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Indian Slave Trade

Changes were Bound to Occur

On the western portions of the Mojave Indian Trail, changes were bound to occur with the advent of the Spanish. Mission San Gabriel, established in 1771 prior to any journey of the whites over the Mojave Indian Trail, had considerable influence over the Indians of the Mojave Desert. The missionaries were credited with gathering in the surrounding natives "by the mouth (food)" and early records indicated that more than food and Christianity brought the Indians into the Mission. Force was also used. Soon after Mission San Gabriel was established, however, discord erupted because a soldier outraged the wife of an Indian chief. The poor Indian objected; and besides losing his mate, he lost his life and then his head, which was impaled on the point of a long lance and placed near the stockade of the Mission as a warning to all Indians. The padre later had the head returned to the natives, and the offending soldier was taken by Commandante Pedro Fages to Monterey so he would be removed from the sight of the Indians whom the padre wished to attract to Mission. (7)

This unhappy incident caused the Indians to remain away from the Mission for a brief period, but the missionaries used every possible kindness and the soldiers probably every kind of brutality to bring them under the mission yoke. Within ten years, Mission San Gabriel could count 1,019 neophytes. Hugh Reid, an early Scottish settler in Mexican California, recorded the severe measures employed by the soldiers in recruiting converts to the Mission. The soldiers were sent on expeditions reaching some distance from the Mission where they would capture whole villages of Indians, whip them, and drive them back to the Mission. (8) The men would be forced to make submission to the priests, and the young children and infants would be baptized. The men were separated from their wives until they requested baptism and had a "true" marriage performed.

Even the Indians who were not brought to the Mission suffered, despite the protestations of the priests. Fray Zephyrin Engelhardt stated that the soldiers would leave the mission on horseback and travel many leagues to various villages where they would drive off the Indian men and lasso the women to satisfy their lust. (9) This too could be considered a type of slavery practiced along a portion of the Mojave Indian Trail - a type of slavery that rivaled or surpassed in scope the prehistoric slavery engaged in by the Mohave.

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