Matanzas, Meals, and Mourning: Native American life at Mission Santa Clara de Asis Rancheria

Recent excavations at the rancheria at Mission Santa Clara in California have produced abundant data on the life of Native Americans in the context of missionization from A.D. 1790 to 1840. This unique dataset provides rare insight into the lifeways of Native Californians at the mission not represented in historical documents, particularly the persistence of some traditional practices. In this talk, Dr. Potter will discuss a range of documented activities, including those conducted in private spaces in adobe domestic structures and those performed in more communal spaces, such as feasting and the performance of traditional mourning ceremonies. Food for such events was provided by matanzas, seasonal mass slaughters of cattle. These actions, with the exception of the matanzas, would have occurred in spaces hidden from the eyes of the padres, allowing for the persistence of Native practices and the creation, performance, and maintenance of a communal identity distinct from that realized in the more public spheres of mission life.