Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Mapping the Native Communities of California

When the Spanish invaded western California in AD 1769, there were more than 150,000 native people already living in the region. The San Francisco Bay Area was home to around 15,000 people, living in more than 40 different communities and speaking many different languages. The whole purpose of the Spanish missions in California was to convert the indigenous people to Christianity and to steal their land on behalf of the Spanish Empire.

However the Spanish Mission weren't immediately successful in completely eradicating the native ways of life. Despite the imposition of forced manual labor, severe punishments and new diseases, over half of the native communities in the San Francisco Bay Area remained independent for more than twenty years after the first Spanish mission in 1776. You can learn more about how the indigenous communities fared in the early years of the Spanish missions in a new story map, Visualizing Indigenous Persistence during Spanish Colonization of the San Francisco Bay Area.

One way in which the map attempts to visualize the persistence of the indigenous communities is by mapping baptismal records. By tracking the number of baptisms in native communities it is possible to view the spread of the Spanish missions' control over the indigenous people and to see the areas where native communities were initially outside of the missions' sphere of influence. The map also uses archaeological evidence to demonstrate where native communities persisted. This evidence includes radiocarbon dating of indigenous sites after the Spanish missions arrived and the lack of non-indigenous artifacts (glass, metal and ceramics) to show where the exchange of goods with missions was limited.

The arrival of the Spanish missions was only the first step in the continual persecution of Native Californians by non-native invaders. This story map by attempting to show where native communities persisted after the arrival of the Spanish missions begins to show how many of the cultural traditions of the Native Californians have been able to survive despite suffering over 200 years of attacks.

If you want to learn more about the native Californian people and their languages then Native Land is a good place to start. Native-Land is an interactive map which shows the 'territories' of indigenous people and indigenous languages around the world. If you zoom-in on the San Francisco Bay Area you can see the native communities which lived in the area and the native languages which were spoken around the bay. If you click on an area on the map you can usually find links to the website of the selected tribe.

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