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This is a sample chapter from my Unexpected Histories book project. I've been sitting on this for a few years. I'm posting it because I know there is interest and I want to give people a chance to provide feedback before it is finalized. Send comments or feedback to
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Chapter VI
Becoming Semu
The Los Angeles Times of April 6, 1961 carried a story about a man from Pomona,
California –– Paul Semu –– who claimed to be the last surviving Chumash Indian from the Santa
Barbara Channel Islands. In the accompanying grainy photo, he sits on a floor cushion with one
knee raised while his five smiling daughters stand behind him. His hair is to his shoulders and a
bandana encircles his forehead in a style that will be associated with Red Power activism by the
end of the decade. Around his neck hangs a stunning silver Navajo squash blossom necklace.
The five girls, ages 9 to 23, wear skirts and blouses conventional for the time, but their names are
anything but: Weewish, Noshune, Papui, Semuka, and Meneset. The reporter tells us that 50-
year-old Semu was born in the mountains behind Ventura, California, did not speak English until
he was 9, and did not attend school beyond the fifth grade. Yet he is “well read and an intelligent
conversationalist” who serves as a medicine man for the Laguna Tribe in Barstow and
rehabilitates Indian alcoholics in urban and suburban southern California. Semu hints that he
possesses Chumash cultural secrets, then describes the unique boats made by the Chumash and
the position in which they buried their dead, information readily available in local libraries.
“When I die, all the knowledge of my people goes with me,” he states ominously. Semu’s
ambition, the reporter writes, is to build an Indian encampment in the desert that will show the
public the Indians as they once were.
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With this, Paul Olivas (b. 1911 d. 2004) announced his presence in southern California
and began a public career as Semu Huaute (pronounced 'seɪ-mu ˌhu-ǝ-'u-teɪ), full-blooded
Chumash intertribal medicine man. He toiled on in relative obscurity until 1967, when after
joining Craig Carpenter and other self-described Traditionalist Indians in forging ties to
California’s hippies, Semu created neo-Chumash Traditionalism, and inspired and assisted others
to declare themselves Chumash. With this, he founded neo-Chumash identity, later promoting it
through his Red Wind Foundation. The Grateful Dead, Neil Young, and the Eagles held benefit
concerts for his organization. He made radio and television appearances on The Les Crane Show,
The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour, The Virginian, and The Young Riders, and appeared in
films Out (Deadly Drifter), Eternity, Renegades, and Broken Rainbow. News media were drawn
to his usually brief but colorful appearances at Washington fishing rights protests, the Alcatraz
Island and Mission San Antonio occupations, and Marlon Brando’s attempt to give land to
Indians. He was only able to do these things as Semu Huaute; he could not do them as Paul
Olivas. As Semu, he became for a time the face of Chumash identity, but it was a neo-Indian
identity based on a mix of popular stereotypes, Hopi and League of North American Indians
(LONAI) Traditionalism, Laguna Pueblo-style dancing, peyotism of the Native American
Church, and other sources of mysticism and herbalism.
Paul, as he was known up to the Sixties, grew up in California’s working class Spanish–
Mexican Californio community descended from the state’s earliest colonists, where his race was
usually recorded as white,but “Mexican” was imposed by Anglos who demanded class and
race privileges for themselves, and “Spanish” was used to minimize, romanticize, and resist
those inequalities. This community shares a complex ancestry that is not accurately summarized
by any of the ethnic or racial labels they have been given over the years. Individuals with this
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background have often experienced being ethnic anomalies, not fitting precisely into
conventional ethnic categories. Numerous writers and activists have proposed alternative
identities with varied success. Paul’s neo-Indian identity emerged as an idiosyncratic, grass roots
alternative to his community’s normative identities, generating some conflicts with family
members. Paul’s sister, for example, rejected his medicine man claims as bogus.
His success in
becoming Semu, while contested even by some family members, is attested by a continuing web
presence and the continuing existence of neo-Chumash individuals and organizations who owe
their initial inspiration and instruction to Semu Huaute, whether they acknowledge it or not.
