Indian person, and the second book to analyze an unrecognized California tribe’s pursuit for federal recognition. Dr. Chilcote’s research represents one of the few on Luiseño people and will offer an original contribution to the study of her people.

Dr. Nathan Acebo (Assistant Professor of Anthropology at University of Connecticut- 2021*) holds the University of California Chancellor’s Postdoctoral Fellow in Critical Mission Studies for the 2020-2021 year at UC Merced. During his fellowship tenure under the mentorship of Prof. Kathleen Hull, Dr. Acebo will publish articles on subaltern resistance, survivance, and Indigenous futurity while developing a manuscript from his CBPR-Indigenous archaeology program, the “Black Star Canyon Archaeology Project” (BSCAP), which was conducted in collaboration with Tongva, Acjachemen (Juaneño- Acjachemen Culture Center), and Payómkawichum (Pechanga Band of Luiseno Mission Indians) community members in Orange County. The manuscript, titled An Archaeology of Radical Indigenous Autonomy, draws attention to powerful expressions of Indigenous governance and economic prosperity in the southern California colonial hinterlands during the latter stages of Spanish and Mexican-Californio colonization, and how said ancestors’ capacities enabled radically subversive forms of survivance in the past and present. Dr. Acebo is also in the process of transitioning the BSCAP into a new research phase concerned with constructing a place-name based story map for the northern Santa Anas which will be paired with novel material analyses of intercommunal exchange networks before and after American settler colonization. Lastly, Dr. Acebo is continuing to build is second project on the Laie Sugar Plantation, which examines how Native Hawaiian and transnational-colonized Filipinx laborers constructed alternative multiethnic communities under Mormon proselytization and plantation labor coercion in early 20th century Oahu, Hawaii.

UC Faculty Research Grants

Robert Perez (History, UC Riverside). ‘When the Mad Build the Madhouse’: Sanity & Insanity in the Franciscan Missions of Alta California, 1769-1810.
The first part of my project will be the creation of a scholarly article on the missions, tentatively titled “When the Mad Build the Madhouse: Sanity and Insanity in the Franciscan Missions of Alta California, 1769-1810.” I was first inspired to write this article when I began to critically examine the writings of Junipero Serra and Fermin de Lausen, the first two presidents of the California mission system. Even a cursory reading of these documents makes it quite apparent that a majority of the missionaries had no desire to be in California. Requests to leave California began within days of Serra’s arrival in 1769 and continued unabated until the end of the Spanish period. These documents also reveal that missionaries in California were suffering from very high rates of depression and other forms of mental illness.  For example, my research shows that in the decade of the 1790s approximately 40% of the missionaries in California were suffering from serious mental health issues, according to the Spanish sources. Many of these missionaries were violent to the Indians and/or instituted harsh punishments. At the same time, the missions suffered from a chronic problem of Indians running away from the missions. The issue of Indian fugitives has typically been seen as a result of the Indians’ alleged inability to understand the benefits of the missions and their childlike understanding of the world. In a sense the Indians have been depicted as stupid or crazy. However, when the facts are objectively assessed one might reasonably argue that the runaway Indians were actually attempting to escape a system that was literally built and run by madmen. From a Native perspective it might be argued that these runaway Indians were the most sane people in the missions. This article will examine why it is that the obvious facts of priestly insanity have never been addressed by the hundreds of scholars who have read and used these documents in the long history of scholarship on the California missions.

The second part of my project will be the completion [a] graphic novel that will deal with the true history of the missions. A few years ago I was asked to develop a tutoring program for the children of three local Cahuilla tribes. We found that it was difficult getting the students to do their assigned reading or any reading. Our solution was to get them to start reading graphic novels and they responded by reading everything we could give them. As a result the students developed a taste for reading and their scores on the Star Reading Assessment improved greatly. So, I have seen firsthand the power of graphic novels to inspire students to read more and I believe the graphic novel format is the perfect vehicle to teach the history of the California missions. Also, scholarly articles can be descriptive but they lack the power of the visual image to transmit ideas and are not as accessible to readers of varying skill levels. I have been in communication with various tribal education and cultural departments in Southern California and they have responded enthusiastically to my proposed graphic novel or comic book on California mission history. I have attached letters of support from the Southern California Indian Center and the Rincon Indian Education Department. Both S.C.I.C. and Rincon have indicated that they will use this graphic novel in their existing and future programs. In particular they are excited about the graphic novel’s attention to the issue of historical trauma, an issue they deal with on a regular basis. I have also received support from the Morongo Cultural Heritage Department and the Southern California Tribal Chairmen’s Association, among others, but was unable to acquire letters of support in time for submission with this proposal. I believe this is a project that will have meaningful and widespread impact in Southern California Indian communities. I have talked with two prominent Native artists and both are willing to be part of this project provided that funding is secured. One of them has drawn comics for both Marvel and DC comics and the other is an internationally recognized


