Excerpt from the Repuesta to the Interragatorio from the Spanish Government–San Diego Mission

San Diego Mission by Zephyrin Englehardt, The James H Barry Company, 1920, San Francisco California, copyright 2012 Forgotten Books

Repuesta or response to the 1812 Spanish government interrogatorio:

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To this mission come every year from paganism those who desire to be Christians, and a large proportion are old people. It is difficult for them to learn to speak the Castilian tongue. The most suitable method to induce them to speak is the one we follow, that is, to exhort and admonish them and to threaten punishment; to the young people punishment is sometimes applied. The causes which have hindered them in using the Castilian language we do not know.

The virtues of compassion, charity, and generosity are noticed, especially in the women.

They are very fond of participating in the feast of the bird called gavilan (hawk) which consists of searching with much anxiety for that bird. They invite one another to hunt for it. This is owing to the fact that there are at this mission certain neophytes are very smart, though very poor at the work of collecting the seeds. Hence, when they want food, they take up the plan of searching for that bird. They deceive the more simpleminded and tell them that the bird is a real person who can liberate them from their enemies and who grants them whatever they ask. Under this supposition, though false, the simpletons believe with such obstinacy, that they take as much care of the bird as the most affectionate mother would show for her child. For as soon as they have caught the bird, they treat it to whatever they hunt or chase, and of the seeds gathered they always give it the best. After they have raised it, they kill it; then they burn it and while it’s consuming on the pyre, they offer it the collected seeds, beads, and whatever they prize. In the following year, they search for another hawk and treat it in the same manner. The method used to break them of this foolishness is to appoint a few good Indians to watch over this particular affair; and all who are caught practicing it are severely punished in public.

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They have no other curative methods than those which the missionaries or some other white person may apply to the Indians. For, although this country is favored with many medicinal herbs, the Indians do not use them, nor have they used them at any time. There are certain shrewd neophytes who call themselves guisiyag which means wizard. The method they employ in curing diseases is that as soon as an Indian is found to be sick, the relatives approach or summon the gusiyag. This fellow comes with a stone or stick or some hair concealed in his mouth, which he applies to the suffering part. He commences to extract or suck from the said part and on withdrawing shows what he had concealed in his mouth and persuades the patient that this was that ailed him. At this they are all quiet and content, since it appears to them that the patient is already freed from his malady. From this it may be inferred that their greatest infirmity and ailment is melancholy and apprehension. However, the most widespread malady is the morbo venereo. For the last four years, in this part of the territory, guests have exceeded baptisms. In the last year of 1814, the deaths were 118, while the baptisms were only 75. In this number are included the gentile adults who have been baptized.

The seasons of the year are known by the leaves on the trees, by the plants in the fields, and by the harvest of the various grains. The Indians have not and never had a calendar. They are guided merely by the sun and the moon.

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