Paul’s path to neo-Chumash identity is unique, not just because he was first, but also
because his family did possess Native California ancestry, which is not true of most neo-
Chumash today. There were two sources to this ancestry. One ancestor entered Spanish colonial
society in California via a sanctioned, formal marriage. The other did so through a painful
rupture, with perhaps little more than a biological contribution bequeathed to succeeding
generations. The blood-quantum-speak of the federal government is not a measure that matters in
all social settings, but as a rough measure it tells us that Paul was 5/32 Native Californian in total
and only 1/32 Chumash, a far cry from his claim to be a full-blood. He had never been a part of a
Chumash community. Paul became so invested in claiming he was Chumash that when the
genealogy he requested in the mid-Nineties revealed only one Chumash ancestor, he dismissed
the results.
With the assistance of one of his children, Paul prepared an affidavit seeking to
change the race reported on his father’s death certificate from Caucasian to Chumash Indian.
this implies, Paul’s life contains a story of profound personal transformation and overwhelming
commitment that impacted his immediate family.
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The life and history of Paul Olivas/Semu Huaute warrants exploration because he
founded what became a well populated, influential, and enduring neo-Indian identity. Paul’s
family history and his own life illustrate why someone who had native ancestry did not have an
Indian identity in the first place, and then how and why a native identity became something of
value. Paul possessed Native Californian, Native Mexican, European, and sub-Saharan African
ancestries, each of which loomed as important to identity at differing points in history. By
examining this history, we are able to glimpse how Paul went about creating an identity at odds
with the one held by his family of birth and enculturation. We will see how Paul was drawn to
identify with his Native California ancestry through the interplay of his family’s poverty, the
uses of genealogy to settle California Indian land claims, and Paul’s struggles with disability and
alcoholism. Witnessing how these elements came into play helps to illustrate that ancestry is not
the same thing as identity, and identity is not the same thing as social affiliation or culture.
Paul’s lifetime was sufficiently distant from his ancestral Native Californian communities
that he had to be creative and resourceful in creating his Indian identity. A cousin, John Bruno
Romero, embarked on the same transformational journey, but with differences worth comparing.
The creations both he and Paul came up with reveal deficits in their knowledge of an ancestral
culture and their struggles to overcome these. Paul succeeded more than his cousin by building
ties to Native communities that were not ancestral to him, including the Soboba reservation,
Laguna Pueblo’s Barstow colony, peyotists of the Native American Church, and Craig
Carpenter’s network of Traditionalists at Hopi and LONAI. Indian dancing and peyotism offered
new ways of being Indian that gave Paul a basis for defining Semu as an intertribal medicine
man. Both activities provided opportunities to perform being Indian where his Indianness could
be acknowledged and validated by others. Informal performances, such as playing to a popular
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stereotype or carefully displaying symbols viewed as ethnic, are especially useful when a new
identity is being established. Paul’s performances tended to be informal opportunistic
appearances, yet they facilitated the same identity transformation that anthropologists Jacques
Galinier and Antoinette Molinié document in more formal performances by neo-Indians in
Mexico and Peru.
Paul’s performances occurred in private homes and in front of organizations
and clubs, but they were publicized in the regional press, which Paul grew skilled in
manipulating. Through these means, Paul had become Semu by the early Sixties, a unique
amalgam of popular stereotype and actual religious convert. It is the latter that complicates his
history and what we mean by neo-Indian.
Ancestral Roots
Pablo Emiliano Olivas was born August 8, 1911 in the city of Ventura, California in the
home of his parents, Juan Pablo Olivas (b. 1871 d. 1945) and Maria Ygnacia Preciado (b. 1869
d. 1930). He was baptized on September 24 at the old colonial Catholic mission, San
Buenaventura, which gave the city its name. Some of Paul’s ancestors had served guard duty at
the mission in the 1780s, but at the time of his birth his family was no longer part of a socially
dominant group, as had been the case in the eighteenth century when his ancestors helped
establish Spain’s California colony. Pablo, or Paul as he came to be called, grew up with older
half-siblings and a younger sister in a bilingual SpanishEnglish speaking household. The family
was poor and earned its living through farm work. They never owned their own home and moved
frequently in search of employment, economic circumstances that were all too common among
the Mexican-descent working classes of early twentieth century California.
