Investigate the California Missions

California has 21 historical missions along the coast from San Diego to San Francisco. They were built by the Spanish between 1769 and 1822. These historic buildings can be visited and toured. Some are still active Catholic parishes. They are each about a day’s travel apart by walking, although these days you can drive the whole distance in one day.

The California missions were built to convert the local Indigenous Peoples to Catholicism and to “civilize” them. Spanish priests taught farming techniques and encouraged Native peoples to settle into permanent communities. Unfortunately the missionaries’ methods and intentions did so by erasing or attempting to erase the Native peoples’ existing cultures, beliefs, and lifestyles. The Spanish also brought diseases such as measles and smallpox with them, causing epidemics, and forced Native peoples to build the missions themselves. This resulted in much conflict and death, and a number of rebellions. Success varied from mission to mission, and some were destroyed or left to fall into ruin.

Many of the buildings have since been restored as historical State landmarks. The route connecting all 21 missions is now a historic walking trail called “The California Missions Trail.”

Explore the history and cultures of each of these missions and their Spanish and Native American communities with the California Missions eBooks collection. Once in the ebook collection, look up “California Missions” in the search bar. In addition to these ebooks, CultureGrams is a good source of information on culture and history, and Scholastic Go! also has articles, images, and a short video about the missions.

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California Missions.” Scholastic GO!, Accessed 28 Sep. 2023.

The California Missions Trail.California Department of Parks and Recreation, Accessed 28 Sep. 2023.

California: Native America.” CultureGrams Online Edition, ProQuest, 2023, Accessed 28 September 2023.

Spanish Missions (in U.S. history).Scholastic GO!, Accessed 28 Sep. 2023.

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