Toms Point Archaeology: Investigating Native American History at Tomales Bay

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Audubon Canyon Ranch


In 2015 and 2016 we conducted an archaeological research project at Audubon Canyon Ranch’s Toms Point preserve (Figure 1). The field research was part of a larger project aimed at studying indigenous Coast Miwok living during and especially after the Mission Period (1769-1830s). Many readers will be familiar with the 21 Spanish missions that stretch from Sonoma to San Diego, California. The locations of missions within the province of Alta California (the name given to colonial territory north of San Diego) were determined by Franciscan missionaries who sought to convert Native Californians to Christianity and, in doing so, to inexpensively populate the remote northern frontier of New Spain with loyal subjects. Accompanying the missions, presidios (forts) and pueblos (towns) rounded out the blueprint designed to block competing Russian interests in colonizing California. Many presentday Californians—especially fourth-graders who build, or now purchase, small models of missions—learn how the Franciscan priests stationed at each mission enticed California Indians to join the Church and convinced them to abandon their homes, their languages, and cultures. But was this always the case?