Vallejo and Estanislao Essay

Vallejo and Estanislao Essay

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In some accounts of California’s history, the state’s native people were pastoral pacifists who led an idyllic communal existence before the arrival of the Spanish. This view of history suggests that the native population meekly submitted to the missionaries; active resistance (or at least, violent resistance) was a trait learned from the Spanish over several generations of contact. This misreading of history, perhaps motivated by the ideology of the teller, may have at its root the fact that resistance to the Spanish occupation was not, at first, organized resistance.
Unlike native groupings on the American East Coast or in central Mexico, the aboriginal population of California did not politically organize themselves into tribes or “nations” that spanned multiple settlements. The “tribal” names assigned to California’s native groups result from modern ethnological investigation rather than being something recognized by the natives themselves. For the most part, these modern names represent linguistic groups, along with reconstructed village names or other geographic names. For instance, the Shasta people are named for the mountain, rather than the mountain being named for the “tribe.” The mountain itself gets its name from the trapper Peter Skene Ogden, who called a southern Oregon summit “Sastise” in honor of a native guide. In 1841, the United States Exploring Expedition mistakenly applied the name to the California volcano.
Despite their lack of a cohesive political structure, some of California’s native people actively resisted the imposition of the mission system from the start. The first uprising occurred only six years after the founding of the first mission at San Diego. In the autumn of 1775, several neófitos—disconte...


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..., the raiding never stopped entirely, and after 1835, the remaining natives were again engaged in banditry. The Valley’s natives continued to plague the ranchos until they, too, were swept away by the Gold Rush.
Estanislao left the Valley on 24 August 1834 and returned to the Mission San José. He prospered there, teaching others the Yokut language and culture, until his death on 31 July 1838. The Stanislaus River and Stanislaus County were named in his honor.
According to legend, Estanislao raids were sudden, usually involving a trap, and ended with no loss of life. To authenticate his handiwork, he would sometimes use his sword to cut his initial—“S.” In this manner, Estanislao may have served as partial inspiration for the fictional character Zorro, an outlaw who defends the people against tyrannical officials, created in 1919 by pulp writer Johnston McCulley.

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