News From Native California Volume 31, Issue 3 - Page 29

RESURRECTING THE PAST: THE CALIFORNIA MISSION MYTH Michelle M. Lorimer Great Oak Press, 2016, 216 pp, $18.99 though an increasing number of works question the romantic portrayal of history at contemporary California mission sites, few specifically address the way this portrayal silences Native voices. Michelle Lorimer does both in Resurrecting the Past: The California Mission Myth. Through the use of archival evidence, field research at missions sites, and oral histories, she presents a strong case that the lives of the Native laborers (neophytes) living at the missions can- not be categorized as entirely harmonious or contentious, but an amalgamation of both, necessitating deeper contextu- alization and continued unpacking. The book is written from the specific viewpoint of under- standing Native residents’ lives at the missions. After a brief history of the establishment of the missions, the introduc- tion puts forth the need to reconsider the “idyllic” depictions of relations between settlers and local indigenous populations. Chapter 1 traces the Spanish methods for dealing with the indigenous groups they encountered through colonization, often by forced conversion and labor. Chapter 2 explores the way that missions became enshrined in California state cul- ture and history. Chapter 3 notes the limitations of current depictions of Native residents at mission museums, while Chapter 4 contrasts traditional indigenous labor economies with transplanted Spanish colonial economies. Chapters 5 and 6 acknowledge the evidence that relationships between the Spanish and the Natives were fraught at best, including Native resistance movements, the punishments used on neophytes, and high mortality rates at the missions. Chapter 7 concludes with contemporary examples of counternarratives of neo- phyte experiences and how these perspectives have been integrated into tourist experiences at some of the missions. In particular, Lorimer’s emphasis on pre-colonial Native trade networks, the vulnerability to violence experienced by Native women, and the anachronisms presented at many mission sites—my personal favorites are the out-of-place pic- ture of Ishi and a clock dating to the late nineteenth century, both at Mission San Gabriel—leads readers on a journey that disrupts conventional views presented at California missions. | Reviewed by Sierra Watt Most enjoyable are the examples of contemporary integration of Native perspectives. The adaptation of The Mission Play and the staging of Toypurina, alongside the ways in which missions at La Purísima, San Francisco de Solano, and Dolores attempt to address Native experiences, reflect why counternarrative writing and research is crucial to undoing the sanitation of history and deconstructing the “Spanish fantasy past.” These integrations, along with changes to the California state guidelines for elementary teaching of mission history— specifically, moving away from building mission models—point to such research beginning to reach the broader culture. While mainstream history frequently presents early settler history as the true beginning in “sparsely” populated lands, Lorimer instead emphasizes that settlers found themselves surrounded by vibrant villages and preexisting intertribal networks, rather than the stereotypical depictions of lonely, Native wanderers. For readers both new and familiar with colonial history, the work forms a cornerstone for future research on the complicated relationship between the tribes of California and the Spanish missions. SPR IN G 2 018 ▼ 27