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Conflict in Colonial Sonora

Indians, Priests, and Settlers

David Yetman

Publication Year: 2012

In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries northwestern Mexico was the scene of ongoing conflict among three distinct social groups—Indians, religious orders of priests, and settlers. Priests hoped to pacify Indians, who in turn resisted the missionary clergy. Settlers, who often encountered opposition from priests, sought to dominate Indians, take over their land, and, when convenient, exploit them as servants and laborers. Indians struggled to maintain control of their traditional lands and their cultures and persevere in their ancient enmities with competing peoples, with whom they were often at war. The missionaries faced conflicts within their own orders, between orders, and between the orders and secular clergy. Some settlers championed Indian rights against the clergy, while others viewed Indians as ongoing impediments to economic development and viewed the priests as obstructionists.

In this study, Yetman, distinguished scholar of Sonoran history and culture, examines seven separate instances of such conflict, each of which reveals a different perspective on this complicated world. Based on extensive archival research, Yetman’s account shows how the settlers, due to their persistence in these conflicts, emerged triumphant, with the Jesuits disappearing from the scene and Indians pushed into the background.

Published by: University of New Mexico Press

Front Cover

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Title Page

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pp. 1-25

In this book I describe conflicts among three distinct social groups—Indians, religious orders of priests (primarily Jesuits), and settlers (including military personnel)—in the Northwest of Mexico...

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1: Pedro de Perea, His Heirs, and the Colonization of Sonora

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pp. 26-53

Europeans, both priests and settlers, stole land from Indians. Whether they coveted Indians’ lands for settlement, agriculture, mining, creating Christian utopias, or for mere imperial demonstration, the settlers routinely pushed Indians from places...

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2: Father Canal Calls in the Troops

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pp. 54-71

Around the time that Pedro de Perea was attempting to settle at Tuape, Jesuit missionaries had become active on the upper Río Sonora, in that portion of the basin east and north of the canyon now known as Puerta del Sol. A decade earlier, in the late 1620s...

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3: The Conspiracies of 1681

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pp. 72-121

By the late 1650s the Jesuits in Sonora, buoyed by the success of the military campaign against resistant villages, seemed confident that they had overcome general resistance from Natives of the valleys. Other less settled groups from the north and east...

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4: Sorcery in Eastern Sonora

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pp. 122-139

The political unrest of the 1680s seems not to have involved the missions and missionaries themselves to any great degree, though this omission may be a reflection of a deliberate decision by priests.1 They may have chosen to accentuate the peaceful nature...

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5: Father Guerrero Nails Simón García

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pp. 140-167

Priests responded to rumors and accusations of witchcraft in ways as varied as their personalities. While some were stern purifiers of the faith, others paid little attention to curandismo, perhaps because shamanism involved beliefs in the supernatural...

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6: Father Januske and the Indians Take On the Vecinos and Their Livestock

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pp. 168-194

The advent of settlers and miners—Spaniards, people of mixed ancestry, and Indians from other regions—into the northwest of New Spain presented Jesuits with a host of unending headaches. The priests struggled to keep non-Natives out of the missions...

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7: Sonora in 1771: Does the Conflict Deepen or Subside?

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pp. 195-209

/ In 1715 Nueva Vizcaya governor San Juan y Santa Cruz attempted to resolve the conflict between the settlers who introduced cattle and the Indian farmers whose crops the cattle destroyed.1 It is doubtful that his solution was more than temporary...

Appendix: The Tuape Indians’ Legal Struggle to Regain Their Lands

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pp. 210-228


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pp. 229-264


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pp. 265-265


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pp. 266-271


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pp. 272-280

Back Cover

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pp. 281-281

E-ISBN-13: 9780826352224
E-ISBN-10: 0826352227
Print-ISBN-13: 9780826352200
Print-ISBN-10: 0826352200

Page Count: 288
Illustrations: 2 maps
Publication Year: 2012

OCLC Number: 812915139
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Conflict in Colonial Sonora

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Indians of Mexico -- Missions -- Mexico -- Sonora (State).
  • Indians of Mexico -- Mexico -- Sonora (State) -- History -- Sources.
  • Indians of Mexico -- Mexico -- Sonora (State) -- Social conditions.
  • Jesuits -- Missions -- Mexico -- Sonora (State) -- History -- Sources.
  • Frontier and pioneer life -- Mexico -- Sonoroa (State) -- History -- Sources.
  • Sonora (Mexico : State) -- History -- Sources.
  • Sonora (Mexico : State) -- Social conditions.
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