California Indians / Identifications of Tribes / Life

What is the main function of the mission and what specific trees were found on most missions?

The main purpose of all of the missions from the viewpoint of the Spanish Crown was to confirm the claim of Spain to this wilderness by settling it and creating communities (and ultimately four presidios or forts) that would defend the land. The purpose of the missions from the perspective of the padres was to convert the Native Americans, who were recruited into the missions and converted to Catholicism.

Why is the Mission San Diego de Alcala called the "Mother of all Missions?

The origins of the “official” name for first California mission (San Diego de Alcala) and the reference to this as the “Mother of all Missions” is a little convoluted. San Diego Bay was discovered by Juan Rodriquez Cabrillo in 1542 but given its present name by Captain Sebastian Vizcaino when he explored the coast in 1602. The name was subsequently applied to both the first Spanish presidio (fort) and the first mission in Alta California by Fr. Junipero Serra at the official founding of the mission, on July 16, 1769.

Did the Indians play any games that were like foodball or baseball?

The Indians played many "Field" games. The "balls" were made of natural material, stuffed animal skins, natural wooden knots, polished stones, hemp etc. Shinny games in which the ball or puck is moved with a stick were quite common.There were many variations but these were team games (with three to ten players, typically) with rules and an object (to get the ball past the other team, through posts or into a hole.

Were Indians allowed to take communion?

This is really a subject for an expert on the details of Catholic religious practices in Spain and Spanish America. As I recall (and I studied this a long time ago) the Council of Trent, which convened three times between 1545-1563 standardized the Mass and many other religious practices throughout the world. I believe they also ruled that it was not necessary to receive both "bread and wine" and that the Body of Christ was fully present in the "bread" which was much easier and safer to use.

I have no information on the exact form and nature of the communion wafers.

What was life like for the Indian children living at the mission?

As you probably have already learned, the missions varied in size. San Carlos Borromeo de Carmelo was one of the most prominent missions but the neophyte population was smaller than the average. There were only 876 neophytes at Mission Carmel in 1795, twenty five years after the mission was founded, and this was the peak year. By 1832, the population had declined to 185 (this was the year the mission was secularized). Unfortunately the Europeans introduced many diseases (like small pox) to which the Indians had no immunity.

What work did the Indians perform at Santa Ines?

The work didn't vary a lot from mission to mission, although Santa Ines had one of the largest networks of ranches and agricultural fields in the mission chain, where they grew wheat, barley, corn, beans etc. Even today the Santa Inez valley is rich farming country.

What was daily life like at Mission Soledad for both the Padres and the Native Americans?

Please look at what is posted on our website ( ) under Ask The Expert. The are explanations of why they rang the bells, the work performed by the neophytes, what daily life was like and other facts you can use. The short answer is that daily life was very regimented. It started with religious services. Everyone was very busy all day long working. They ate three times a day.

What effect did the small pox have on the indians of the mission if any?

Periodic smallpox outbreaks and other European diseases affected the Indians particularly hard as they had no immunity. Experts estimate that European diseases accounted for about one third of the deaths of Native Americans in California after the Europeans arrived.

Sadly, this phenomenon was not unique to California and even more severe among other Native American populations.

In 1617–1619, for example, smallpox wiped out 90% of the Massachusetts Bay Native Americans.It reached Mohawks in 1634, Lake Ontario in 1636, and the lands of the Iroquois by 1679.