International Journal of Historical Archaeology

, Volume 18, Issue 3, pp 467–488 | Cite as

Assessing the Diversity of Mission Populations through the Comparison of Native American Residences at Mission Santa Clara de Asís

Article

Abstract

Mission establishments in Alta California and elsewhere were home to complex, pluralistic communities in which native peoples actively but differentially negotiated aspects of colonialism through daily practice and the reinterpretation of identity. To explore these issues, we compare the archaeological evidence from two different indigenous dwellings at California’s Mission Santa Clara de Asís: an adobe barracks and a native-style thatched house. In particular, we consider possible differences between the dwellings’ inhabitants in terms of relative status, ethnolinguistic affiliation, and re-articulation of indigenous traditions.

Keywords

Colonialism Identity Tradition Missions California 

Introduction

Over the past decade, the Native American neighborhood associated with Mission Santa Clara de Asís has been the site of extensive archaeological research relevant to broader issues in the archaeology of colonialism. Of particular concern is the ability to use archaeological and ethnohistorical data in concert to illuminate the diversity and agency of the indigenous individuals and families who resided in pluralistic colonial settings, such as Spanish mission sites. Franciscan missionaries established 21 missions during Alta California’s Spanish and Mexican periods (1769–1840s), with the intended goal of converting California’s diverse native peoples into a homogenized peasantry. Recent research, however, has illuminated the complexity of indigenous populations associated with mission sites in Alta California and elsewhere (Lightfoot 2005; Panich 2010a; Peelo 2010). In many cases, missions were as much indigenous towns as they were colonial outposts, with populations ranging from a few hundred to over 2,000 individuals. A challenge for mission archaeology, then, is to identify and understand the diversity within particular mission communities.

One way to explore such differences is to examine the archaeology of native residential space within the mission complex. Alta California missions typically maintained a separate indigenous neighborhood, or ranchería, where married couples and families resided, either in adobe structures commissioned by the missionaries or, often, in native-style dwellings such as conical, thatched structures similar to those used prior to the arrival of the Spanish to the region (Allen 2010). While archaeologists have long recognized the potential for deposits associated with adobe structures to yield evidence of the lives of missionized peoples (e.g., Allen 1998; Deetz 1963; Farris 1991; Hoover and Costello 1985), questions remain about differences that may have existed between those native families who lived in adobe structures and those who did not. Indeed, the common assumption is that adobe structures were reserved for high status neophytes, as native converts were termed, and/or those who were more “progressive” in their acceptance of mission lifeways. Archaeological excavations of neophyte barracks across California suggest that many native people held tightly to their traditions within the relative privacy of the mission ranchería, leading Lightfoot (2005, p. 99) to speculate that, “It would be very interesting, in this light, to excavate midden deposits associated with the traditional dome-shaped huts where the ‘less progressive’ Indians lived in the neophyte villages.”

We take up this issue through a comparison of a native-style dwelling and a portion of an adobe neophyte barracks, both excavated within the indigenous ranchería at Mission Santa Clara. The native-style dwelling was discovered during data recovery excavations in 2004 (Allen et al. 2010), and is the first of its kind to be archaeologically documented at a California mission. The barracks site was tested in 2012 as part of an archaeological field school at Santa Clara University (SCU). Below, we compare our preliminary findings from the barracks site with those reported for the native-style dwelling with regard to three interrelated aspects of life at mission establishments: relative status within the mission hierarchy, continuing identification with ancestral ethnolinguistic groups, and the rearticulation of indigenous traditions. We suggest that despite the use of terms such as Indio or neophyte, the indigenous peoples who lived at Mission Santa Clara included families and individuals of diverse social positions who negotiated identity at various scales.

Spanish Missions, Identity, and the Archaeology of Colonialism

Spanish mission sites have long played an important role in the historical archaeology of colonialism in North America. Mission archaeology has followed the general trajectory of the broader discipline, shifting from an auxiliary exercise to aid in the reconstruction of particular buildings, to a testing ground for theories of culture change, to approaches that seek to understand aspects of daily life under colonialism (Graham 1998; Van Buren 2010). In the Californias, recent work includes considerations of sexuality, labor, identity, and cultural persistence (Arkush 2011; Panich 2010a; Peelo 2011; Silliman 2001; Voss 2000). As with current archaeological approaches to colonialism worldwide (Apoh 2013; Benavides 2013; Lydon and Ash 2010; Wilcox 2009), an overarching concern for many studies involving California missions is the long-term implications for indigenous groups today (Lightfoot et al. 2013; Panich 2013). These approaches demonstrate that missionization was not simply a context for culture change, but also a venue for indigenous agency.

In exploring shifts in indigenous communities through time, we adopt a framework that considers the flexible, overlapping, and contested nature of social identities that developed within the increasingly entangled social and economic structures of colonialism. The study of identity in such contexts requires a situational and relational examination of the cross-cutting facets of social identities that were shaped by various internal and external forces (Lightfoot et al. 1998; Voss 2008). Peelo (2009, 2011), for example, found that colonial interactions provided the context for mission-based communities of practice to develop around ceramic production in Alta California. Indigenous peoples at particular missions shared distinct ways of manufacturing pottery, and with those practices, neophytes created new spatially-based identities. Such mission-based indigenous identities were rooted in precontact practices of organizing group identities around particular villages or territories. Lightfoot (2005, p. 202) argued that mission-based native identities became more prevalent as second- and third-generation neophytes growing up in the mission system understood themselves in relation to their lives at specific missions, rather than their precontact polities. Over time, indigenous social and political structures were rearticulated inside the missions as marriage patterns were disrupted, infectious disease took a terrible toll, and precontact differences became less relevant.