Both of Paul’s
parents were born and raised within the Spanish-Mexican, or Californio, community created by
California’s colonization and subsequent isolation, and although both sides of Paul’s ancestry
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had assimilated a Native Californian, neither side expressed that as their identity until Paul and a
cousin began doing so. Paul’s mother was a descendant of the community formed around the
Rancho San José, a Mexican land grant in the Pomona Valley, about 30 miles east of old Los
Angeles. Paul’s father hailed from the Californio community in Santa Barbara, 85 miles
northwest of Los Angeles. Table 1 lists founding ancestors in California in every line of Paul’s
ancestry. Contrary to Paul’s portrayals, colonists who served imperial Spain dominate his
pedigree. They carried out Spain’s military and ecclesiastical colonization of California, assisted
in the missionization of Native Californians and witnessed their disastrous demographic collapse,
and built California’s first towns and ranchos. They experienced Mexican independence and the
slow-moving convulsion of U.S. imperialism and the marginalization and exploitation that
followed. In these preliminary facts about Paul’s family history, we begin to glimpse how distant
socially and culturally Paul’s generation was from its Native California ancestors. As I flesh out
the family’s history, it will become clear why Paul did not grow up with a Native California
identity, and had to make a great effort to tear himself loose from the social position he was born
and raised in.
Spanish authorities in Mexico chose to colonize what they called Alta California in the
1760s to protect the valuable Manila galleon’s route to Mexico and to ward off British and
Russian imperialism. Missions established to convert the natives into Christian subjects of the
empire whose labor would support the military outposts. The first colonizing expedition led by
Gaspar de Portolá arrived in California from Loreto Presidio in Baja California in 1769 with 85
to 95 soldiers. Its members were all men, many of whom returned southward when their service
ended. By January 1775, there were only about 170 colonists in California. Two major
expeditions followed, Juan Bautista de Anza’s of 1775 and Fernando Javier Rivera y Moncada’s
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Table 1: Lineal Ancestors of Paul Emiliano Olivas
Date of Presence in
Individuals and Family Groups by
Family Head
Status or
María Irena
Tipu, Obispeño village
Amador, Pedro Antonio
Cocula, Jalisco
Sinoba, José Francisco
Ciudad México, México
Bojórquez, José Ramon
Villa Sinaloa, Sinaloa
Romero, María Francisca
Villa Sinaloa, Sinaloa
Bojórquez, María Gertrudis
Villa Sinaloa, Sinaloa
Pico, Felipe Santiago de la Cruz
San Xavier de Cabazán, Sin.
Bastida, María Jacinta
Tepic, Nayarit
Pico, José Miguel
San Xavier de Cabazán, Sin.
Tapia, Felipe Santiago
Culiacán, Sinaloa
Hernández, Juana María Filomena
Culiacán, Sinaloa
Tapia, José Bartolomé
Culiacán, Sinaloa
Ríos, Juan Julián
San Juan Tehuacán, Puebla
Alanís, José Máximo
Chametla, Sinaloa
Miranda, Juana María
Alamos, Sonora
Domínguez, Ildefonso
Villa Sinaloa, Sinaloa
Germán, María Ygnacia
Villa Sinaloa, Sinaloa
Domínguez, José María
Villa Sinaloa, Sinaloa
Feliz, Juan Victorino
Cosalá, Sinaloa
Landeros, María Micaela
Cosalá, Sinaloa
Feliz, María Marcelina
Cosalá, Sinaloa
Fernández, José Rosalino
El Fuerte, Sonora
Quintero, María Josefa Juana
Alamos, Sonora
Olivas, Juan Matias
Matatán, Sinaloa
Espinosa, María Dorotea
San Sebastián, Sinaloa
Olivas, Juan José Pablo
Rosario, Sinaloa
Quintero, Luis Manuel
Guadalajara, Jalisco
army tailor
Rubio, María Petra Timotea
Alamos, Sonora
Villa, Juan José
Pitic, Sonora
Martínez, María Paulina
Horcasitas, Sonora
Villalobo, Juan José
Villa Sinaloa, Sinaloa
Beltrán, María Nicolasa
Horcasitas, Sonora
Villalobo, María Francisca
Villa Sinaloa, Sinaloa
Alvarado, Francisco Xavier
Loreto, Baja California
Amador, María Ygnacia
San Antonio, Baja
Salazar, José María
San Luis Potosi
Southern California
Preciado, Geraldo
Altar, Sonora
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in 1781, both comprised of soldier recruits and settlers with their families to stabilize the colony.
