Native Rebellion in Central California

This vast territory includes: Bear River, Mattale, Lassick, Nogatl, Wintun, Yana, Yahi, Maidu, Wintun, Sinkyone, Wailaki, Kato, Yuki, Pomo, Lake Miwok, Wappo, Coast Miwok, Interior Miwok, Wappo, Coast Miwok, Interior Miwok, Monache, Yokuts, Costanoan, Esselen, Salinan and Tubatulabal tribes. Vast differences exist between the coastal peoples, nearby mountain range territories, from those living in the vast central valleys and on the slopes of the Sierra Nevada.

While thousands of the 81,586 baptized Indians temporarily fled their missions, more than one out of 24 successfully escaped the plantation like mission labor camps. Many Mission Indians viewed the padres as powerful witches who could only be neutralized by assassination. Consequently, several assassinations occurred. At Mission San Miguel in the year of 1801 three padres were poisoned, one of whom died as a result. Four years later another San Miguel Yokut male attempted to stone a padre to death, In 1804 a San Diego Padre was poisoned by his personal cook Costanoan Indians at Mission Santa Cruz, in 1812, killed a padre for introducing a new instrument of torture which he unwisely announced he planned to use on some luckless neophytes awaiting a beating. Few contemporaries Americans know of the widespread armed revolts precipitated by Mission Indians against colonial authorities. The last great mission Indian revolt occurred in 1824 when disenchanted Chumash Indians violently overthrew mission control at Santa Barbara, Santa Ynez and La Purisima. Santa Barbara was sacked and abandoned while Santa Ynez Chumash torched 3/4 of the buildings before fleeing. Defiant Chumash at La Purisima in fact seized that mission and fought a pitched battle with colonial troops while a significant number of other Chumash escaped deep into the interior of the Southern San Joaquin Valley. After 1810 a growing number of guerrilla bands evolved in the interior when fugitive mission Indians allied with interior tribes and villages. Mounted on horses and using modern weapons, they began raiding mission livestock and fighting colonial military forces.

Vastly overestimating their power, Mexican authorities authorized an additional 762 land grants by 1847. In reality the effectiveness of Indian stock raiders increased dramatically when American and Canadian fur trappers provided a lucrative market for purloined horses by the mid 1830’s. Interior Mexican ranches were increasingly abandoned in the face of economic ruin by native stock raiding activities. Even Johann A. Sutter was reduced to begging the Mexican government to buy his fort following a mauling at the hands of Miwok Indians near the Calaveras in June of 1846. Despite these successes, a series of murderous epidemics in the twilight years of the Mexican era severely reduced the interior population. For instance, in 1833 an American party of fur trappers introduced a murderous scourge of malaria into the Sacramento and San Joaquin River drainages. While traversing the epicenter of the plague, J. J. Warner reported, From the head of the Sacramento to the great bend and slough of the San Joaquin we did not see more than six or eight live Indians; while large numbers of their skulls and dead bodies were seen under almost every shade tree near the water, where the uninhabited and deserted villages had been converted into graveyards. In this tragedy more than 20,000 Central Valley Miwok, Yokuts, Wintun, and Maidu Indians perished. A new outbreak of small pox devastated Coast Miwok, Pomo, Wappo, and Wintun tribes.

Estanislao (1798 – 1838) was a member of the Yokut people, Native Americans of northern and central California. He was born in about 1793 on the Laquisimas River, today known as the Stanislaus River, near present day Modesto. At the age of 28 on September 24, 1821, he moved to Mission San Jose, in what is now Fremont, California. Estanislao was the alcalde of the community before he left the mission with about 400 followers in 1827. The group began raiding the Missions San Jose, Santa Clara, and Santa Cruz and Mexican settlers in the area around the Laquisimas River (now the Stanislaus River; during the later Mexican era, this river was called Rio Estanislao). Estanislao was joined by Chumash Indians led by Pacomio and by other Yokuts until at one time his army had 4,000 men. Estanislao educated his men in battle techniques he had learned from Spanish and Mexican soldiers. His raids were characterized as sudden, usually involving a trap, and ending with no loss of life, and he would sometimes use his sword to carve his initial, “S,” authenticating his handiwork. The Franciscan friars and Mexican settlers pleaded for help from the Mexican army. Finally, the Governor called the army into action. Three expeditions from the Presidio of San Francisco and the Presidio of Monterey failed to subdue the band. A fourth, larger force led by General Mariano Guadalupe Vallejo finally ousted Estanislao and his people from the Laquisimas River in the Spring of 1829. Both Vallejo and Estanislao were accused of brutality and atrocities by their forces in the battle. Estanislao returned briefly to the Mission San Jose on May 31, 1829 to ask Father Narciso Duran for forgiveness for his men and himself. Father Duran successfully petitioned Governor José María de Echeandía to pardon Estanislao. The pardon was granted for Estanislao and his men on October 7, 1829. Estanislao returned to the Laquisimas River to lead his people. Yoscolo, a Yokut Indian from the Mission Santa Clara, joined Estanislao’s group in 1831. Yoscolo brought several hundred Indians with him from the Mission Santa Clara. During the spring of 1833, malaria was introduced into the San Joaquin Valley by Canadian beaver trappers from the Hudson’s Bay Company. More than 20,000 California natives died from malaria that spring, including Yokuts, Chumash, Miwok and others. On August 24, 1834, Estanislao returned to the Mission San Jose and prospered there while teaching others the Yokuts language and l culture. He remained at the Mission until his death, possibly from smallpox, on July 31, 1838. The Stanislaus River, Stanislaus County, & the failed Mormon settlement Stanislaus City (now Ripon) were named in his honor.

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Categories: Central Valley News, Indigenous Issues

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1 reply

  1. Hi Blue found this while I was reading information on the Maidu .
    Thank You for leading me to this history 🙂

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