Alongside these new forms of understanding the self and the community, indigenous discourses often became entangled with the colonial system. As others have stressed in different regions (Ferris 2009; Silliman 2009), our ability to assess the persistence of native traditions is hampered by our expectations about what continuity and change look like archaeologically. Instead of simply assessing one or the other, we instead advocate an approach that treats daily practice as an ongoing process, in which traditions are understood to be dynamic phenomena that are a part of entangled and polyvalent discourses (Jordan 2009; Pauketat 2001; Robinson 2013). While earlier approaches in Alta California involved the comparison of the form and material of artifacts from different functional categories in order to evaluate the degree to which a particular neophyte community accepted Euroamerican lifestyles (Deetz 1963; Farnsworth 1992; Hoover 1989, 1992; Hoover and Costello 1985), more recent work at California mission sites has examined the fluid nature of Native American uses of both local and introduced material culture in mission settings (Allen 1998; Lightfoot 2005; Peelo 2011; Silliman 2001; Skowronek 1998).

For example, many “European” objects such as imported pottery or metal tools may have been used by Native American neophytes in ways that were consistent with or developed out of pre-contact native practices. Conversely, materials typically associated with indigenous traditions, such as wild foods or shell beads, may have been acquired or used in ways that were very much embedded in colonial social relationships. Robinson (2013) examined the polyvalence of objects and symbols in California mission contexts, finding that shell and glass beads were traded at, among, and outside the missions and were intimately involved in both Franciscan evangelization strategies as well as indigenous perceptions of self and status. Indeed, the process of missionization included complicated, coexisting discourses that Native Californians, Franciscans, and soldiers negotiated on a daily basis. Teasing apart the significance of particular artifacts or ecofacts with regard to concepts such as identity or tradition requires a contextual approach that considers the spatial relationships and multiple meanings of objects.

Mission Santa Clara de Asís

Mission Santa Clara de Asís was founded in 1777, near the southern extent of California’s San Francisco Bay, in the homeland of the Tamien Ohlone (Fig. 1). The mission was moved several times due to flooding and earthquakes, with an eventual total of five distinct mission churches (Skowronek and Wizorek 1997). The mission-era deposits discussed in this article were encountered beneath the modern SCU campus and are associated with the third through fifth mission complexes (ca. 1781–1840s). Despite several changes in the spatial configuration of the mission infrastructure, the neophyte ranchería appears to have remained in the same location throughout the entire period (Fig. 2). This area was home to married neophytes and their families. Young girls, unmarried women, and widows were housed in a special dormitory in the mission quadrangle, and unmarried men and boys were housed elsewhere within the establishment (Shoup and Milliken 1999, p. 69). An account from the 1820s by a European visitor to California described indigenous housing at the California missions: “The buildings are variously laid out, and adapted in size to the number of Indians which they contain; some are enclosed by a high wall, as at San Carlos, while others consist merely of a few rows of huts, built with sunburnt mud bricks… It is only the married persons and officers of the establishment who are allowed these huts, the bachelors and spinsters having large places of their own, where they are separately incarcerated every night” (Beechey 1831, p. 16, quoted in Jackson and Castillo 1995, p. 139).
Fig. 1

Central California with ethnolinguistic territories and locations mentioned in text

Fig. 2

Mission Santa Clara, ca. 1781-1840s

Over the course of its existence, Mission Santa Clara was home to thousands of Ohlone, Yokuts, and other native people, with annual populations of 1,200–1,500 individuals during its peak years. Terms such as Ohlone (Costanoan) and Yokuts refer to generalized language and cultural groups, within which precontact social and political organization centered on village communities, often called “tribelets,” of several hundred individuals (Lightfoot and Parrish 2009). The recruitment of Native Californians to Mission Santa Clara began with local Ohlone groups in the early years and extended to more distant Northern Valley Yokuts and interior Miwok groups beginning in 1811. By the time of its secularization in 1836, the mission was home to individuals from at least three broad linguistic groups, and numerous independent village communities within them, many of which are detailed in the ethnohistoric record (Milliken 2002; Shoup and Milliken 1999). The diversity of the neophyte population at Mission Santa Clara is not necessarily unique, but it offers an important opportunity to address how individuals and families from diverse backgrounds did or did not share in various social, economic, technological, and/or ceremonial practices while in residence at the mission.

Historical accounts of the native ranchería at Santa Clara have been summarized elsewhere (Allen 2010; Allen et al. 2010; Skowronek et al. 2006), but it is clear that native-style dwellings were in use during the first two decades of the mission’s existence. In 1792, for example, Captain George Vancouver visited Mission Santa Clara and remarked on the “crouded [sic] Indian Village close to the mission, composed [sic] of mean huts or wigwams” (Eastwood 1924, p. 278–280). Records from the 1790s detail the construction of adobe barracks to house neophytes during the use of the third mission compound at Santa Clara, and travelers’ accounts mention five rows of housing in use by the mid-1820s (Allen et al. 2010, p. 79–80; Skowronek et al. 2006, p. 180; Skowronek and Wizorek 1997). Accounts post-dating 1800 fail to mention the presence of native-style housing, but based on the mathematical impossibility of housing the entire indigenous population in the few adobe barracks known to have been constructed, we can infer that native dwellings were likely used throughout the entire mission period.

