The Mission Period

In 1769 the Spanish sent explorers to a part of Upper California called Alta California. They intended to settle the area.

In 1776 Spain was becoming weak and King Carlos III and those in charge were afraid that other powers would take over this area, so a military and religious expedition was sent. Their orders were to found a system of forts, and missions. The missionaries job was to convert the Indians to Christianity and also to supply the army. The Indians would be used as labor on the mission lands. In 1769 the first mission was established in San Diego. There were 21 missions, four Presidios (forts) and 3 Pueblos (towns). The two missions founded in the Los Angeles area were San Gabriel (1773) and San Fernando(1797)

Father Junipero Serra, a member of the Franciscan Order, lead the missionaries. The Indians were brought to work on the lands and become Christians. Once they were converted, they were never allowed to leave and go back to their old ways of living.

Disease killed off many of the Indians, the Tongva included, because they could not withstand the new germs introduced into their system by the Spanish. They died from chicken pox, pneumonia, smallpox, measles, syphilis and tuberculosis. The numbers of native people were greatly reduced.

These two forces, the mission system and new diseases, brought about the end of their ancient culture and way of life.


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