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Indian Slave Trade

These Dauntless Trappers

These dauntless trappers not only recorded evidence of slave activity but also conquered the desert routes for others to follow. On the heels of these beaver men came Antonio Armijo who led the first New Mexican caravan over the {mis-named spelling} Old Spanish Trail in 1829-30. The dream of Father Garces' overland route between New Mexico and California was realized. As he predicted, the road was expected to bring prosperous trade and pacification of the recalcitrant Indians. However, the success of conquering the route across the Mohave Desert and the bright promise of the trade that the Mojave Indian Trail offered New Mexico and California were both soon tarnished by the malevolent proclivities of man. These tendencies were manifested in three ways: traders in Indian slaves used the route to carry contraband to and from California; New Mexicans, Utes, and Chaguanosos (thieves of many nations) used this route for their clandestine avenue of approach and escape for their horse-thieving raids; and several California Indians continued to use the area as a haven after raiding Mexican ranchos and missions.

The slave trading in California was the least publicized of these three surreptitious endeavors. Buying and selling of slaves had been practiced in New Mexico in sundry forms since the end of the seventeenth century. (18) Even though Mexico made slavery illegal in 1829, it was being practiced in more subtle fashion: indentured servants, domestics, and the like. With a close examination of the numerous documents left for posterity, one can find evidence that slave trading activity still persisted and that some of it involved Southern California.

Brown and Boyd (19) recorded the treatment meted out to the Cucamonga Indians during the rancho period which followed the decline of the missions. Don Tiburcio Tapia in 1839 was granted the Cucamonga Rancho by Governor _____Alvarado. As was the custom of the times, Tapia believed that the Indian inhabitants of the land he received also belonged to him. He therefore forced these quiet, industrious natives to build his buildings, plant his vines and orchards, and care for his livestock. As the stock increased and the vines and orchards were ready to bear fruit, Tapia brought in a number of Mexicans to do the work, and the Indians were forced to take refuge in the mountains and canyons. Don Tiburcio even employed guards to keep the nearly starving Indians from taking any of the fruits of their labors. He eventually sent his ranchmen out in force to hunt down and destroy the Indians as if they were just predatory animals.

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