Archaeological Investigations

The Native-Style Dwelling

The native-style dwelling was discovered in 2004 during mitigation for SCU campus construction activities (Allen et al. 2010; Allen 2010). It consisted of a shallow basin measuring roughly three meters in diameter (Fig. 3). In the center of the feature was a hearth with intact ash fill, with two postholes nearby. An entryway consisting of packed earth extended west from the feature, and a second, smaller hearth was found at the western extent of the entry. Soil characteristics suggest that the structure was burned at the time of its abandonment. The interior deposits were fully excavated, although very few artifacts were recovered from the dwelling’s interior. Two later pit features directly intersected the preserved house pit; several other mission-era pits were documented in the vicinity, but they also appear to post-date the use of the dwelling (Allen 2010, p. 88). Soil was wet-screened through 0.125in (0.32cm) mesh. Wet-screened materials were preliminarily sorted in the field, with further processing in the lab.
Fig. 3

The native-style dwelling, as exposed during mitigation in 2004. (Image courtesy of the Curation and Conservation Facility, Santa Clara University)

The available evidence only provides relative dates for the occupation of the native-style dwelling. Allen et al. (2010) suggest that the dwelling was likely occupied after 1800. This date is based, in part, on the fact that the assemblage contains locally made earthenware ceramics, which were not manufactured at Mission Santa Clara until the mid 1790s (Skowronek et al. 2006, p. 170). They additionally cite the presence of one H1b Olivella shell disk bead (typically dated to 1800–16) in the outside living surface. Given the short-term use of this type of structure, we concur that a post-1800 date best fits the available evidence.

The Barracks

Archaeological excavation as part of a field school in 2012 revealed the intact foundations of an adobe barracks less than 100m from the native-style dwelling feature. Portions of two rooms were tested in 2012, although it is not clear if these rooms represent two separate residences or simply divided space within one two-room apartment (Fig. 4). One of the rooms was disturbed by a large American-period refuse pit dating to the 1990s and was only minimally exposed. Like the native-style dwelling, the interior contexts of the other room contained few artifacts. More than 16m2 of exterior living surface were exposed, yielding a diverse sample of artifacts and ecofacts, some of which post-date the mission period and were likely redeposited through bioturbation. The richest deposit associated with the barracks was a pit feature directly west of the structure. The pit extended to a depth of at least 110cm below the historic ground surface and contained a minimum of four distinct strata. Only a portion of the pit was exposed in 2012, representing approximately 25% of the entire feature. Mission period deposits were wet-screened offsite; we employed 0.125in (0.32cm) mesh, with a 10% subsample using 0.063in (0.16cm) mesh. All wet-screened materials were sorted in the lab.
Fig. 4

Area of barracks site excavated in 2012

The structure exposed in 2012 was one of several rows of adobe neophyte houses constructed at Mission Santa Clara, many of which appear to have contained two-room apartments. The first adobe barracks were constructed at Mission Santa Clara in 1792, and construction of similar buildings is recorded for 1793 and 1794 (Skowronek et al. 2006). Documentary evidence indicates that certain parts of the barracks structure in question continued to be used throughout the nineteenth century (Garcia 1997), and two rooms remain intact today as part of the Santa Clara Woman’s Club, a private civic organization. The portion of the structure excavated in 2012 was destroyed prior to the late 1860s as revealed by a photograph dated to 1868 (Fig. 5). The pit feature likely dates to the 1810s or later, based on the presence of H1b and H2 Olivella disk beads (Bennyhoff and Hughes 1987, p. 135). Given that the pit feature is contemporaneous with the use of the barracks, we treat the two deposits as associated.
Fig. 5

Adobe barracks site, ca. 1868. The far structure remains standing today. The area between the two buildings was tested in 2012. (Image courtesy of Archives and Special Collections, Santa Clara University Library)

Comparison

The following comparison will proceed along three interrelated lines: status, ethnicity, and tradition. Each of these concepts represents both collective and individual agency, and should be understood as products of historical processes. We view status and ethnicity as situational and fluid, particularly in colonial settings where both forms of identity could change throughout a person’s lifetime (Voss 2008). Here, status is best thought of as within-group differentiation along hierarchical lines, while ethnicity can be seen as a shared way of thinking about one’s group as different from others. We treat tradition as a dynamic process that is structured by previous experience and current social conditions while it is simultaneously shaped by individuals in their daily practice.

Multiple lines of evidence, including ethnohistoric and archaeological data, are available to archaeologists seeking to understand how people in colonial settings thought of and organized themselves. In the following comparison, we draw on relevant ethnohistoric information such as a series of questionnaires completed by Alta California missionaries in 1813–15 (Geiger and Meighan 1976). The archaeological material to be included in the comparison will be limited to interior living space and directly associated exterior deposits. For the native-style dwelling, this includes the interior and exterior living surfaces. We consider the contents of post-abandonment fill and the intersecting pit features separately, as these materials presumably post-date the use of the structure. For the barracks, we examine materials from the interior deposits and the contemporaneous extramural pit feature. We also discuss mission-period materials from the surrounding living surface, but because these deposits exhibited some mixing, we exclude non-diagnostic materials that may have been redeposited. Within these parameters, the focus of the comparison will be on artifacts (Tables I and II), with some limited discussion of faunal and botanical data.
Table I

Selected artifacts recovered from native-style dwelling contexts

 

Living surfaces

Post-abandonment fill

Native dwelling total

Count

Weight (g)

Count

Weight (g)

Count

Weight (g)

Pottery

 Glazed earthenware

5

50.5

20

258.4

25

308.9

 Wheel-thrown earthenware

5

6.9

76

680.4

81

687.3

 Hand-built local earthenware

21

58.2

22

510.15

43

568.35

 Majolica

3

n/r

6

n/r

9

 Bruñida de Tonalá

0

n/r

0

n/r

0

 Porcelain

0

n/r

2

n/r

2

 Whitewares

2

n/r

17

n/r

19

Lithics

 Obsidian

0

0

0

0

0

 Chert and CCS

2

24.4

7

67.7

9

92.1

 Flaked glass

0

0

1

9.8

1

9.8

Metal

 Non-diagnostic ferrous

6

3.8

20

n/r

26

 Non-diagnostic cuprous

2

n/r

1

n/r

3

Glass

 Non-diagnostic

10

n/r

31

n/r

41

Beads

Olivella Class H

1

 

1

 

