Sta’yokale – Sacred Mountain

Sta’yokale Alert

Salinan Cultural
Preservation Association

Deergrass at Indians area of San Antonio Valley. A watercolor by Marilyn Sabold. Click the image for a larger version.

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‘Elders of the Land’ – The Salinan story
San Antonio Valley
Mission San Antonio de Padua

A ghost story by Salinan writer Debra Kroll

San Antonio Valley is the heart of the Salinan historical homeland – which extended from Carmel Valley to Morro Bay, and Big Sur to the Gabilan Mountains

Robert Duckworth looking at a part of the Los Padres Forest that once was the heart of the Salinan homeland. Click the image for a larger version.

Salinans thrived in the San Antonio Valley. At the time of the Europeans arrival in 1769, there were about 3,000 Salinans living in San Antonio Valley. They conducted agriculture, traded commercially with coastal tribes and populations in the Central Valley.

This valley was the heart of their homeland, which ranged from Carmel Valley to Morro Bay. Effects of their lives in the Valley go back 10,000 years.

Until very recently, it was thought there were no remaining Salinans. However, there is a strong Salinan cultural consciousness emerging, and they are industriously recovering their culture.

Salinan Nation gathers annually at Mission San Antonio. Above left, Gregg Castro, one of the Nation’s leaders addresses a group of elders who were being honored at the Gathering. Above right, Jose Freeman leads a group singing authentic ancient Salinan songs. Below left, a woman at the Gathering is in thought. Bottom right, a group of the event’s planners tell stories for a visitor.

Ironically, the Mission is the site of the greatest decimation of their population – but it is also the center of their homeland To learn more about Salinan culture, see Elders of the Land

Robert Duckworth, Gregg Castro, Jose Freeman and Ken Castro

Salinan people learned to hide from the Europeans who quickly dominated California.

or six thousand years they existed peacefully with other Indians. However, in the 1770’s, contact with Europeans brought violent subjugation. During the short rule of California by the Mexicans, the Salinans were amongst those native people who fared relatively well, but when Americans took control of California, execution, and enslavement became normal. To avoid this almost certain fate, some mothers actually took their newborn children to the Ventana back country and abandoned them.

Wagon Cave – a watercolor by Marilyn Sabold. Click the image to see a larger version.
Others just disappeared by themselves. A typical story is that of a University of California anthropologist coming to a popular meeting place in Jolon and asking if anyone knew where he could find any Jolon or Salinan (the same people, actually) Indians. Each person there, all of whom were Jolon-Salinan Indians, shook their heads, “No, don’t know.”
Salinans kept their culture alive by telling stories in their families. Now they are becoming more outspoken to the outside world in order to enlighten others about their valuable cultural legacy.
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How were Indians treated?

Spain’s Colonial economic system depended on Indian labor. History of that era has been romantized. Recently, however, more realistic accounts are being recorded. Here is an account in Tending the Wild by Dr. Kat Anderson:

“Mission Indians labored long and hard, often lived under miserable conditions had poor diets, suffered from epidemics, experienced physical abuse and intimidation, and died in huge numbers. After the establishment of the missions, diseases such as syphilis, tuberculosis, dysentery, diphtheria, and measeles spread rapidly throughout native popuilations lacking any immunity, aided by crowded living condiions in drafty adobe dormitories with poor sanitation. Deficient diets consisting of a starchy cereal soup and a little meat predisposed Indians to infectious disease and malnutrition. Medical treatment was rare.

“In an 1813 report on Mission San Antonio de Padua, Father Señàn noted that ‘for each two (Indians) that are born three die.’ Mission records show an even more morbid relationship: between1799 and 1833 the padres recorded 62,000 deaths and only 29,000 births. At its height, the mission system boasted a total of 72,000 Indian converts, or neophytes, but by 1830 only 18,000 neophytes remained. The total loss of the mission Indian population has been estimated, on the basis of mission reords, at 72 percent. The anthropologist Aolfred Kroeber wrote, ‘It must have caused many of the Fathers a severe pang to realize, as they could not but do daily, that they were saving souls only at the inevitable cost of lives. And yet such was the overwhelming fact. The brute upshot of missionization, in spite of its kindly flavor and humanitarian root, was only one thing, death.'”





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