Judith Scott (Education, UC Santa Cruz). Implementation & assessment of an Amah Mutsun centered 4th grade mission studies curriculum.
This research complements and extends the UCSC Humanities Lab (see description above). The lab is exploring Amah Mutsun Tribal Band (AMTB) perspectives of, and experiences at, Mission San Juan Bautista and Mission Santa Cruz, using the tribe’s archival records and historical and ethnographic research, in order to develop educational curricula. Our goal is to provide educators with accessible materials to challenge the dominant narrative surrounding the missions, emphasizing Indigenous perspectives and expanding current practice in teaching about the missions in elementary classrooms.

This aspect of the research looks at the impact of implementing this curriculum on the knowledge and attitudes of various constituents both before and after exposure to the newly developed UCSC Humanities Lab material and professional development. Its purpose is to understand whether providing alternative materials, professional development and interactions with the AMTB is sufficient to create change, and which factors influence teachers’ decisions. In addition, we are studying the influence of the same type of materials on park rangers, and whether change occurs in the education and interpretation given at the missions. Change isn’t easy, and documenting the challenges and successes will inform future professional development activities. It will also provide a model for challenging the dominant narrative surrounding the missions in both classroom and mission settings. Inquiries about this project can be directed to Judith Scott [].


Bernard Gordillo (History, UC Riverside). Sonic Violence: Temporality, Bellscapes, and the California Missions.
My project begins with a question: what are the implications of ringing original Spanish colonial bells today? The church bell is the iconic symbol of the California missions that has come to evoke romanticized notions of heritage and destiny for the state. As sonic instruments of Spanish colonial power, however, they imposed an unwelcome European construct of time and order over Native lands. Spanish chroniclers often placed the ringing of mission bells within celebratory acts, yet this trope belied a different reality for the California Indians, involving the inescapable sound of bell signals and their incessant commands. A recent movement by the Amah Mutsun Tribal Band pressed for a revision of the romanticized narrative in their efforts to see the removal of the El Camino Real Mission Bell Markers, arguing that they only serve to memorialize a past characterized by violence and death. If visual representations of mission bells can perpetuate historical trauma, then what about their sound? The continued presence of bell markers or similar representations, as well as the ringing of historical mission bells, call for a re-examination of their role in California mission history and historiographies.

This is a sound-study of original bells and ringing practices in the California missions. Historical mission bells are unlike musical or sonic vestiges of the Spanish period. Surviving music manuscripts and musical instruments call for received methods of interpretation or reconstruction in their restoration processes, and can only approximate music of the past. On the contrary, original mission bells are instruments, little-changed over centuries of use, that faithfully produce one of the more pervasive of colonial sounds. I thus propose that the act of ringing mission bells is not necessarily a nostalgic evocation of a bygone era, or a simple marking of present-day church schedules, but rather a re-invocation of a pernicious sonic tool of Spanish colonialism. In consultation with California Indian tribal scholars and community members, I hope to undertake archival and ethnographic research in Santa Barbara, Santa Cruz, and San Juan Bautista. My approach will be to examine bell sounds as 1) affective signals (semiotics), which “speak” a language meant to elicit emotion and condition the body, and 2) as ways of knowing through sound (acoustemology) by recognizing “what is knowable… through sounding and listening” (Feld 2017). The outcomes of the project will see the drafting of articles for scholarly and general audiences, and a short documentary film. My principal contribution intends to outline and develop approaches that enact the decolonization of music and sound in the California missions.

UC Graduate Student Fellowships

Kaitlin Brown, Department of Anthropology, UC Santa Barbara, Mission La Purissima Archaeological Analysis and Exhibit.  My archaeological research addresses: (1) how Chumash individuals and communities created, maintained, and/or reconfigured their daily practices during the Spanish (1786-1821) and Mexican (1821-1833) periods and (2) the subaltern narrative within the Mission space by engaging with the local Chumash community and the broader public. In order to address these issues, I use archaeology as a practice-based approach aimed at not only collecting information about the past but also highlighting contemporary issues that affect descendant communities today. I focus primarily on indigenous experiences at Mission La Purísima Concepcíon located in Lompoc, California. This includes analyzing existing museum collections, using supplementary low-impact excavations and working with the Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians on highlighting the subaltern narrative as it is presented in the mission today.