2

 

Olivella other

0

 

1

 

1

 

 Clamshell disks

0

 

5

 

5

 

Haliotis rufescens

0

 

2

 

2

 

 Glass (all types)

3

 

42

 

45

 

Additional diagnostic artifacts are enumerated in text. Allen et al. (2010) did not report (n/r) weights for some artifact classes

Table II

Selected artifacts recovered from barracks area contexts

 

Interior deposits

Pit feature

Living surface

Barracks total

Count

Weight (g)

Count

Weight (g)

Count

Weight (g)

Count

Weight (g)

Pottery

 Glazed earthenware

17

72

25

1,098.2

20

54.6

62

1,224.8

 Wheel-thrown earthenware

10

76

17

226.5

15

46.4

42

348.9

 Hand-built local earthenware

5

12.7

69

1,387.2

254

2,919.9

328

4,319.8

 Majolica

0

0

4

38.3

9

22.03

13

60.33

 Bruñida de Tonalá

0

0

14

22.5

12

13

26

35.5

 Porcelain

0

0

0

0

5

3.1

5

3.1

 Whitewares

5

6.3

8

37.0

91

222.3

104

265.6

Lithics

 Obsidian

4

0.41

15

2.93

16

8.38

35

11.72

 Chert and CCS

2

1.05

12

5.11

12

3.59

26

9.75

 Flaked glass

16

8.1

10

14.9

5

25.51

31

48.51

Metal

 Non-diagnostic ferrous

56

79.9

79

389.7

n/r

n/r

(135)

(469.6)

 Non-diagnostic cuprous

2

0.2

4

5.7

n/r

n/r

(6)

(5.9)

Glass

 Non-diagnostic

32

46.5

70

46.8

n/r

n/r

(102)

(93.3)

Beadsa

Olivella Class H

12

 

1,047

 

24

 

1,083

 

Olivella other

0

 

24

 

2

 

26

 

 Clamshell disks

4

 

812

 

10

 

826

 

Haliotis rufescens

7

 

2

 

3

 

12

 

 Glass (all types)

17

 

30

 

69

 

116

 

Additional diagnostic artifacts are enumerated in text. Non-diagnostic metal and glass were not recorded (n/r) for the living surface due to mixing; incomplete weight and count totals are given in parentheses

aIncludes bead fragments

Status

Adobe structures took considerable labor to build, and there were simply never enough adobe apartments to house all of the native individuals at a particular mission. Many researchers accordingly suggest that adobe structures in California’s neophyte rancherías were reserved for high status individuals or families (Allen 1998; Allen et al. 2010; Farris 1991; Lightfoot 2005; Skowronek 1998, p. 689–690), an interpretation buttressed by contemporary accounts such as the quote from Beechey, above. Status within the mission community likely involved multiple factors, including membership in the mission hierarchy (the “officers of the establishment” mentioned by Beechey), occupation within the mission labor regime, and duration of tenure in the mission community. While research at other missions suggests that some individuals successfully maintained high status positions they enjoyed in their home villages, missionaries generally attempted to circumvent traditional hierarchies (Lightfoot 2005, p.72–73). In the questionnaires of 1813–15, the padres at Santa Clara explicitly stated that, “the Indian captains who have become Christians are on the same footing as the rest,” although they also suggest that despite their attempts to maintain equality, some people differentiated themselves through their own labor or ability to “make better bargains” (Geiger and Meighan 1976, p. 123, 127).

We examine the issue of status primarily through access to imported or introduced goods. Here we employ the term “imported” to refer to objects produced outside of the California colonies, and we use the term “introduced” to refer to classes of materials or objects that were not used by Native Californians prior to Euroamerican colonization. In using these terms, we recognize the importance of distinguishing between an object’s origin and how it was actually used or what it meant to its user (Robinson 2013; Silliman 2009). Yet within the mission system, in which a kind of forced communal labor system prevailed and neophyte access to colonial goods was restricted (Allen 1998; Lightfoot 2005), we believe that access to imported and/or introduced goods likely represented some level of status differentiation.

The occupational contexts associated with the native-style dwelling contained few imported or introduced artifacts. Three small fragments of locally made earthenware were recovered from the hearth, and the living surface outside of the dwelling contained additional fragments of majolica, lead-glazed earthenware, wheel-thrown earthenware, and hand-built (non-wheel) earthenware. While majolica and some lead-glazed earthenware vessels were imported from Mexico, various earthenwares were produced at Mission Santa Clara, including lead-glazed, wheel-thrown, and hand-built vessels (Peelo 2009; Skowronek et al. 2009). The post-abandonment fill also contained a variety of ceramics, including a relatively large quantity of wheel-thrown earthenwares. The fill additionally yielded mano fragments made of imported vesicular basalt and one piece of flaked glass with a worked edge. No diagnostic metal artifacts dating to the mission period were recovered from the feature.

The total quantity of imported or introduced materials recovered from the interior deposits of the barracks site was also generally low, but our excavations in 2012 did yield certain materials not found in direct association with the native-style dwelling. In particular, several diagnostic metal objects were recovered from the pit feature at the barracks site. These included an iron spur rowel, a brass finger ring, and a small cuprous metal pin, in addition to relatively large quantities of non-diagnostic metal. Imported ceramics included small amounts of majolica and Bruñida de Tonolá; various whitewares were also recovered from contexts associated with the barracks, although some of these are presumed to be intrusive. Compared to the living surfaces associated with the native-style dwelling, the barracks site contained larger raw quantities of lead-glazed, wheel-thrown, and hand-built earthenwares. In particular, the pit feature yielded several large pieces of lead-glazed earthenware that are all from the same globular vessel. A large vesicular basalt metate fragment was found in the adobe melt associated with the barracks, and an additional metate foot was recovered from the pit feature.

