Polski3's View from Here

Quote of some personal revelence: "Is a dream a lie, that don't come true, or is it something worse?"

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Something New to Teach......

Tomorrow I will be teaching something new. This is not news for many teachers, but tomorrow afternoon will be a new teaching experience for me. It will not include my seventh graders; it is a classroom full of FOURTH GRADERS. My oldest sons class is currently studying "Missions" as a fragment of Social Studies that is taught in Grades 4-6 in my school district. But, it always irks me, that every year, these kids are taught incomplete data about the "Spanish" missions of California. Just about every California History textbook I have ever seen, says there are "21 missions" in California. This is wrong. There were actually 23 missions established by the Spanish in "Alta California". The two missions they fail to include are Mission La Purisima Concepcion and Mission San Pedro y San Pablo de Bicuner. So, you may be asking, where were these two missions?

These two missions were established in 1780 near the Yuma Crossing (the junction of the Gila and Colorado Rivers), by Padre Francisco Garces. The goal of these missions was two-fold; to bring the word of God to the Quechan Nation (Yuma Indians) and to help establish a settlement on the new trail from "Pimeria Alta" (what is now Northern Sonora and Southern Arizona) to Alto California. Padre Garces had accompanied Captain Juan Bautista DeAnza in pioneering this land route to Alto California a few year before. The Quechan people had several previous encounters with the Spanish, way back about 1541 when part of the Coronado Expedition visited the area and then in the early 1700's when Padre Kino visited the junction of the Gila and Colorado Rivers. Kino's report indicated a willing acceptance to learn about the one True God by the Quechan. The DeAnza Expeditions had been assisted by the Quechan in 1774 and 1776, and Garces believed they were ready to be converted. Garces and three other priests established these two missions. Months later, Captain Fernando Javier Rivera y Monacda led a group of emigrants to the Yuma Crossing. Some continued on to San Gabriel, but Rivera, some soldiers and settlers began establishing a military and civilian pueblo at the Yuma Crossing. It did not take long for problems between the Spanish and the Quechan to erupt. One of the major problems was the Spanish livestock was eating mesquite beans, a major source of food for the Quechan people. Several Quechan were disciplined by the Spanish for infractions of the 'new' rules. Finally, in July, 1781, the Quechan had had enough. They massacred Rivera and his command, the male settlers and the four priests. Some of the female settlers and children were later ransomed by the Spanish. The two missions and whatever buildings the military and settlers had built were totally destroyed. And the Spanish never returned. It would be over 50 years before the war with Mexico brought traffic back to the Yuma Crossing.

I do not know why this great story is left out of California History textbooks. The great history compiler H.H. Bancroft includes it in his epic history volumes, and of course, there are both church and Spanish government records about this tragic event.

After a little bit of story telling with the fourth graders, the plan is for them to then play "archaeologist" and examine some "artifacts" that could have been excavated from the site of a Spanish settlement, draw pictures of them, try to figure out what it is a piece of or what its use was....etc. Then, they can make some guesses about life in a Colonial Spanish settlement. It should be a fun afternoon.

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