GeorgeAnn DeAntoni, Department of Anthropology, UC Santa Cruz, Plant use and landscape management practices – Costanoan/Ohlone.  My archaeological dissertation research examines plant use (for food and medicine) and landscape management practices among Indigenous Ohlone peoples during and following the mission period on the central coast of California. Using a fully-collaborative approach, my work will highlight how the ancestors of the Amah Mutsun Tribal Band maintained and enhanced Indigenous epistemologies through connections to plants, connections to place, and connections to practice despite colonial pressures during the post-contact period. Using minimally-impactful archaeological field methods, my project centrally acknowledges the long-term, place-based strategies that Native peoples have negotiated in their ancestral territories since time immemorial, examining the mission period as time when Indigenous peoples utilized creative strategies to persist and exert agency in relationship to meaningful places and resources.

Sarah Biscarra Dilley (Chochenyo | Ohlone), Department of Native American Studies, UC Davis, hɨ wa tʸiptutyɨʔnɨ, where are you from and where are you going?:  movement, missions, material nitspu tiłhinktitʸu.  Grounded in yak titʸu titʸu yak tiłhini networks of relation, histories, political landscapes, and active environmental contexts, funded research focuses on the author’s own family documentary history, spanning kinships iterating from Mission San Luis Obispo de Tolosa and Mission San Miguel Arcángel, to diasporas from Mission San Juan Bautista, San Carlos Borromeo, Mission Santa Cruz, Mission Santa Inés, and Mission Santa Barbara. By recognizing the interdependent nature of lived experience, projections of indigenous identity from outside influence, genealogy, (non)recognition by occupying governments, and colonial fracture stemming from the missions, this research focuses on ongoing contexts of yak titʸu titʸu yak tiłhini identities, and the continuity of old families both within our homelands and in diaspora beyond it.
Equally critical of the burden of proof placed upon Native peoples to determine their identities through recognition by occupying nation and the systems that led to our disordering as peoples, these texts will outline connection and relation that live in our daily lives, our material culture, and linguistic practice. Biscarra Dilley will center a complex woven map of connection that continues in families, governance, oral testimony, and visual practice while emphasizing our ongoing presence as central to the ongoing histories of the region while shifting a genealogical gaze upon the industries implicated in our displacement.

Cynthia Neri Lewis, Department of Art History, UC Riverside, Illuminated Walls of the Alta California Missions: The Index of American Design (1936-1942):  Several visitors to the Alta California missions during the early years of the 19thcentury commented on their colorful interiors and “illuminated walls,” but most of these original wall paintings, produced by native artisans under the direction of Spanish priests or Mexican-trained artists during the mission era, were whitewashed in the late 19thcentury. From 1936-1942, the Federal Art Project’s Index of American Design was involved in the study and restoration of several of these mural programs. Index artists visited the missions and produced photographs, drawings and watercolors of the extant murals, as well as designs they discovered under layers of plaster. In their aim of identifying a “usable past” the Index sought to transform these California Native designs into national motifs. Through case studies of the restored wall paintings at selected missions, I explain how this transformation was attempted through the Index’s processes of appropriation, media translation and re-creation of the Native designs. Drawing from research conducted at the National Gallery of Art, where the California Index materials are housed, I demonstrate how the Index-created archive and federally-sponsored “restorations” have influenced our contemporary understandings of both the “Mission Motifs” and the Native cultures that produced them.

Sarah Noe, Department of Anthropology, UC Santa Barbara, Isotopic Analyses of Mission Santa Clara ecofacts:  This project examines mission documents, agricultural production reports, and ecofacts recovered from three middens situated alongside the Native American barracks and thee middens located adjacent to the soldier’s quarters at the Spanish mission site of Santa Clara (occupied 1777-1836). Specifically, this project will allow for a more nuanced understanding of the mission period than can be gleaned through historical texts alone. Mission Santa Clara contained a diverse population of differing Native American groups including predominantly Ohlone speakers, as well as Yokuts-speaking people, and later in time Miwok individuals. The integration of analyses of ecofacts and mission records will answer questions concerning 1) the existence of disparities between the mission inventories and the archaeological remains of Native diet; 2) whether the diets of Native Californians and Spanish soldiers differed in terms of quantity and quality; 3) whether a correlation exists between Native diets and periods of increased Indigenous mortality; and 4) how European agriculture detrimentally affected the local environment. Through this project the interlocking factors of continuity and change, Spanish authority and dominance, Indigenous independence and incarceration, and environmental deterioration can be assessed to rewrite a more holistic history of the mission period in California.

