“Sometimes They Bury the Deceased’s Clothes and Trinkets”: Indigenous Mortuary Practices at Mission Santa Clara de Asís

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Mission Santa Clara de Asís, a Franciscan mission in Alta California, was home to Ohlone/Costanoan, Yokuts, and Miwok people who perpetuated and reinterpreted mortuary practices at multiple points across the landscape. More than three decades of archaeological research at Mission Santa Clara has revealed burials and associated grave goods from two different mission era cemeteries, as well as the archaeological remains of possible mourning ceremonies within the mission’s indigenous residential area. Burial records also reveal a wealth of information about how Franciscans and native people negotiated cultural and religious practices regarding death and mourning. The findings from Santa Clara are contextualized through evidence from precontact archaeological sites and early ethnographies, as well as from historical accounts by missionaries and other observers. The processes of negotiation and accommodation that unfolded between Franciscan missionaries and indigenous people at Mission Santa Clara are compared with evidence from other Alta California missions.