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.
Scaling Invisible Walls: Reasserting Indigenous Persistence in Mission-Era California
Tsim D. Schneider is an assistant professor of Anthropology at the University of California, Santa Cruz and a Citizen of the Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria. His archaeological and historical research explores cultural landscapes, mobility, and refuge-seeking among Indigenous populations in colonial California. His research has been published in American Antiquity, American Anthropologist, American Indian Quarterly, and other journals.
Khal Schneider is an associate professor of History at California State University, Sacramento and a Citizen of the Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria. His research investigates American Indian history and the nineteenth-century American West. Dr. Schneider’s research is published in Western Historical Quarterly, Pacific Historical Review, The Journal of the Gilded Age and Progressive Era and other scholarly venues.
Lee M. Panich is an associate professor of Anthropology at Santa Clara University. His research employs a combination of archaeological, ethnographic, and archival data to examine the long-term entanglements between California’s Indigenous societies and colonial institutions, particularly the Spanish mission system. He is the author of Narratives of Persistence: Indigenous Negotiations of Colonialism in Alta and Baja California (University of Arizona Press, 2020).
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Tsim D. Schneider, Khal Schneider, Lee M. Panich; Scaling Invisible Walls: Reasserting Indigenous Persistence in Mission-Era California. The Public Historian 23 October 2020; 42 (4): 97–120. doi: https://doi.org/10.1525/tph.2020.42.4.97
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