Miranda Critiques on the Nostalgic and the Romantic View of the California Missions
After growing up with a notion that the native Indians in California or “Bad Indians” as Miranda titles her book were no good, Miranda becomes curious to find out the truth about her roots. Over the years, she had known that the aboriginals or the California Indians were haters of development; they lacked education and lived in absolute poverty. By then, she was so convinced by the romanticism and the nostalgic view of the mission, as scholars and the tourism authority wrote about. However, deep inside, Miranda knew that there was more to the story (Saranillio 289). Hence, she decided to research and to write a book on the plight of the Indians during the missionization. This paper attempts to find whether, the critiques presented in the tribal memoir are effective.
Indians as Portrayed by California Settlers
It is not easy to talk about the history of America or California, without addressing the history of the aboriginals. However, although the story of the native Indians, have been discussed in many forums and published by many scholars, most of the truth is hidden from the readers. As Miranda writes “I have heard only one story about California Indians: godless, dirty, stupid, primitive, ugly, passive, drunken, immoral, lazy, weak-willed” (23). However, what the settler colonizers deemed as primitiveness was actually the Indians sovereignty. Before, the missionization and the settler colonialism, the aboriginals, had the freedom to work on their lands, they had distinct culture, and they held their land dear, as their lives were (Saranillio 289).
Most literature works on the indigenous people, fail to point out on the challenges and the injustices, which surrounded the lives of the natives. The school curriculum and the tourism authority, do not help much either. There is a course, provided to all students in fourth grade in the elementary school about California Indians and the Missions that was introduced in the 50s. That is why; Miranda grew up having a notion that Indians were bad. But, unlike other people, she opted not to believe in the stories, without researching the subject further. Miranda story, starts by the depiction of California from the angle of most Spanish settlers. Miranda decides to study on the history of Ohlone Costanoan Esselen; her own people (Miranda 25-37).
Miranda first introduces the California 4th Grade Mission Project. It is meant to enable students to learn the history of the state. However, it is more fabricated than the real scenario, which she presents throughout the book. Using credible sources of information including documentaries, field notes, photos, she displays a new image of the mission projects (Miranda 26-33).
Missionization from Miranda’s View and the Effectiveness of her Critiques
Miranda confines her criticism to the missionization. She does admit that it was a positive instrument, only that it was used in the wrong way. The missionaries felt that it was their sole responsibility, to abolish heathenism. The aboriginals had their own way of worship, which involved multiple deities. The writer feels that it was an injustice for the missionaries, to try to convert the natives against their will into Catholicism. Sovereignty starts in the smallest unit, the home, then to the community and to the entire nation (Simpson 19). By breaking down the morals and the beliefs the natives had for decades, it robbed them off their freedom of worship and broke down their nationalism (Lyons 172).
The padres who were given the mandate to convert the Ohlone’s did it in the dishonorable manner. According to Miranda, they raped, beat, enslaved and murdered the natives they found on the lands, they wanted for the missionization. It is unfortunate that settlements and industrial establishments were more than the institutions of converting the aboriginals into Catholicism (Miranda 77-125). This means that the writer is to some extent justified, to criticize the mission activities. After all, if their motives were as appropriate as some settlers, would want many people to believe, they could not have committed the listed injustices (Simpson 23).
The writer goes on to narrate about her own experience, when she was raped at the age of seven. Miranda also sheds some light to the traumas faced by children during 1776 to 1836 The End of the World: Missionization all the way to “Teheyapami Achiska: Home, which run from 1961 to the present. Apart from robbing the Indians of their sovereignty, they took their future, their children. This was the height of injustice. Miranda writes that the missionization “broke the world, broke our hearts, and broke the connection between soul and fresh” (123).
As Miranda writes her own experience and that of her family, the writer affirms her great urge to get to the depth of the missionization issue. Miranda states, “I’ll return to the elements that created me. But, through this mark, you will know I was here and I know you are coming after me. We have stories to exchange about this difficult gift; life and those stories will never disappear” (122). Miranda hopes that her memoir will help her people and others in understanding the injustices of the past, even after she is no more.
Settler colonialism took over the lands that the Indians had always known to be their source of livelihood. According to Saranillio (292), land is portrayed as life since it was responsible for the sustenance of the natives. The settlers pushed the natives to the periphery and they took their lands for the purposes of commercial agriculture and industrialization. The settlers’ notion that the Indians land needed to be transformed, is an element of colonialism. As Saranillio (291) narrates about settler colonialism in Hawaii, the settlers assimilated the natives and those who were reluctant were forced out of their patches of land. Where they resisted, they experienced humiliation and cruel death. In Miranda’s world, the “bad Indians” were pushed to living in the museums, cemeteries, and prisons, in the land they had known to be theirs for ages (177). While scholars and the tourism department, were bent on creating an attractive and fabricated history for the children of the 21st century, the anger, trauma and abuses, stuck in the minds of the natives (Lyons 174).
Loss of language and culture are other aspects that the writer addresses in her memoir. Miranda presents the intricate tribal relations that existed among the Indians before the missionization. She then outlines how the missionaries disrupted the communities (Miranda 204). To ensure that the community no longer had one uniting factor, they took their only language. They had to learn Spanish and other foreign languages. In the end, they lost most of their identity (Lyons 176).
While there are some fictions in the memoir by Miranda, including the Mestiza Nation: A Future History of My Tribe and Coyote Takes a Trip, the writer has used as many sources of information to back up her critiques. This makes it an inherent source of information, for people who want to know the real impacts of the California missions.
Lyons, Scott Richard. “Nationalism”. In Native Studies Keywords Eds. Teves, Stephanie, Smith Andrea and Raheja, Michelle. Critical Issues of Indigenous Studies. Arizona: University of Arizona Press 2015 web. 20 Oct 2015 <www.uapress.arizona.edu>
Miranda, Deborah A. Bad Indians: A Tribal Memoir. California: Heyday, 2013 web 20 Oct. 2015 <https://books.google.com/books?isbn=1597142336>
Saranillio, Dean Itsuji. “Settler Colonialism”. In Native Studies Keywords Eds. Teves, Stephanie, Smith, Andrea and Raheja, Michelle, 2015. Critical Issues of Indigenous Studies. Arizona: University of Arizona Press 2015 web. 20 Oct 2015 <www.uapress.arizona.edu>
Simpson, Leanne Betasamosake. “The Place Where We Live and Work Together: A Gendered Analysis of “Sovereignty”. In Native Studies Keywords Eds. Teves, Stephanie, Smith, Andrea and Raheja, Michelle, 2015. Critical Issues of Indigenous Studies. Arizona: University of Arizona Press 2015 web. 20 Oct 2015 <www.uapress.arizona.edu>