Opinion

Opinion: Salinan tribes in California facing obstacles to unity





"We often hear comments from people reflecting a wish that all Salinans work together to achieve common goals for the greater good of all of our people. Many of us wish for the same thing. There are several elements in our history that influence this possibility.

First of all, as far as we know from the time before the mission era, we did not have a single political entity that governed the whole. What we likely had was a confederation of sovereign villages and districts who governed themselves independently. As needed, representatives from the villages and districts would gather, confer and resolve issues that involved the common welfare of all. For example, annually, all of our people came together in certain places as an extended community. These annual events provided opportunities to visit, gossip, engage in shared ceremonies and find marriage partners. They were also occasions to resolve problems that crossed village or district lines. So, while the modern idea of a single, overarching political entity such as a “nation” is foreign to us, there is an ancient cultural precedent for our people coming together as a whole community in a good way to work things out.

This traditional social/political structure was shattered by genocide during the Spanish mission era. A conservative estimate suggests that approximately 4,000 Salinans died in Missions San Antonio and San Miguel over the course of sixty-four years; many of them children. Our total population at the time of contact is estimated to have been 3,500 to 4,000. In effect, there was a near complete annihilation of our population over the course of sixty-four years. Given this recent history, it feels miraculous to us that a degree of our knowledge, language and traditional ways of being in the world has nonetheless continued to this day."

Get the Story:
Jose Freeman: Salinan tribal justice (Cal Coast News 11/28)