These two expeditions added more than 421 people to the colony, most of whom stayed. The
overland route from Sonora to California was closed by an uprising of Yumas along the lower
Colorado River in 1781. Subsequently, California remained relatively isolated until the 1830s,
giving rise to an endogamous colonial population that came to distinguish itself from Mexicans
and Native Californians, few of whom were absorbed into colonial society. By 1790, there were
1000 colonists in California outnumbered by 8000 Native Californians in the missions.
The first of Paul Olivas’ colonial ancestors to arrive in California was Pedro Amador (b.
ca. 1739 d. 1824), an ancestor of Paul’s mother. Amador first arrived in 1769 as a sergeant in
the Portolá expedition. This expedition founded the presidios of San Diego and Monterey and the
missions of San Diego de Alcalá and San Carlos Borromeo de Carmelo, and two years later, the
missions San Antonio de Padua and San Gabriel Arcángel. Amador left and returned to
California twice, finally settling in the pueblo of San Jose in northern California.
Francisco Sinoba (b. 1750 d. 1794), an ancestor of Paul’s father, arrived next in a resupply
caravan from Loreto in 1773. He served with the Monterey Presidio company, which stationed
him at Mission San Carlos. By 1777 he lived in San Jose as a vaquero (cowboy), harrier, or
blacksmith. In 1785, he joined the Pueblo de Los Angeles, where he remained until his death.
Anza’s expedition in 1775 secured the valuable San Francisco Bay by establishing a
presidio and mission at San Francisco and the pueblo of San Jose in the Santa Clara Valley. Anza
recruited primarily from military and mining settlements in Sinaloa and Sonora. Following a land
route from Arizpe, Sonora, the expedition of 30 married soldiers and their families, four
volunteer soldiers, and a priest reached San Francisco in 1776.
The three families in the
expedition ancestral to Paul had served under Anza at Tubac Presidio in southern Arizona. On
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Paul’s father’s side was the family of José Ramón Bojórquez (b. ca. 1743 d. 1822) and María
Francisca Romero. Their youngest daughter, María Gertrudis, married José Francisco Sinoba in
San Francisco in 1777.
Another was Felipe Santiago de la Cruz Pico (b. ca. 1737 d. 1815),
his wife, María Jacinta Bastida (b. ca. 1749 d. 1796), and their son, José Miguel Pico (b. ca.
1771 d. 1841), who would marry José Francisco Sinoba and María Gertrudis Bojórquez’s
daughter, María Casilda de la Cruz (b. 1782 d. 1860) at San Gabriel, California in 1794.
Ancestral to Paul’s mother was the family of Felipe Santiago Tapia (b. ca. 1736 d. 1811), his
second wife Juana María Cárdenas (b. ca. 1752 d. bef. 1804), and José Bartolomé Tapia (b. ca.
1764 d. 1824), a son from Felipe’s first marriage to Juana María Filomena Hernández (b. ca.
1740 d. 1775).
