Friday, January 01, 2010

California Indians Critique Lesson Plans on California Missions

A colleague, Deborah Miranda, publishes a blog called When Turtles Fly. A few days ago, she wrote about the California Missions and how they're taught. I'm copying her first four paragraphs below as a sample of what you'll find if you click on over to "4th Grade California Mission Projects: A Thought Experiment for Parents, Educators, and Students."

Deborah's site has links to books you should read if you're interested in developing a critical understanding of American Indians in California. One example is Rupert Costo and Jeannette Henry Costo's 1984 The Missions of California, A Legacy of Genocide. The information accompanying the book reads:
For two hundred years the native people of California have borne the stigma of "Mission Indians." The names of their nations and tribes are Hupa, Kumeyaay, Chuilla, Pauma, Malki, Cupa and Pamo to name a few.
Do you refer to the indigenous peoples of California as "Mission Indians" or do you use specific names? Deborah's site has much to offer. Do add When Turtles Fly to your reading this year.  


In California schools, students come up against the "Mission Unit" in fourth grade, although the same children have been breathing in the lies most of their lives. Part of California’s history curriculum, the unit is entrenched in the system, and impossible to avoid.

Because this assignment is typically started over Winter Vacation, I’m posting this note for parents and children who are starting their research now. Please be aware that I have other blog posts about the missions as well; please take a look at them too.

The Mission Unit is a powerfully authoritative indoctrination in Mission Mythology against which fourth graders have little if any resistance, and intense pressure is put upon students (and their parents) to create a "Mission Project" that glorifies the era and glosses over both Spanish and Mexican exploitation of Indians, as well as American enslavement of those same Indians during American rule.

In other words, the Mission Unit is all too often a lesson in imperialism, racism, and Manifest Destiny than actually educational or a jumping off point for critical thinking or accurate history.

1 comment:

Phil K said...

Important discussion here. Teachers may find it useful to get as close to historical sources as possible in relationship to the wider topic of the introduction of European culture in the Far West of North America.


No excuses here, just a range of historical and geographic sources that may be helpful.