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Rancho Era Missions

1811-1820, Mexico fought for and won independence from Spain. This change in leadership had a direct impact on life in the California Channel region. The three main groups living there at this time were : the Spanish soldiers and priests managing the presidios and missions, the Native American Chumash and Gabrielino, and the Mexican settlers developing agricultural and ranching holdings.



The change in government from Spanish to Mexican rule signaled a rapid change for the Missions and their residents. Spain no longer furnished supplies for the Missions, nor any pay for the soldiers stationed at the Missions. The Missions were left one their own to survive independent of their Motherland. As a result, the native neophytes, as the converted Chumash and Gabrielino were called, became the sole source of sustainability for the Missions, and they were mistreated by the Spanish soldiers who remained at the Mission.

In February of 1824, after a brutal beating of a La Purisima neophyte at the Santa Ines Mission, the Indians at Santa Ines, La Purisima Concepcion and Santa Barbara staged revolts and took over their Missions. Two months later military forces backed by Mexico were sent to save the Mission system by retaking control of its forced labor source. It was easier for the Spanish to subdue the native rebels by attacking the Missions, where priests were present to negotiate a truce with the remaining native workers. It was nearly impossible for the military to recapture the Indians who had fled over the mountains to interior valleys where they were able to escape recapture, some living the rest of their lives in the distant Sierra Nevada mountains rather than return to Mission domination.

By 1833, In 1827 the Mexican governmentís constitution gave the native population of Alta California, over which they had jurisdiction, the right to move freely, own land and become a productive part of Mexican society. In 1833 the Missions were formally taken out of the control of the European-based Catholic Church, and given a government-controlled administrative organization based in Mexico. The Governor of Mexico, Jose Figuero, moved to further protect the native peoples along the Channel under the Provisional Regulation of the Emancipation of the Mission Indians, an act which stated that one-half of the Mission systemís holdings was to be divided among the Indians who had lived at each Mission. This allowed some of the native people to regain the ability to live more according to their native customs, but did not stop the disastrous effect of European diseases on the native population. Although well intended, this transfer of lands to the Indians did not go as planned for various reasons, and many ended up working on Mexican ranchos under conditions as harsh as Mission life. During this time more and more Mexican developers were moving into Alta California to establish ranchos under land grants from the Mexican Government.

Only those Native Americans who headed to the interior valleys away from the Channel were able to maintain their traditional lifestyle. Those who remained along the Channel in Mexican communities also faced likely extermination during terrifying epidemics, such as the one in 1833 during which 4,500 Chumash died. By the 1850s, with California coming under American rule, there were only 100 Chumash living at the Santa Ines Mission, and the Gabrielinos had been assimilated into the Los Angeles Missions and settlements. Very little remained of the original way of life along the Channel. In its place were the foreign practices that entirely wiped out the native way of life by depleting animal populations through over hunting, encroaching on what had been the nativeís lands, and by the introduction of a foreign culture that was vastly different than the native way of life, thought, and moral ethic.