By the end of 1777, Juan Julián Ríos (b. ca. 1748 d. 1826) had been stationed to San
Diego Presidio in a resupply mission. Ríos was one of a small number of early soldiers who
married Native California women and chose to remain in the colony after their service ended. In
1782 he was at Monterey Presidio. A year later he married María Irena (b. ca. 1760 d. 1821) at
Mission San Luis Obispo. She was a neophyte from the Obispeño Chumash village of Tipu, who
had been baptized at the mission on November 9, 1780. Her parents have not been identified nor
has the precise location of Tipu. As a neophyte, María Irena was under the juridical care of the
Franciscan missionaries, who were responsible for catholicizing and hispanicizing her, and
protecting her from exploitation by the military and civil sectors of colonial society. One may
question how far María Irena’s acculturation had advanced in her few years at the mission before
her marriage, yet the priest recorded that she was catechized and sufficiently instructed in
Catholic doctrine at her baptism. While other Native Californians remained socially distinct from
the colonists, María Irena’s descendants continued the assimilation into colonial society, in time
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retaining, at best, only an awareness that they possessed Native California ancestry.
Irena’s line is Paul’s only Chumash ancestral line. She was his great- great- great-grandmother,
ancestral to Paul’s paternal grandmother.
Eight more ancestral families arrived in 1781 among the 62 soldiers, their families, and
12 settler families from Sinaloa, Sonora, and Baja California comprising the Rivera expedition.
They established the Pueblo de Los Angeles, the Santa Barbara Presidio, and the Santa Barbara
and San Buenaventura missions.
Two families were ancestors of Paul’s mother. The soldado,
José Máximo Alanís (b. ca. 1761 d. 1851) and his new wife Juana María Miranda (b. 1761 d.
1816) were stationed at San Diego Presidio before retiring to Los Angeles in 1819.
Alanís will
amply illustrate below how advantageous participation in such a risky venture could be for
persons of low status. Juan José Villalobo, or Lobo, (b. ca. 1741 d. aft. 1794) and his wife
María Nicolasa Beltrán (b. ca. 1746 d. 1792) brought their children, including María Francisca
(b. ca. 1772 d. 1854), who married José Bartolomé Tapia at San Buenaventura in 1785.
The six Rivera expedition families ancestral to Paul’s father include Juan Matias Olivas
(b. ca. 1758 d. 1806) and his wife, María Dorotea Espinosa (b. ca. 1758 d. 1789). Juan
Matias and María Dorotea exemplified a family that had much to gain in joining the colonization
venture. In Sinaloa, Juan Matias was of low status and María Dorotea was designated a criada
(trans.: raised up). Crianza was a frontier practice that drew labor and bodies into colonial
communities. Criados typically were children who may have been captured, ransomed from
Indian captors, or orphaned. They were taken into a Hispanic household which accepted
responsibility to raise the child as Catholic in return for the right to the criado’s labor. Criados’
circumstances varied from adoptee under the fictive kinship of Catholic god-parenthood to
concubine to menial slave. María Dorotea was born in colonized territory and was considered a
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mulata, so she probably was an orphan of mixed ancestry. Juan Matias’ and María Dorotea’s
children included Juan José Pablo Olivas (b. 1780 d. 1817), who became a soldier, like his
father. Both Olivas men served at Santa Barbara Presidio for their entire military careers.
Luís Manuel Quintero (b. ca. 1726 d. 1810) and his wife, María Petra Rubio (b. 1743
d. 1802) joined the expedition so that they could accompany their newly married daughters to
California. One daughter was María Josefa Quintero (b. ca. 1760 d. aft. 1797), who on the eve
of the expedition married José Rosalino Fernández (b. ca. 1756 d. aft 1798), a new soldier
recruit. José Rosalino served at the Santa Barbara Presidio. After a short stay in Los Angeles,
Luis Manuel and María Petra moved to Santa Barbara, where all their daughters were living.
Ildefonso Domínguez (b. ca. 1737 d. aft. 1784) arrived as a widower with two older children,
one of whom was José María Domínguez (b. ca. 1763 d. 1847) who, like his father, came as a
soldier recruit. Father and son lived out their lives at Santa Barbara. José María was granted
Rancho Paraje de las Virgenes in 1837.
The children of Juan Victorino Féliz (b. ca. 1751 d.
