San Antonio de Padua was the first mission established in the land of the Salinan people. A sign on the mission grounds provides information on this tribe. [inline:sap_06_web.jpg=Salinan Indian Description]
The Salinan, thought to number almost 3000 at the time of European contact, were hunter-gatherers who lived in the wooded hills and mountains where the mission was founded in 1771. [fn]"Salinan" pp 500 - 504, by Thomas Roy Hester in Volume 8 CALIFORNIA in Handbook of North American Indians, Smithsonian Institute: Washington D.C., 1978[/fn] [inline:sap_07_web.jpg=INDIAN WOMAN GATHERING ACORNS]
Archeologists have identified 20 villages within a twenty-mile radius of the mission. The Spanish found the Salinan a "friendly and charitable people," who they were able to recruit rapidly into the mission system. Unlike some other tribes, they adapted easily to mission life. As a result, San Antonio de Padua, grew rapidly. Within 20 years it was the largest of the central California missions. In the mission era the natives who became neophytes at San Antonio de Padua were called Antoniaños. Mission records show the natives were predominantly Northern Salinan, but there were some Yokuts and Esselen. [inline:sap_08_web.jpg=TULE LODGES OF YOKUTS]
The Salinan population was estimated at "fewer than 700" by 1831, and declined even more rapidly after secularization. There were 150 Antoniaños left in 1842.