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Book Chapter

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American Academy of Franciscan History


Spanish missions are seen by many indigenous people and scholars alike as sites of profound loss. Across the Borderlands of North America, the native individuals and families who entered mission establishments faced terrible and often lethal challenges posed by introduced diseases, strict labor demands, corporal punishment, and unsanitary conditions. In California, as elsewhere, death was part and parcel of the mission experience for many indigenous neophytes as well as the resident Franciscan missionaries. This chapter explores how native people and Franciscans in Alta California negotiated their divergent but deeply held views about what constituted proper death, burial, and mourning practices. These issues are examined using evidence drawn from pre-Contact archaeological sites, ethnographic information collected by early anthropologists, mission-era archaeological deposits, and from the writings of the Franciscans and other contemporary observers. I argue that native neophytes in Alta California persisted in honoring their dead in culturally appropriate ways while the Franciscans varied in their attitudes toward indigenous mortuary practices.

Chapter of

Franciscans and American Indians in Pan-Borderlands Perspective: Adaptation, Negotiation,and Resistance


Jeffrey M. Burns
Timothy J. Johnson


Copyright © 2018 Academy of American Franciscan History. Reprinted with permission.

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