Alexii Sigona and Annie Taylor, Department of Environmental Science, Policy, and Management, UC Berkeley, Colonial legacies on the landscape: How California Missions affect Amah Mutsun traditional lands and socio-ecological relationships: Under the supervision of Professor Lynn Huntsinger and the Amah Mutsun, our research examines how legacies of the mission system have impacted Amah Mutsun tribal members, native plant communities on the landscape, and the sacred relationships between the two. We will use a mixed methods approach involving interviews, community surveys, site visits, and comparative ecological data analysis to examine ecological legacies of the Mission System on Amah Mutsun homelands, how they impact contemporary cultural interests, and how Amah Mutsun relationships with the land may benefit native plant communities as well as community healing.

María Montenegro, Information Studies, UCLA, Unsettling evidence: An anticolonial archival approach: Through an archival ethnography of the Fernandeño Tataviam Band of Mission Indians’ petition for federal recognition and their use of mission records in that process, my dissertation investigates, broadly, the political and socio-cultural dimensions of the role(s) of the Mission Archive and settler-colonial notions of evidence in the Federal Acknowledgement Process (FAP). My Critical Mission Studies project attempts to catalyze new critical scholarship on the theorization of the Mission Archive––the place/land it occupies, the records it holds, and the histories, practices, and discourses it supports. Examining how power and agency are constituted, circulated, and erased intertextually across the different types of mission records used by the Fernandeño Tataviam Band of Mission Indians in support of their petition for federal recognition, I seek to shed light on the impact that the Mission Archive’s documentary economies have on California tribes seeking federal recognition: How are their tribal histories being affected by those forms of evidence, by the mission system that produced them, and by the legacies of exclusion, racism and elimination of Indigenous cultural and political forms that these records often continue to perpetuate? And how do records produced by the missionaries with a clear intent of Indigenous dispossession, exist alongside or interact with records produced by the Indians documenting tribal power, tribal political visions and tribal demands within the missions? I draw on oral histories with tribal members and the discursive and deconstructive analysis of petition documents and government responses to first examine the tensions between how the Tataviam must tell their history for the FAP, and how they continue to live in ways that surpass the Office of Federal Acknowledgement (OFA) demands for the Tribe to fully define itself within its imposed idea of “historical tribe.” Second, by studying how mission records ‘behave’ in the stacks, catalogs and databases of dispersed repositories––the Huntington Library, the Bancroft Library, and the Santa Barbara Mission Library, among others––I map the contexts and trace the conditions under which such records were created, collected, and are described, used and stored, and how this also affects the OFA’s recognizing or dismissing of those records as evidence. As I investigate the uses and misuses of mission evidence by the FAP and how Tataviam histories and counter-histories reside within the Mission Archive, my goal is to make the case that counter-colonial conceptions and practices of evidence are sorely needed; ones that are responsive to the contexts, temporalities, cultures, geographies, and unique histories of California petitioning tribes who see recognition as a part of their work toward sovereignty; while considering tribal and mission narratives that often do not fall into the categories regulated by US policy.

Cynthia Vazquez, Ethnic Studies, UC San Diego, Trans-Mission Hauntings: Ama de Llaves Apparitions in Contemporary CA Schooling: In collaboration with Campo Band of Kumeyaay Mission Indians this project engages in a methodology of haunting, in which I excavate the gendered/sexualized logics of mission violence against women and children and connect these logics to the ways that Indigenous youth (mostly Kumeyaay, Campo Band of Mission Indians) experience schooling at Acorn High School (AHS) in East County, San Diego. This project combines archival and ethnographic research to address the history of missions and the contemporary/ongoing impacts of the mission system in today’s schools. I look at Mission San Diego de Alcalá, as a case study to analyze how California missions are the blueprints for modern-day surveillance, imprisonment, colonial schooling, and exploited manual and sexual labor all within the context of settler colonial land theft.