1783) and María Micaela Landeros (b. ca. 1750 d. 1812) included José María Domínguez’s
future wife, María Marcelina Féliz (b. ca. 1771 d. 1866). Victorino was posted in Santa
The last Rivera expedition family ancestral to Paul’s father was that of Juan José Villa
(b. ca. 1752 d. 1796) and María Paulina Martínez (b. ca. 1760 d. 1822). He served at Santa
Barbara but retired to Los Angeles after 1787.
After 1790, the viceregal authorities in Mexico planned a new town to boost the defenses
of California. Named after the viceroy, Villa de Branciforte within what is now Santa Cruz
began in 1797 with recruits from western Mexico. José María Salazar (b. ca 1785 d. aft. 1845)
became a civil official and married María Hermenegilda Ríos (b. 1792 d. after 1845), a
daughter of Julián Ríos and María Irena of Tupu. Their daughter, María Concepción Salazar (b.
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ca. 1822 d. bef. 1870), wed José María del Carmen Domínguez (b. 1818 d. 1886) in 1843, a
grandson of the Domínguez and Villa families of Santa Barbara. María Concepción moved to
Santa Barbara with her husband, forging the last element of Paul Olivas’ paternal ancestry.
The maternal ancestors, Francisco Xavier Alvarado (b. ca. 1756 d. 1831) and his wife,
María Ygnacia Amador (b. ca. 1767 d. 1851) arrived in California around 1789. María Ygnacia
was a daughter of Pedro Amador, but had not immigrated previously. Alvarado served at Loreto
Presidio in Baja California before transferring to Santa Barbara. He advanced to corporal and
comisionado at Los Angeles in 1795 and to sergeant in 1805. A son named Ignacio María
Alvarado in 1807 (d. 1876) married María Ricarda Alanís (b. 1813 d. 1831) in 1828, a
granddaughter of Máximo Alanís, Juana Miranda, Bartolomé Tapia, and Francisca Villalobo.
After independence in 1821, the Mexican government began secularizing the California missions
and granting lands to the citizenry. Ignacio’s friend, Ygnacio María Palomares (b. 1811 d.
1864) was granted a third of Rancho San José east of Los Angeles in 1837 by the governor.
Palomares built his home where the city of Pomona now stands and gave Ignacio Alvarado title
to enough land within the rancho to build a home near him, thus establishing a base for his
descendants. María Ricarda died after giving birth to their son, Juan de Díos Alvarado (b. 1831
d. ca. 1885). Ignacio t then married María Luisa Avila (b. 1812 d. aft. 1870), who raised
Ignacio’s sons but had no children of her own.
On October 7, 1842, Ignacio Alvarado, Luisa Avila and her sister, Micaela, who was
married to Ignacio’s brother, Isidoro, acted as godparents at the baptisms of a pair of natives at
San Gabriel Mission. Ignacio and Luisa accepted the obligation for Bruna, the daughter of San
Gabriel neophytes, Garcia and Joaquina, who may have been in their employ at Rancho San
José. Micaela Avila did the same for a girl seven or eight years of age given the name of Monica.
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Her parents were unidentified except that they were gentiles, and her origin was not stated, a
contrast with Bruna’s stated association with the mission.
Monica’s descendants, including
Paul Olivas, called her Monica Mora and claimed she was Cahuilla, but this is unsubstantiated.
Given her circumstances, Monica probably was an orphan, captive, or ransomed child from an
un-missionized southern California cultural group, or even one farther afield. It is even possible
that the Alvarados or Avilas had recently purchased her from captors and had brought her to the
mission themselves for baptism. Monica came to live in Ignacio and Luisa’s household,
presumably as a domestic servant or criada, but perhaps not until Micaela Avila’s death in 1845.
