An Official Report and General Thoughts on The Ohlone Way: Indian Life in the San Francisco

30 Septembre 1779
One day, on my daily walk outside the Mission, I came across a rather Curious Text. I found it Amongst the Grass and Wildflowers, lying there as if Abandoned by a Fellow Wayfarer. I picked it up and examined it and what I saw immediately Shocked me, for there, on its Cover, was an Illustration of a Heathen Male completely without a Particle of Clothing. I Wondered what could this Be? And Who would leave such an Obscene Thing so near a PIace of Holy Commune.

My curiosity overcoming me, I perused the Book, for it was a Report of some sort, but because it was written in English, I did not Understand its Text. And yet, all throughout were more Sketchings of the most Vulgar sort these Eyes have ever laid Upon. Some of the Sketches were quite harmless and, even, beautiful: Landscapes, Maps, Animals. But the rest were similar to the Sketch on the Cover. Vulgar, Obscene Sketches of Indian men and women cavorting, half-naked, together. My Mind began to Whirl. Who in God�­s Earth would create such a Sinful Thing?

Fighting an urge to rip it to shreds, I pocketed it and immediately returned to the Mission. I made an Inquiry as to Who might be the Proprietor of this Offensive Tome. I suspected one of the Soldiers from the Presidio, for I can Imagine only One of They could own such a Thing. They have been troublesome of late, a problem of which I have written numerously to the Father President concerning their Drunken, Lacsivious Ways, particularly toward the Indian Women on the Mission.

And Yet, to My Heart’s dismay, it could just as easily have been Abandoned by one of the Indians. Though We have been Successful in Converting them to a Christian Way of Life, Many still Cling their old Heathen ways, and this has been a Source of Consternation to Me. When I Inquired to Whom this Book belonged, they pled Innocence. I was Want out of Christian Charity to believe them, but One can never be certain in Such Matters.

So I Ordered a new Round of Work, the more Strenuous the Better, So that They Might keep their Minds on more Pious Duties, then I returned to My Office and Prayed for Their Souls.

But What to Do with the Offensive Tome? My First Instinct was to throw it into the Fire and return it to the Hell from Whence It came. And Yet, Curiosity Overcame Me. As I had previously Written, the Book seemed to My Eyes to Be a Report of Some Manner. The Report Seemed to Involve the Heathens. Perhaps, I thought, It Would Be of Great Importance to Us to Know What Knowledge lay Between Its Pages. So I Ordered Father Francisco, Who is a Skilled Linguist (He Speaks and Writes in Five Different Languages!), to Translate the Tome to the Spanish, in Hopes that We might be able to Understand this Most Curious and Vulgar Document.

What We have Ascertained thus far I have Documented in this Report:

Apparently, My First Instincts were Correct. This is A Report, and yet, it is Something More, a History Tract and a Book of Premonitions, as Well (Of which I will Speak later). Its Author, this Malcolm Margolin, Being Neither Spanish, Nor, From What I Can Clearly Divine, a Christian, Writes Vividly About the Heathens’ Way of Life Before We Arrived to Save Them. He divides His Report Into Four Sections: The Ohlones (whom he Prefers to Calling the Castanoans), And Their “Land”; Life In A Small Society; The World of The Spirit; and Modern Times. In Each, He Writes Rather Poignantly About Their Hunting and Gathering Practices, Their Social Structure, Such as Their Marital Practices, and, more Shockingly, Their Pagan Beliefs. I say Poignantly, because He seems to Prefer Their Ways over the Civilized European Ways of Agriculture, the Raising of Livestock, and Catholicism. Here are His Words, and See if They do not Speak Well of Heathens and Mock Christian Ideals:

“In many ways marriage customs among the ‘Ohlones’ were more relaxed than they were among the Europeans who first saw them. The ‘Ohlones’ did not demand or even expect virginity at marriage, the marriage ceremony was rather casual, and divorce was easy. Also, wealthy men – especially chiefs – often had more than one wife, and neither woman was badly thought of” (83).

And this:
“Acorns were a crop ideally suited to the Bay Area, and indeed to most of California.
Unlike wheat, corn, barley, or rice, acorns required no tolling of the soil, no digging of
irrigation ditches, nor any other form of farming. Thus, while the preparation of acorn
flour might have been a lengthy and tedious process, the total labor involved was
probably less than for a cereal crop” (44).

This: “[The Ohlones] can provide us with a vision – a vision of how a Stone-Age people…had in fact sustained a life of great beauty and wisdom” (170). And, most Profanely, this:

“The Ohlones lived in a world swarming with power and magic. A man sitting on a
rock might feel it swelling and growing beneath him until it raised him high into the
air. Shamans could turn themselves into grizzly bears or transport themselves over
tremendous distances in the forms of birds. Every object – the sun, a trail, a spring,
even the common pestle – had a life and force of its own” (134).

What Blasphemy!
(Margolin even offers Testimony about the Indians’ Practice of Sexual Abstinence which Greatly Contradicts Our Own Observations of Them in the Mission.)

Yet, the Most Shocking Section of the Book, does not Involve His Observations of the Heathens, but What Occurred after the Missions Arrived to Save Them from Their Pagan Ways. Though he Speaks Well of the Fathers, and powerfully of Our Father President – “But towering above them all was the figure of Father Junipero Serra, founder and first president of the California missions. Serra was a man driven by a passion for saving souls” (158-159) – He also writes Our Ways were not Ã?¬the best attributes for a missionary to bring to the California Indians.” Further, in Speaking of Our Regimen of Work and Prayer for the Indians’ Salvation, he Writes: “As horrible as it was, the cruel, senseless [regimen of prayer and work], of whips and prisons, was only a prelude to the real nightmare of mission life” (163)! And Yet, Margolin writes Rather Condescendingly that We, the Fathers, are not “depraved men” but were “Utopian visionaries.” The Man Damns Us with Faint Praise!

There are other Aspects of This Book Which Greatly Trouble Me. First, Margolin quotes Rather Liberally from the Diaries and Journals of Franciscans, and yet, when I Inquired of Those Whom He Quoted, all Denied ever Working with, much Less Knowing Its Author. But most Troubling are His Premonitions of the Missions and the Indians. He Foretells Great Failure in our Mission to integrate the Indians in Their Rightful Place Among the gente de razon, and even Portends that They will One Day be Wiped Clean from the Face of the Earth. He Sees Only Disease, Decimation, and Hopelessness in Their Future. But Shocking Still, He Writes of the End of the Missions.

He Predicts that One Day Mexico will Win Independence from Spain, and Order the Dissolution of the Missions. The Very Thought, even now as I Dictate These Words, brings a shudder to My Soul!

In my Final Judgment, I have Decided that this Book is the Work of the Devil, and have Ordered it Destroyed, in the Hope that no Living Christian Soul may be Tainted from Its Hellish Visions. I, Unfortunately, have not been Spared. Its Visions Trouble Me and give Me many a Restless Night. Are These Strange Visions of Margolin’s Real? Will they Portend Disaster for Us All? I Pray to God that this is not His Punishment for Our lack of Faith. If it is, then It only means that We Fathers must work harder, Pray harder, and give Ourselves up Wholly to the Bosom of His Lord’s Grace, for, if Margolin’s Prophecy Comes True, then May Providence Say that Fault Lies with Us.

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