Even though there is not a great deal of knowledge possessed about Indians as a whole, it is a subject this writer finds extremely fascinating and wishes to know more about. Before this week’s readings, this writer did not have a large working knowledge of California Indians or their lifestyle. There was some general knowledge from public school history classes and some old 1950s television shows such as “Zorro” played in reruns, but other than that there was very little working knowledge that was used before reading the sources listed in the textbook for this class. Additionally, there were some documentaries on public television that contained a little information about the California Indians before and right at the arrival of European immigrants, but still there was very little knowledge for this writer to pick from to substantiate what little was known. The most recent movie they had seen that depicted the life of California Indians was Zorro starring Antonio Banderas and Anthony Hopkins. However, once reading this week’s assigned sources from the textbook, this writer was in for quite a surprise.
There is a great deal in this week’s readings that contradict what this writer initially thought about the California Indians. For example, television programs and Western novels have portrayed these Indians as godless heathens who have no souls and needed saving by the Christian church. However, what the readings proved is the Indians did have was their own religion which according to many of the legends provided in this week’s readings are quite similar to the stories of creation found in the Christian Bible. These fables have characters that explain many animals in the desert such as the coyote and the rattlesnake which show them as symbols of peace and spirituality, not animals to be feared. Additionally, the readings also showed how peacefully the California Indians lived with the monks and priests who came over from Spain with the intention to convert these godless heathens from no religion to knowing the love of the Christian God. On the other hand, there are some materials included in the readings such as the tools used for hunting and fishing that were already known from previous pubic school lessons but were still interesting to learn more about in this type of setting. It was also fascinating to add to the knowledge of the monastery’s gardens tended to by the Indians described in the included sources.
One of the major problems with these sources is they are written with bias. This is true with anything that is presented in a historical context. In the case of the primary sources presented in this week’s readings, the bias being presented in this collection is that in favor of the California Indians. This is surprising to this writer because of the nature of most primary sources presented in history classes would be in the favor of the European settlers, but this is in fact a welcome change of paste from the normal historical information presented in a typical history class. The way to get around the bias is to try to have an objective frame of mind when reading historical document and put oneself into the place and time period so it is easier to understand what these people were experiencing during that time. This week’s readings did a lot to help change this writer’s impressions about the California Indians because these sources really put a positive face on these people. Before they were just another group of people that lived in the area but this really helped to put a human face to them and not just a label to these great people.