In the book “The War is for the Whole Life” by Richard Hanks the life of mission Indians is explored in a historical context. Hanks examines the lives of Native Americans and the impact that missions and cultural rights played in either helping or harming the population. This book picks out some key events regarding the struggle for equality and related them to both a missionary and a Native American’s perspective.
Chapter 1: Strangers in their own Land
The settlement of California changed Native Americans in many different ways that forever changed one culture’s way of life. The detriment of Native American populations was partially caused by European epidemics, overzealous missionaries, alcohol, cultural confusion and shear greed. Many of the issues faced by the Native American populations can be traced back to the European concepts of materialism. I feel that the need to profit from natural resources and concepts of wealth are under lying factors between most of the issues that led to the destruction of Native American tribes. The opposition between Mexico and the United States often let Native American’s in the crossfire. When Mexico finally won their independence many missions were forced to the new change in power. By converting Natives into Christians they hoped to end the conflict between the two cultures
Chapter 2: The Uprising of 1851
In 1851, war broke out in California. Many Indian tribes in the area began to speak out against American rule (Hanks). Misunderstanding led the Americans to fear the Indians, whom they were certain was gathering forces to attack. Likewise the Indians thought the same about the Americans. IN reality the Indians were living in very poor conditions and had to focus more on survival than war. Eventually the Americans struck by imposing a tax on the land of the Native Americans, unable to pay they were forced off their land in great numbers.
.Chapter 3: Olegario’s Insurrection of 1871
Insurrection Act of 1807 was made to allow for the federal government to create a militia group to aid in the protection of justice. In 1871, this act was amended as a result of the Civil Rights Act of 1871 (Hanks). This was meant to end any rebellion among the settlers of California and prevent vigilante acts against the Native Americans.
Chapter4: A Fight to the Last Extremity the Paiute Wars of the 1860’s
The Pyramid Lake War, more commonly known as the Paiute War was a conflict consisting of three tribes banding together to act against the United States. The tribes in question were the Paiutes, the Shoshone, and the Bannocks (Hanks). The battle took the lives of numerous Americans, and was followed by more violent attacks. Cold weather and lack of supplies was eventually the undoing of the Native Americans involved in the conflict.
Chapter 5: Brothers of the Same Spring: The Battle for Leadership of Potrero
Missions were soon popping up everywhere in California in hopes of finding a compromise. Father Lasuen was one of the earliest missionaries in the area, setting the tone for those that followed. One such mission was located between three creeks, that they used for their gardens and household needs. This was called Mission Creek (Hanks). However while this seemed like the perfect location, many Spaniard rancheros also wanted to lay claim to the area because of its good ground and constant water supple. Both the mission and the Spaniards wanted to lay claim on the area creating a constant source of drama. Meanwhile the missionaries were rather successful in converting neighboring tribes to the way of Christianity, building a prosperous mission.
Chapter 6: The Vanishing Policy
The vanishing policy refers the genocide faced by many Southern California tribes (Hanks). Again cultural difference played a huge role. Those that fought back against conforming to the way of the missionaries were killed by other parties. Those tribes that chose to join the missionary were expected to change their entire cultural upbringing to conform to Christian standards. Either way it was a loss for Native Americans who were slowly seeing their culture disappear, either by their death or by giving up their way of life to become like the white settlers.
Chapter 7: Human Rights and Home Rule
Even for those that were educated or “redeemed” by missionaries, it was not until 1924 that the Indian Citizenship Act allowed for these individuals to be recognized as American citizens. Earlier in 1909 California tribes banded together to create the Mission Indian Federation (Hanks). This was a huge step in allowing them to receive their citizenship. Their motto was, “human rights and home rule”. Simply put they wanted their rights restored and to be allowed the same freedoms as other Americans, This started a large debate throughout the US government and eventually led to the Mission Indian Federation constitution that outlined the rights of Native Americans in California reservations.
Chapter 8: They called him Buffalo Heart: Birth of the Indian Mission Federation
The Indian Mission Federation was an important step in asserting the rights of America’s Native people. A gentleman by the name of Tibbet, was instrumental in bringing together over 700 Native Americans at his own home to celebrate the accomplishment. Tibbets was considered the first president of the Indian Mission Federation (Hanks). Tibbet was able to get settlers to see that their fears of the Native Americans were unfounded.
More and more tribes began to join soon including tribes from all over the United States, not just California. Each year Tibbet held an event inviting Native American leader to express their concerns and comment on the successes or failures of the federation. As a white man, Tibbets was able to address their concerns among higher forms of government when they alone could not. Tibbets was dubbed “Buffalo Heart” by his Native American peers in honor of his contribution to justice (Hanks).
Even with its successes, many were also very skeptical of the Federation (Hanks). Naturally white American rebelled against the idea of allowing the Natives the same rights and them and many Native Americans balked at the idea of joining the white way of life. The Federation was not without its troubles. Communication between Europeans and Native Americans was often very strained due to cultural misunderstandings. Even methods of communication were vastly different; Europeans relied heavily on the use of the written word while Native Americans held great reverence to the spoken word. This caused disagreement in any attempts at diplomacy. To Americans the written word was law, while Native Americans took all promises and negotiations into account and felt betrayed by the methods of the Americans.
Chapter 9: The Salesman from San Diego: Purl Willis and the Transformation of the Indian Mission Federation
Even though Mr. Tibbet started out the organization as its first president until his death in 1930, he was succeeded by some equally as dedicated individuals. Purl Willis eventually picked up where Tibbet had let off lobbing for Native American rights within the United States government. Many felt that Tibbet and Willis were only out to stir up trouble although in reality they simply wished for a better life for a forgotten culture. Willis helped with the California Indians Claims cases and stepped forward to legally represent the tribes and their members.
Overall, I found the book “The War is for the Whole Life” by Richard Hanks to be a very informative review of the understanding of mission Indians both their trial and tribulations. He explores some of the most instrumental events for Native Americans in Californian history. He also presents both the positives and negatives associated with Native Americans joining forces with missions.
The desire to continue with this new way of life required that Native Americans try to conform to Christian ideals in order to maintain their relationships. Many tribes converted to Christianity and moved towards a more European lifestyle/ housing. It seemed that for trade goods and safety, Native Americans were willing to sell their own cultures and traditions.
This also led Americans to greatly take advantage of these people dealing with a great cultural shift. Some took advantage of credit systems, over priced goods, and even started wars in order to sell supplies. Lies and corruption run rampant and began a deep seated mistrust between the two cultures. Whether for good or evil trade few would argue that missions have had a great impact on the Native American culture.
Hanks, R. The War is for the Whole Life. -: -, 2012. Print.