Based on this comparison, it appears that the barracks residents may have enjoyed some level of preferential access to colonial goods. In addition to the metal objects recovered from the pit feature associated with the barracks site, the two dwellings appear to diverge somewhat with regard to ceramic use. Recent studies focused on ceramics at Spanish colonial sites demonstrate that status is better reflected by how ceramics facilitated different cultural foodways (e.g., through vessel form and context of use) rather than by simply comparing the quantities of ceramic types in particular deposits (Pavao-Zuckerman and Loren 2012; Voss 2012). While the small size of our sample limits the ability to test these further distinctions, the large quantities of locally-made earthenware at the barracks site suggest regular domestic use. The indigenous groups of coastal California did not have precontact pottery traditions (although some Yokuts individuals who joined the mission likely had knowledge of ceramic production) and even locally made earthenware may therefore indicate differential access to knowledge, material, or workshops. As discussed in the following sections, the relatively large quantities of obsidian and shell beads at the barracks site, compared with the native-style dwelling, may also reflect some status differentiation among the mission’s native population.

Beyond noting differences in the use of particular goods between the two dwellings, we must also question why status would differ among residents of the mission ranchería. The occupants of the barracks complex likely had a longer tenure within the mission community, offering them opportunities to advance through the official colonial hierarchy or attain some degree of status through their work within the mission labor system. Shoup and Milliken (1999, p. 80) point out that experienced neophytes likely enjoyed high status positions, particularly during periods when large numbers of new converts joined the mission community. These opportunities may be reflected in the relative abundance of metal and ceramic objects recovered from the barracks site. It is also possible that the barracks occupants, far from being model colonial subjects, managed to retain or achieve a position of power within the sometimes clandestine social hierarchy of the mission’s native population (see Lightfoot 2005, p. 69–73, for an overview). In either case, the occupants of the native-style dwelling were presumably recent arrivals to the mission and may not have fully established themselves within the social word of the ranchería or the broader mission community.

Ethnicity

Given the pluralistic social setting of Mission Santa Clara, and indeed all of the California missions, our second area of comparison assesses the possibility of identifying the ethnolinguistic affiliation of the two dwellings’ inhabitants. The ability, or inability, to do so may speak to broader questions about how precontact social identities were rearticulated in the mission. Whereas precontact Native Californian identity likely involved ties to lineage groups as well as particular village communities, once indigenous people joined the missions they were often treated collectively as Indios or as inhabitants of a particular mission (Peelo 2010). At Mission Santa Clara, for example, neophytes were commonly termed Clareños. Nevertheless, individuals and families from different village communities, or those speaking different languages, may have maintained distinct residential, technological, and spiritual practices within the mission community. Or, conversely, we may be able to see evidence of the coalescence of indigenous identity around the shared experiences of living at particular missions, as demonstrated at other missions in the California colonies (Lightfoot 2005; Panich 2010a; Peelo 2011).

While the use of artifact types as “ethnic markers” is fraught, especially in dynamic colonial settings (Loren 2008), one possible source of information is to compare materials found at the mission ranchería with their precontact distribution across the broader social landscape of indigenous central California. Here, the expectation is that mission neophytes likely maintained certain practices—such as lithic technology or exchange relationships with groups still living in their ancestral homelands—that reflect routinized and culturally mediated aspects of daily life common to particular ethnolinguistic groups (Lightfoot et al. 1998). Of the materials recovered from the ranchería, we focus on the potential for shell beads and stone tools to yield relevant information.

Shell beads were traded widely in precontact and colonial California, and in the case of Santa Clara, certain bead types may reflect continued engagement in enduring indigenous networks. Clamshell disk beads, for example, are part of a precontact tradition that expanded from the region north of San Francisco Bay into the Central Valley prior to the arrival of the Spanish (Rosenthal 2011). Given that clamshell beads are not found in large quantities at precontact sites in the area surrounding Mission Santa Clara, Allen et al. (2010, p. 93), suggest that the presence of clamshell disk beads is likely associated with the arrival of Yokuts-speaking groups to the mission beginning in 1811. In late precontact times, Ohlone speaking groups instead used disk beads made from Olivella shells (primarily Olivella biplicata). Most Olivella beads found in mission contexts in California exhibit small perforations created with metal tools, and are termed Class H beads. Types H1a, H1b, and H2 are distinguished by the level of edge grinding, and are considered to be chronologically sequential with H1a representing the early mission period. Despite their use as markers for historic-era sites, these beads are part of a long-standing bead tradition on the central and southern California coasts, and many Class H Olivella beads were likely manufactured in the Santa Barbara Channel region (Eerkens et al. 2005; Rosenthal 2011). Mission-period contexts at Santa Clara have also yielded beads made from the epidermis of red abalone (Haliotis rufescens), a bead type that is also closely associated with the Santa Barbara Channel region and may have been conveyed northward along with the Olivella beads.

If we hesitantly accept shell beads as indicators of participation in social networks associated with broadly distributed ethnolinguistic identities (Ohlone vs. Yokuts), what can we infer about the occupants of our two structures? The interior of the native-style dwelling contained no shell beads, but one Olivella H1b bead was recovered from the outside living surface. The post abandonment fill yielded five clamshell disk beads, both stone tip and needle drilled, as well as other Olivella and abalone beads (Allen et al. 2010). The shell bead assemblage from the interior deposits of the barracks largely conforms to the expectations of Allen et al. (2010): beads from the lowest stratigraphic levels are all either abalone or Olivella H1a and H1b disks. In the upper levels of the same room, we recovered four clamshell disks in addition to two Olivella H1b beads and an H2 chipped disk. Interestingly, the shell bead assemblage from the exterior pit feature associated with the barracks structure, dated to the 1810s or later, is almost completely mixed, with approximately 1,050 Olivella beads and 800 clamshell disk beads and bead fragments. These patterns may suggest that the ties between some neophytes and their ancestral homelands and pre-mission identities changed over time.

