California’s Franciscan missions were grounded in Indigenous homelands that to this day remain largely undertheorized and trivialized by scholarly and popular understandings of missions as inescapable fortresses of confinement. Narratives that position California’s missions as places of Indigenous imprisonment endure but they are at odds with a growing body of archaeological and documentary evidence demonstrating the persistence of Native lives, activities, and decision-making taking place within and beyond the walls of missions. We argue that interpretations of the missions in scholarly and popular conversation must make Indigenous persistence and resilient relationships to meaningful landscapes the cardinal priorities, not secondary attributes, in the study of Indigenous responses to colonization.

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