For generations, much of the public assumed that the Indigenous peoples living in the Spanish missions in California had abandoned their traditions. The problem was, it wasn’t true.
“Over the past 20 years or so, archeology, and in particular archeology in California, has begun to refute this mistaken and one-sided story of the loss of ‘authentic’ or traditional Aboriginal culture after the period of the Spanish mission.” said Sarah Noe, a graduate student in the anthropology department at UC Santa Barbara.
In an article in the International Journal of Historical Archeology, Noe adds to the growing body of knowledge that highlights the resilience of Indigenous Californians throughout the mission period, actively maintaining technological, subsistence, and religious practices despite difficulties of the time.
In his research, Noe examined food waste in the living quarters of native California people in Mission Santa Clara. The remains consisted of heavily fragmented bones – a distressing sight given that they usually reveal little more than whether they are mammals, birds or fish, she said.
But on closer inspection, she noticed that the majority of the larger bone fragments were from cattle and had surely been broken on purpose. This was a key idea because, she said, the extraction of marrow and fat is often used as an indicator of food stress and starvation, especially in archaeological studies of agricultural people who mainly depend on it. cattle meat.
Additionally, the extraction of bone marrow and fat from animals has been well documented prehistorically in much of California.
“For example, in some of my previous work in Iceland, there was evidence of extracting marrow and fat from bones of cattle from colonies of people who were starving and needed all the nutrients from them. animal carcasses to survive, ”Noe said.
However, the extraction of marrow and fat from animals was well documented in prehistoric times in much of California as a simple step in food preparation – marrow and fat were routinely extracted from fragmented bones of deer and elk.
So, rather than an indicator of dietary stress, Native Californians throughout the mission period continued to traditionally cook their meals the Spanish way by fracturing mammalian bones to extract marrow and fat.
Understanding the continuity of native California’s persistence in the face of colonialism is important, she said, because it goes against the narrative of erasure that has been central to popular history for so long.
“The persistence of Californian lifestyles and traditions, from the pre-contact period through the colonial mission period to modern times, has been discussed at length by scholars,” Noe said. “Nevertheless, much of this research and information has not yet been widely understood and accepted by the general public.
“Educational resources and historic sites still present the story of acculturation and extinction, despite the wealth of evidence against such claims.
“The need for an additional scholarship therefore stems from the need to rewrite these perceptions, providing additional research that fully refutes the story of the complete loss of the California way of life during the mission period and instead highlights the persistence incontestable many practices which link the past and the present in a dynamic but uninterrupted trajectory ”, she declared.