Stone tools and associated artifacts may offer additional information about ethnolinguistic affiliation. The only projectile point found within a secure context related to the use of either residence was a reworked chert Desert Side-Notched projectile point associated with the native-style dwelling. Ohlone and Yokuts groups commonly employed this point type in late precontact and colonial times, although the raw material —Franciscan chert—may suggest a local source for this particular artifact (Allen et al. 2010, pp. 93–94). A chert Cottonwood Triangular projectile point was recovered from the post-abandonment fill of the native-style dwelling, and Allen et al. (2010, pp. 93–94) suggest that this point style is indicative of a Yokuts, rather than Ohlone, stone tool tradition. Its placement in the post-abandonment fill complicates its association with the dwelling itself, but may be related to the use of the specific area by people of Yokuts heritage. The only projectile point associated with the adobe barracks was a fragment of an obsidian contracting-stem point—a much earlier technological tradition—that may represent the re-working of precontact artifacts by mission neophytes.

Obsidian artifacts may also reflect technological choices and social relationships particular to certain indigenous groups. No geological sources of obsidian are located within the homelands of any of the various groups known to have joined Mission Santa Clara, but mission neophytes would have either brought obsidian tools and toolstone with them to the mission and/or retained ties to existing exchange networks as continuing sources of raw material. In one early study of obsidian artifacts from the late precontact period (Ericson 1981), obsidian artifacts from sites in Ohlone territory were predominantly from the Napa Glass Mountain source, with smaller amounts of artifacts from the Annadel source (also in Napa County) as well obsidian from the eastern Sierra Nevada, notably the sources in the Casa Diablo group. In the same study, Yokuts groups from the northern San Joaquin Valley, however, used Casa Diablo obsidian almost exclusively. Of the 14 obsidian artifacts from the barracks site large enough for x-ray fluorescence analysis using a Bruker Tracer III-SD portable x-ray fluorescence spectrometer, 11 were from the Napa Glass Mountain obsidian source. One artifact each was from the following sources: Casa Diablo, Bodie Hills, and Borax Lake. This pattern is in general agreement with the overall distribution of obsidian in precontact sites in Ohlone territory (e.g., Jack 1976, p. 201). No obsidian artifacts were directly associated with the native-style dwelling.

Given the complexities of employing artifacts as ethnic markers, an alternative method of viewing ethnolinguistic identity at Mission Santa Clara is simply to examine the broad chronological and demographic patterns of the mission’s population. Because the barracks was constructed in the early 1790s, a time of recruitment of local Ohlone groups, its original inhabitants were probably Ohlone speakers, although subsequent occupants may very well have had different backgrounds. Allen et al. (2010, p. 94) suggest that the native-style dwelling was likely home to San Joaquin Valley Yokuts, given the post-1800 date range of associated artifacts. The onset of major Yokuts conversions, however, was not until 1811 (Milliken 2002), so the post-1800 date for the native-style dwelling does not definitively link it to any particular era of recruitment to the mission.

Taken together, neither artifact classes with particular precontact distributions nor chronologically known demographic changes provide a firm resolution to questions regarding the ethnic identities of the dwellings’ occupants. Archeological analyses from similar domestic contexts at nearby Mission Santa Cruz also failed to distinguish between material culture patterns associated with Ohlone or Yokuts groups (Allen 1998, p. 41). At the very least, however, it does appear that Ohlone practices, in the form of shell bead and obsidian use, were well represented at the barracks site, at least initially. Clamshell beads are common in later deposits including the extramural pit at the barracks site as well as in the post-abandonment pit features at the native-style dwelling. This may indicate the presence of Central Valley groups, or perhaps that access to particular goods was no longer tied to pre-mission identities. While it will prove difficult to link the occupants of any given dwelling to particular indigenous village communities, we suspect that a larger sample of materials from across the native neighborhood will reveal variations in the patterned residues of daily life such as the organization of space, refuse deposition, and technological practice (Lightfoot et al. 1998; Peelo 2011) that will further illuminate the nature of ethnolinguistic affiliation within the mission community.

Tradition

Archaeological evidence has shown neophyte villages to be hotbeds of indigenous traditions throughout the California mission system (Arkush 2011; Lightfoot 2005, p. 98–99), and Santa Clara was no exception. Recent research has expanded our understanding of both continuity and change in California mission settings, with a particular emphasis on how precontact practices were rearticulated in the colonial period (Peelo 2010; Robinson 2013). This work is part of a broader reformulation of archaeological approaches to colonialism that examines change as culturally mediated and internally driven (Ferris 2009; Jordan 2008; Silliman 2009). While evidence for “changing continuities” (Ferris 2009) takes many forms, we focus on architecture, stone tools, shell beads, as well as non-dietary faunal and botanical remains. These categories are structured by the archaeological materials available to us, but nonetheless illuminate different aspects of indigenous life in the mission ranchería.

Materials from the native-style dwelling suggest the continuation of several pre-contact traditions, most notably of architectural form. Indeed, the native-style dwelling presents an unprecedented look at Native Californians living in a structure of their own design within a mission community. Allen (2010) and Allen et al. (2010) illuminate the strong parallels between the structure discovered at Santa Clara and other dwellings excavated at precontact sites throughout the region. As discussed above, stone tool technology, in the form of a chert Desert Side-Notched projectile point, is represented in contexts associated with the dwelling. The post-abandonment deposits contained additional evidence of chert use, including a second projectile point, a core tool, and several flakes. Interestingly, the remnants of the native-style dwelling contained no obsidian. As discussed in the previous section, the only shell bead directly associated with the occupation of the native-style dwelling was a single Olivella H1b bead. Ethnobotanical analysis of a soil sample from the native-style dwelling yielded three uncharred native tobacco (Nicotiana spp.) seeds, among other wild and domesticated species (Allen et al. 2010).

