Mission Indians of California

A name, of no ethnic significance, used to designate the descendants of those Californian tribes evangelized by the Franciscans in the 18th and early 19th centuries. The historic missions were 21 in number and at least 11 linguistic stocks were represented in the Indians. The Californian tribes had practically no tribal organization; the chiefs had little authority. Agriculture was unknown and their arts were of the crudest description. Polygamy and divorce were common. Among the principal ceremonies enacted were the boys' initiation and annual mourning rite. The couvade was practised. Abortion and infanticide were of common occurrence. In spite of the efforts of the missionaries the race declined and with the suppression of the missions they were doomed to extinction. From a population of about 50,000 they have dwindled to little over 3,000. The greater part of them are on the "Mission Indians" reservations in southern California, and Catholic missionaries are at work among them.

New Catholic Dictionary

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