I recently explored the exhibits and historical displays at the Sonoma Mission and Sonoma State Historic Park. Although they were interesting, the displays state that “Indian labor” was used at the Mission, but to fail to explain that this was more akin to slavery than employment.
Near starvation due to white invaders interfering with their traditional hunting and gathering led countless Native people to the Missions where they were “baptized” in a language they didn’t understand. They were not told that this “baptism” committed them to a lifetime of unpaid labor. Soldiers were kept for the purpose of rounding up Indians and returning them the Mission if they later tried to return to their villages.
The historical exhibits refer to the large herds of wild range cattle that had been established around Sonoma during the Mission era. They don’t mention that if starving Native people killed one of these cattle to feed themselves they would be captured and taken to the mission for labor as prisoners. The displays refer to the early 1800s as the “golden age” of the Californios. Not to mention that this was the age of genocide for Native Americans is grossly insensitive. Why are there such extensive historical exhibits about a small number of white settlers, without mentioning that they caused the deaths of tens of thousands of Native Americans?
It is significant that outside the Sonoma Mission there is a memorial to the unmarked graves of hundreds of Native People in in the area. For historical accuracy the exhibits within the Mission and State Historic Park buildings should reflect the true history of all of those who have lived here, not just the colonizers.
— Matt Metzler, Sonoma