Although the missionaries designed and oversaw the construction of the adobe barracks, this area of the ranchería also offers evidence of how pre-contact traditions were maintained and reinterpreted. The obsidian artifacts, for example, indicate continued participation in both lithic technological practices and also relatively far-flung trade networks (see Arkush 1993). In contrast to the native-style dwelling, obsidian appears to have been used as commonly as more local alternatives such as chert and various cryptocrystalline silicates (CCS). The barracks deposits also yielded similar quantities of flaked bottle glass, as well as a flaked porcelain chopper or scraper found in a disturbed stratum within the structure.

One of the most striking findings is the large number of shell beads recovered from the barracks and associated contexts. Several abalone, Olivella, and clamshell disk beads were recovered from the barracks interior, and an additional 1900 Olivella and clamshell beads and bead fragments were found in the extramural pit feature (see Table II). Two apparent abalone shell pendant blanks were also present in the pit feature. As with other similarly rich deposits from Santa Clara (Allen et al. 2010; Hylkema 1995; Skowronek and Wizorek 1997), nearly all of the Olivella beads from the barracks were perforated with metal implements, representing a colonial-era innovation within a dynamic coastal California tradition. Glass beads were recovered from both structures, and although the analysis of these beads is ongoing, the incorporation of glass beads and novel shell bead types into various indigenous practices is an important area of current research. We suspect that the social role of shell and glass beads extended far beyond their economic value, as discussed by Robinson (2013) for the mission period in south-central California.

The barracks site also held non-dietary faunal and botanical materials that speak to important aspects of daily life for mission neophytes. In addition to a bone awl fragment, we recovered two small bird bone tubes and one fragment of a larger tube. These bone tubes may be related to Ohlone or Yokuts curing practices that persisted into the mission period (Geiger and Meighan 1976; Kroeber 1925, p. 472). A talon from a large bird of prey, which based on size is consistent with modern eagle talons, was also recovered from the pit feature near the barracks. Eagles figured prominently in the ceremonial beliefs of many Native Californians; among various Yokuts groups, for example, the eagle was a totem animal and the flesh of eagles was not eaten (Gayton 1948). The preliminary botanical analysis of five flotation samples from the pit feature, moreover, yielded an estimated total of approximately 2,500 charred and uncharred tobacco seeds (Rob Cuthrell, pers. comm.). The density of tobacco seeds, shell beads, and other artifacts within the pit feature may point toward a ceremonial use, such as the ritual destruction of the property of deceased individuals (see Skowronek 1998, p.685).

This comparison has focused on but a few aspects of material culture, but some interesting patterns can be noted. One is that various indigenous traditions continued into the mission period, albeit in somewhat modified forms. Both areas demonstrate that neophytes continued to engage in lithic technologies, with an interesting divergence between chert use at the native-style house and a combination of obsidian, chert, glass, and even ceramic material being used at the nearby barracks. Large quantities of shell beads were also recovered, but again, these do not neatly map onto precontact practices. The metal needle-drilled Olivella Class H beads, which were likely manufactured along the Santa Barbara Channel, appear to have been used alongside mixed lots of both stone-drilled and needle-drilled clamshell disk beads most commonly associated with regions well to the north and east of the mission. While the data are preliminary, the presence of tobacco seeds at both dwellings additionally speaks to the widespread use of the plant within the native neighborhood.

Both the native-style dwelling and the adobe barracks strongly support the idea that mission neophytes actively maintained and rearticulated certain precontact practices within the restrictive social setting of the mission. The abundance of artifacts related to dynamic native traditions belies descriptions of Mission Santa Clara neophytes as psychologically defeated by colonialism. As described by Spanish missionaries, the “dominant virtues” of the neophytes at Santa Clara were, “docility, respect and obedience toward the Spaniards or the gente de razón, and particularly towards missionary fathers” (Geiger and Meighan 1976, p. 45; and see Milliken 1995; Shoup and Milliken 1999). Their continuation of precontact practices and ideologies—even as they were modified in the mission setting—paints a picture of persistent, if quiet and relatively inconspicuous, negotiation of colonization across different sectors of the mission population. Even in areas where change is evident, such as the incorporation of new materials for stone tools or the adoption of glass beads and new shell bead types, the evidence from the Santa Clara ranchería reflects active reinterpretation rather than a complete break with the past.

Limitations

The native-style dwelling and adobe barracks from Mission Santa Clara’s native ranchería offer the opportunity to compare the experiences of native families living in two very different dwellings within the same neighborhood. However, issues in comparison arise when one considers the chronology of both sites. The native-style dwelling would have been occupied for a relatively short period, possibly no longer than a year, and then burned. The short duration of its occupation is likely reflected in the paucity of artifacts recovered from the feature. The adobe barracks, in contrast, was home to native occupants for at least 50 years, from the early 1790s into the 1840s, when the building was granted to a former colonial soldier. Any number of indigenous families could have lived in the barracks during the mission and immediate post-secularization periods. While some chronological patterning was evident (e.g., the shell bead assemblages from the interior contexts), the lack of clear stratigraphic boundaries may mask shifts in the building’s occupational history.

Sample size is also a significant issue in our comparison. The native-style dwelling represents but one household that was likely occupied for a short period of time. The barracks on the other hand has a longer occupational history, but our investigation only tested two rooms and a small portion of the exterior space. Further issues of sampling arise due to choices about which classes of artifacts and ecofacts to highlight, given ongoing analysis and finite space for discussion. Current and planned construction activities on the SCU campus will no doubt unearth more of the mission landscape (Allen 2010). Future work will offer the opportunity to follow-up on our interpretations and, ideally, to expand our analyses to other facets of identity—for example, gender or age—as well as to seek patterns that may more clearly speak to ethnolinguistic affiliation or differential relationships with communities living outside of colonial control.

