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Indian Slave Trade

The Mohave Continued

The Mohave continued to frequent their old trading haunts along the coast even though the Spanish discouraged the commerce. This conflict often led to clashes between the Mohave and the Spanish. One of these occurred in Mission San Buenaventura in 1819 and ended in bloodshed and temporary slavery for a few Mohave. About twenty Mohave Indians crossed the Mojave Indian Trail and appeared at Mission San Buenaventura on May 29, 1819. Unfortunately, the mission guards would not permit them to converse with the Christian Indians or even visit the missionary. In fact, the Mohave were kept in the guard house until ready to depart the next day. Evidently Father Senan told the corporal they had done no wrong, but either it was too late or the guard still would not release the Mohave. The next morning one tried to leave and a sentinel struck him. Corporal Rufino Leiva and Mariano Cota came out of the church and tried to put the Indian in stocks; whereupon the other Mohave rushed to the rescue and killed the soldiers with clubs. Other soldiers and almost ten neophytes were killed. Sergeant Anastasio Carrillo and fourteen soldiers from Santa Barbara Presidio arrived and pursued the ten Mohave who had fled. They caught four of them and these captives were later forced to work on the Santa Barbara Presidio but eventually escaped. Reinforcements were sent to San Gabriel as the Mission was in the direct route from the Mojave River trail. (10)

Fray Luis Antonio Martinez of San Luis Obispo wrote to Governor Pablo Vicente Sola on September 17, 1819, that soldiers should be sent out on expeditions, especially before there was a union between the Christian Indians and the Colorado River Indians "who knew how to ride better than I". He went on, "they should be made to feel the arm of the Government." (11)

Sola responded with alacrity. He ordered smiths at each presidio to put weapons in condition, other personnel were to prepare dried meat and pinole, and officials were to issue clothing to the soldiers. Three expeditions to the interior were planned and carried out. Lieutenant Gabriel Moraga left Santa Barbara in November 1819 with 354 cavalrymen, infantrymen, and artillerymen. He was to go to the Colorado River to ascertain if the Mohave were committing the atrocities reported at San Gabriel. If so, he was to capture the guilty and teach them a lesson they would not forget.

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