30 November 2010

Rancho Santa Ana del Chino and Carbon Canyon: A Rare Tidbit about Chino's Indian Community

Back on 26 May, there was a post about the native aboriginal peoples (that is, Indians) of what became the Rancho Santa Ana del Chino and, specifically, the village of Pasinog-na, which probably was at or near the site of the Chino Ranch headquarters, now Boys Republic in Chino Hills.

The only source for that village name came from Hugo Reid, a native of Scotland who migrated to California in the ealry 1830s and was married to Victoria, a native woman from what became known as the Gabrieliño tribe of Indians who populated the general Los Angeles Basin and surrouding areas.  Reid was a keen student of the customs, traditions and practices of the Gabrieliño, compiling a body of information that would have been lost if not published.

This happened in a series of twenty-two "letters" penned by Reid and published in the first newspaper of Los Angeles, the Star, which was issued weekly on Saturdays.  Reid's letters started on 21 February 1852 and continued until the summer (they were reprinted in 1868 by the same paper, as well.)  The reaction they had was such that the first federal Indian agent in the region, Reid's friend, Benjamin D. Wilson, relied heavily upon them for his published report on the Indian community, also completed in 1852 (and recently published in paperback form by the Huntington Library, which is on land formerly owned by Wilson.  Incidentally, Reid's ranch is now the site of the Los Angeles County Arboretum in Arcadia.)

Of great interest is the fact that the last ten of the letters, which dealt with the controversial question of the treatment of the Indians by the Spanish missionaries and others, disappeared.  Presumably, they were in the hands of Reid's widow, but it was said that they were suppressed because of the negative connotation put upon the Roman Catholic missionaries.  Among this material is a brief mention of the Rancho Santa Ana del Chino.

The reference comes in letter seventeen, titled "Conversion."  In it, Reid stated that "the text is related by the old Indians, or as noted by the writer himself," although there were no dates given.  The negativity came out in such statements as "when the priest came to found the mission [San Gabriel], he brought a number of vagabonds, under the name of soldiers, to carry out the proposed plan."  Reid goes on to say that because baptisms and their ritual were not understood by the recipients [Indians], they "can hardly be said to be a conversion."  Indeed, he continued, the Indians "had no more idea that they were worshipping God than an unborn child has of astronomy."  To these "converts," he went on, their "religion, as Catholics, consited in being able to cross themselves, under an impression it was something connected with hard work and still harder blows [that is, corporal punishment]."

Reid also observed that "we are, of course, unable to say that the severe measures adopted emanated from the priest; still there can be no doubt he either winked at the means employed by his agents, or else he was credulity personified!"  Consequently, because Indians could not officially be coerced into conversion, "part of the soldiers of servants proceeded on expeditions after converts."  The narrative then stated:

On one occasion they went as far as the present Rancho del Chino, where they tied and whipped every man, woman and child in the lodge [village], and drove part of them back with them.  On the road they did the same with those of the lodge at San José [present Pomona area].  On arriving home [San Gabriel] the men were instructed to throw their bows and arrows at the feet of the priest, and make due submission.—The infants were then baptized, as were also all children under eight years of age; the former were left with their mothers, but the latter kept apart from all communication with their parents.  The consequence was, first, the women consented to the rite and received it, for the love they bore their offspring; and finally the males gave way for the purpose of enjoying once more the society of wife and family.

Reid went on to state that the Indians did not, originally, revolt or resist due to surprise and astonishment over this treatment and that "a strange lethargy and inaction predominated afterwards.  All they did was to hide themselves as they best could from the oppressor."

As said above, the idea of missionary mistreatment of Indians is a controversial one, made more so by efforts in recent decades to elevate Father Junipero Serra, founder of the early missions, to sainthood.  Indeed, this blogger has just finished an anti-Serra work called The Missions of California: A Legacy of Genocide.  A review is not the intent here, but the Reid reference to Rancho Santa Ana del Chino is either a slander by someone who was born a Protestant in Scotland and may have, therefore, had a preexisting negative opinion of Roman Catholics or a rendering of a statement, as he claimed, "related by the old Indians."

In any case, this is a rare example of a reference to the native aboriginal people of the Chino Rancho and worthy of remembering in the history of the area.

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