Native Californians under Spanish Colonial and Mexican rule
Native Californians represented the lowest possible class of people in Spanish feudal society. The Spanish attitude toward Native Californians was to see them as human beings living in a harmonious relationship with their environment, rather like animals. Father Luis Jayme thought the indigenous people also viewed themselves as animals. The Spanish viewed them as entirely uncivilized and saw themselves as bringing civilization to these people. They felt the Native Californians were pagans who were desperately in need of conversion to Christianity for the salvation of their souls. This conversion was a high priority and was accomplished through baptism, instruction in Catholic rituals, moral education, inclusion into the mission community, and enforcement of strict discipline.
The Indians were worked hard and paid little. The missions were dependent on native labor to construct buildings, tend the crops, care for the animals and produce goods. The Spanish saw the native neophytes as little more than slaves, who cost nothing to acquire and nothing to maintain.
After Mexico’s independence from Spain, Mexico ordered all the missions to be closed. Half of the mission land was to be divided among the mission Indians. Instead, the majority of the missions were given to Californios and Mexican citizens through large land grants. Many of the landowners established cattle ranches, called ranchos. After the missions closed, may of the native people had difficulty surviving. They had become dependent on the missions for food, clothing and shelter.
With the introduction of ranchos came a need for a large labor force. Much like the missions, ranchers used natives to meet this need. By forcing the natives to work on the ranches, the landowners could steal more land from the local natives.
Native Californians and Mexicans during the Gold Rush
When the cry of "gold!" in early 1848 echoed...