Conclusion

The typical scholarly view of life at Spanish mission establishments has often been one of high mortality, stringent labor demands, and strict social controls. As discussed elsewhere, this perception of missionization has important implications both for our understanding of the wider landscape of colonialism (Panich 2010b; Schneider and Panich 2014) as well as for descendant communities who are struggling for public and governmental acknowledgment in the face of the myth of Indian extinction (Panich 2013, and see Leventhal et al. 1994). The available evidence demonstrates that native families at Mission Santa Clara retained a degree of autonomy in the mission ranchería and found different ways of “making do” in the comfort of their own homes (Cipolla et al. 2007). In particular, our findings suggest that the terms Indio, neophyte, or “mission Indian” mask significant variation in the ways that the native population at Santa Clara negotiated social identity and tradition. Indeed, it appears that status, ethnicity, and tradition were experienced differentially. We additionally suspect that chronological variation existed within the neophyte community as newly arrived individuals and families created social bonds with others living at Mission Santa Clara and native social and trade networks were reworked across colonial California.

In linking archaeological evidence to aspects of social identity such as status and ethnicity, we recognize the polyvalent nature of material culture in colonial settings, where various power dynamics produced multiple and coexisting discourses. At Mission Santa Clara, identities were shifting sites of self produced by colonization, indigenous power structures, and the new world people were actively creating. Status, as reflected in preferential access to imported and introduced goods, appears to be one plane of cleavage within the neophyte community. The adobe barracks revealed whole classes of artifacts (metal and obsidian objects) that were largely absent at the native-style dwelling, as well as much larger quantities and a broader variety of materials such as shell beads, glass, and various ceramics. These patterns seem to confirm earlier interpretations that posit adobe barracks were home to higher status individuals within the mission estate. It is interesting, however, that there seems to be little evidence for parsing ethnolinguistic affiliation within the ranchería community. Given the small sample size and admittedly blunt instruments for assessing this facet of identity, this is an area ripe for future research. For the time being we suggest that ethnicity was likely a fluid and dynamic form of identity within the mission community, and thus may be more difficult to capture through material culture.

Despite the apparent status differences, there is strong evidence for the continuation and reinterpretation of indigenous practices throughout the native ranchería at Mission Santa Clara de Asís. Both structures revealed large quantities of artifacts more commonly associated with autonomous indigenous villages and other outlying sites than with the restrictive world of the Franciscan mission system. To be sure, earlier archaeological studies have amply demonstrated the presence of shell beads, stone tools, and wild flora and fauna within native residential areas at mission sites (Allen 1998; Farris 1991; Hoover and Costello 1985; Lightfoot 2005), and the missionaries themselves often noted their challenges in rooting out the practices associated with such materials (Geiger and Meighan 1976). We are struck, however, by how varied the material worlds of the mission ranchería really were. The occupants of the native-style dwelling and the adobe barracks were neighbors, yet they appear to have had differential access to certain goods and materials and to have engaged in different technological traditions. The materials from the barracks site, in particular, suggest that relative status within the mission estate did not necessarily entail “acculturation” to Euroamerican lifeways. Instead, the mission system may have enabled high status families and individuals to access and accumulate materials prized in many Native Californian societies such as shell beads, obsidian, and tobacco.

The varied ways in which indigenous traditions were reinterpreted in the ranchería are particularly interesting given the growing scholarly consensus regarding the gradual coalescence of new forms of native identity centered on the shared experience of living at particular mission sites (Lightfoot 2005; Lightfoot et al. 2013; Panich 2010a; Peelo 2010, 2011). We suspect the general contours of this interpretation apply to the indigenous population at Mission Santa Clara, and the archaeological evidence presented here provides a window into how this process unfolded. While new converts likely still felt strong connections with their home villages, and perhaps some affinity with speakers of similar languages, these social boundaries broke down over time. We infer that the occupants of the barracks were among the most established neophytes in residence at the mission, whereas the family living in the native-style dwelling was probably composed of relative newcomers to the mission community. These patterns are direct evidence of the process of coalescence manifested in the differences between dwelling types, the internal chronological sequence of particular dwellings, and perhaps the location of particular dwellings within the ranchería.

The comparison of the two dwellings within the Native American neighborhood at Mission Santa Clara demonstrates that the indigenous people who lived and worked at mission sites were more than just Indios or neophytes. These families, individuals, and communities negotiated colonialism in varied ways. Identity was crosscut by status within and outside of the mission hierarchy, affiliation with natal lineages and village communities, as well as by gender, age, and occupation. The traditions that native peoples brought with them to the mission were likewise reinterpreted in diverse ways, including the continuation of certain social and technological practices inside the social space of the mission, and the incorporation of new materials—from sources within and beyond the mission walls—into existing traditions. While the general trend in Spanish California was that native identities coalesced around particular mission establishments, the evidence from Santa Clara suggests that this process was not seamless nor was it likely ever complete. Individuals and families negotiated colonialism in a situational manner, structured by the material and social constraints of life under missionization, but ultimately through their own interested action.

Notes

Acknowledgments

We appreciate the effort of all of the students who contributed to this project: the field school participants, lab assistants, and students in SCU archaeology courses. Thanks to Linda Hylkema, Lisa Kealhofer, Amy Shachter, and Rafael Ulate for supporting student involvement in campus archaeology.

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Lee M. Panich
    • 1
  • Helga Afaghani
    • 1
  • Nicole Mathwich
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of AnthropologySanta Clara UniversitySanta ClaraUSA
  2. 2.School of AnthropologyUniversity of ArizonaTucsonUSA

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