California

The earliest settlement of California dates back at least 12,000 years. By 9000 b.c.e., evidence suggests that the indigenous peoples began to transition from a nomadic hunting-gathering culture to a more settled tribal culture. Without the introduction of the horse, which so dramatically altered the lifestyle of the Great Plains tribes, California’s various tribes remained more isolated from one another. Warfare was impractical and less common. California’s varied topography also affected culture contact, but ample food supplies, including the acorn, made life reasonably healthy and comfortable. For these reasons, California’s native population grew to equal 13 percent of all indigenous peoples in North America, and, by the eighteenth century, they numbered 300,000 with more than 135 distinct dialects. European exploration of California predates the colonial settlements of the eastern seaboard, including Jamestown. Fueled by the desire to locate a Northwest Passage leading directly to the East Indies and the Far East, as well as legendary cities of gold, European explorers headed west across the Atlantic Ocean, then across Mexico or around Cape Horn. Even the name California was taken from a mythical island believed to be inhabited by Amazons. The greatest exploration was accomplished by Spain. The earliest Spanish settlements grew up around the Caribbean and in Mexico; however, more than 200 years would pass before Spanish colonies would take hold in California. In 1542, Juan Cabrillo, a Portuguese explorer sailing for Spain, headed for Upper, or Alta, California. On September 28, 1543, after 103 days at sea, Cabrillo’s envoy landed in a harbor he named San Miguel (later renamed San Diego). Although Cabrillo died on San Miguel Island, his crew, led by his pilot Bartolom Ferrer, would become the first Europeans to explore California and Oregon’s coastline. In 1565, Lopez de Legazpi mapped a route from the Philippines to Alta California and down to the coast of Mexico. This exploration led to trans-Pacific trade that would continue for 200 years. The English privateer Francis Drake having plundered Spanish ships sailed up the coast of California in 1579. Not wanting to retrace his steps, he sought a route that would take him through to the North Atlantic. He traveled north as far as the Rogue River, then anchored near present-day San Francisco. He claimed the whole territory for England, and, like Spain, did not acknowledge the Native Americans’ right of possession. Other voyages took Spanish explorers up the California and Oregon coast, but none produced more than a cursory description of the shoreline. Sebastiano Vizcaino’s discovery of Monterey Bay, in 1602, was important, but an outpost there would not be established for another 168 years. The Russians did not reach the Pacific coast until 1639. When they returned home with luxurious furs, they were followed to the Northwest by a stampede of Russian hunters and trappers. Finally, in 1768, when King Charles III of Spain heard that Russia planned to settle the Pacific Northwest, he called for Spanish occupation of its claimed lands. To accomplish this, the king sent over both soldiers and missionaries. It was the Crown’s desire not only to settle the land but to convert and conquer the native peoples living there. San Carlos Borromeo in Monterey, dating to 1770, was the second and, according to many, the most beautiful of the original Franciscan missions established in California by Fray Jun­pero Serra. He was buried there in 1784. (Mr. Pat Hathaway photo collection, Monterey, California, #89-033-0503) Don Gaspar de Portol was made the acting military governor of California, and Fray Jun­pero Serra was chosen to build a series of missions. The first mission was dedicated near San Diego on July 16, 1769. Portol and sixty of his men set off for Monterey. The journey took nine difficult months, during which Portol stumbled across another bay far to the north. It was so large that Fray Juan Crespi wrote, doubtless not only all the navies of our Catholic Monarch, but those of all Europe might lie within the harbor. This bay would later become known as San Francisco. Meanwhile, the Kumeyaay around San Diego resisted Serra’s attempts to convert them. When Portol returned, he found illness rampant among Serra’s men; only twenty of the forty had survived. It was only after a fully provisioned ship, the San Antonio, reached them that Portol decided not to abandon the mission. In the end, twenty-one missions would be established by Serra, four of which were located around Monterey. These missions adversely affected native life in California. Conversion was rarely voluntary, and diseases devastated the population. After sixty-five years, more than 50 percent of the Native Americans in the region had been eliminated. The mission system would not be abandoned until 1834. In addition, claims made by Spain, England, and Russia were eventually overturned by American settlement. With the arrival of an American trading vessel, the Otter, in 1796, trade with the East Coast began in earnest, and California took a giant step toward Americanization. Gail L. Jenner See also: Cabrillo, Juan Rodr­guez; Missions; Serra, Fray Jun­pero; Spanish Colonies on Mainland North America (Chronology). Bibliography Gutirrez, Ram³n, and Richard J. Orsi. California Before the Gold Rush. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1998. Kessel, John L. Spain in the Southwest: A Narrative History of Colonial New Mexico, Arizona, Texas, and California. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2002. California Wines -California Wines travelquaz

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