Interlude: The View from Huwaaly Kwasakyav
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a Interlude: The View from Huwaaly Kwasakyav During the mild winter of 1810, it was an easy three days to the Cajon Pass. Good rains had come early and provided the horses with more water and grasses for nourishment on the Mojave Trail connecting the Colorado River with the Tongva village of Wa’aachnga.1 After this raid, the horses might even be healthy enough to trade for some Southern Paiute captives held by the Utes or pook brokered by the Yokuts, who would be eager consumers since they ate horses but also traded them for obsidian, glass beads, and other goods.2 For now, though, the objective was to capture thousands of horses, sheep, and cattle (along with a few captives) from the tiny vulnerable Spanish settlement of San Gabriel near the Tongva villages south of Huwaaly Kwasakyav. This year, many had fled San Gabriel mission because of diseases and the harsh work that priests imposed. They had journeyed to the Colorado many times and asked their Mojave friends to attack and perhaps even destroy the mission, just as the Quechan alliance did to La Purísima Concepción thirty years earlier. After all, no missionaries — indeed no Spaniards at all — had remained along the Colorado River, and the Quechan alliance was stronger than ever. While enticed by Tongva overtures, the Mojaves seemed more interested in capturing livestock than actually destroying San Gabriel. They knew how to fight Spanish formations and had raided settlements in both Alta California and Sonora. More important, they could navigate the highways through the desert. For at least 300 years they had run along the roads and through mountain passes with goods and information, discovering every watering hole and shortcut. And for the past three decades (around the time of the Quechan uprising), they had ridden on horseback on these corridors in order to trade and raid. Spaniards occasionally tried to follow them into the desert and sometimes even brought their livestock herds with them, but this only gave the Mojaves more targets to easily exploit. In Sonora, east of the Mojaves, Apachería even more forcefully relegated the Spanish into [78]  interlude: the view from huwaaly kwasakyav submission through similar raiding strategies. But along the coast, the once-formidable Chumash and their Tongva neighbors had become ensnared in the very mission economy that the Colorado River dwellers so forcefully rejected. Recent failed uprisings by the Tongvas and Kumeyaays had demonstrated the combined strength of Spanish missionaries , pobladores, and soldiers in Alta California. But horses leveled the playing field for other California neighbors of the Mojaves. The Yokuts, for instance, struck the coast with equestrian might. The feeble attempts by missionaries to settle in the San Joaquin Valley quickly failed. Emboldened by their recent successes, perhaps a few Yokuts joined the band of several hundred Mojaves and descended down the Cajon Pass into the grass-filled San Bernardino Valley. As the raiders approached San Gabriel, some Tongva and Serrano vaqueros fled, but others saddled up and joined the cavalry, hoping to gain access to some livestock or at least witness the efforts of these Colorado River dwellers. To these California Natives, the power of captivity and raiding emanated from the interior world and countered the growing economic influence of coastal missions. As the raiders neared the mission, something thwarted their plans. It is unclear what exactly ensued; perhaps some of the vaqueros who benefited from the Spanish presence admonished the Mojaves, inflating the military capabilities of the soldiers stationed at the nearby pueblo in Los Angeles. Most likely, Mojaves strategically decided to keep the mission from burning to the ground (as had occurred in La Purísima Concepción and other Sonoran missions) since it provided such a fruitful target for raiding. Whatever the reason, close to 1,000 raiders decided to turn back — but not without stealing at least 3,000 sheep along the way. The isolated Franciscans breathed a sigh of relief . As Father Esteban Tápis wrote: On the nights of 11/4 and 5, 1810, a body of Yumas . . . with other pagans from the rancherias adjacent to those missions and some renegade neophytes — in number about 800 persons— were within a distance of a league and a half from San Gabriel, for the purpose of exterminating the missionaries and the guard, and later the inhabitants of [Los Angeles]. . . . This thrust was frustrated by its becoming known to the Indians that on the night before, the ex-soldiers living in the...


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Subject Headings

  • Indians of North America -- Colorado River Valley (Colo.-Mexico) -- History.
  • Indians of North America -- First contact with Europeans -- Colorado River Valley (Colo.-Mexico).
  • Indians of North America -- Wars -- Colorado River Valley (Colo.-Mexico).
  • Indian traders -- Colorado River Valley (Colo.-Mexico) -- History.
  • Frontier and pioneer life -- Colorado River Valley (Colo.-Mexico).
  • Colorado River Valley (Colo.-Mexico) -- History.
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