Monica was there in 1850, listed as a 15-year-old Indian girl with a one-year-old daughter named
Ampara (b. 1849 d. aft. 1892). A second daughter, Juana, would be born in 1851 (d. 1921). The
damaged 1852 state census page containing Ignacio’s household is missing the names below his,
but we cannot be confident of Monica’s presence because at some point in the decade she left the
household. Ampara and Juana were raised by Ignacio and Luisa who gave them the Alvarado
The circumstances of Monica’s departure cannot be reconstructed with complete
certainty, but they strongly suggest flight. Paul believed Monica had been brought into the
household as a surrogate mother to produce children for a barren Luisa Avila, a story which may
have been told to make a darker truth more palatable. Records identify Ignacio’s unmarried
younger son, Juan de Díos Alvarado, as the father of Monica’s two girls. Monica would have
been about 13 when she became pregnant with Ampara and only 15 when pregnant with Juana.
While it is conceivable that Monica was a willing sexual partner for the older Juan de Díos, it is
more likely that she was not. As an unwed Indian girl of uncertain origin without parents in a
Californio household, Monica’s circumstances conform to the haunting vulnerability that James
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F. Brooks describes for Indian slaves in colonial New Mexico and that Michael J. González
suggests was commonly experienced by Indian domestic servants in early nineteenth-century
Los Angeles. Criadas and domestic servants often endured sexual exploitation by the Hispanic
men who had brought them into their households as captives, under the cover of god-
parenthood’s fictive kinship, or as employees. One can envision a young Monica accepting that
she must abandon daughters conceived in sexual assaults to flee a household where she feared
more of the same if she stayed. There is no proof this is how it transpired, but it conforms to the
available evidence. Despite these troubling signs of what Monica may have experienced, Ampara
and Juana were well looked after by Ignacio and Luisa. Such contradictions are also reported by
both Brooks and González.
Ampara and Juana married a pair of brothers from Altar, Sonora who arrived to work on
Rancho San José between 1860 and 1862. Gerardo or Geraldo Preciado (b. ca. 1844 d. 1894), a
blacksmith, married Ampara around 1862, and became a U.S. citizen on September 5, 1871.
Juana married Gerardo’s brother Jesus on January 7, 1869. Ampara and Gerardo’s daughter,
Maria Ygnacia Preciado, was Paul Olivas’s mother. Ampara and her sister Juana witnessed the
break-up of the ranchos and the socioeconomic and political marginalization of all but a small
number of Californios. For their generation and those that followed, farm work and other manual
labor occupations were the main sources of livelihood open to them. Paul’s grandparents
probably died before he was born. Of family members alive in Paul’s lifetime, only his great-
aunt Juana may have known Monica, but only when she was very young. Despite being
genealogically closer to Monica than to María Irena, Paul was no closer to Monica’s Native
California cultural background, from which she herself had been torn away in childhood.
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A Family’s Complicated Identities
The foregoing leaves no question that Paul Olivas’s family roots lay primarily among the
colonists who established California as a Spanish colony. It also suggests why the children of the
two women who were the exception in those colonial roots were assimilated completely by the
colonist’s descendants. More of this assimilation is revealed by looking at group identities in the
family’s history, as these are measures of how people placed themselves and were placed by
others in the social landscape. A key feature of these historical identities within Paul Olivas’
ancestry is that they shifted over time, from systems created in sixteenth-century colonial Mexico
to others reflecting changing social conditions under United States rule. A common thread is that
a particular ancestry did not necessarily dictate what an identity would be. This is important in
Paul’s life because to change his identity to Chumash he had to exaggerate an ancestry that had
been deemphasized in his family.
Spain’s California colonists brought two systems of classification with them to
California. One system endured through Mexican independence, but the other disappeared in
only two decades due to its lack of usefulness on the frontier. The one which endured
distinguished gente de razón (literally, people of reason) from gente sin razón (people without
reason). These categories drew a contrast between those deemed to be civilized from those
deemed to be barbarous. After 1573, when missionaries were assigned primary responsibility for
expanding the frontier, the Catholic church protected Indian neophytes from prosecution for
heresies by classifying them as gente sin razón. They were to be treated as not yet fully rational
or responsible, like children.
On the frontier, the most significant social and cultural differences
were between communities of colonists on the one hand, and communities of Indians on the
other. Thus, this social distinction resonated in frontier society.
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The classification scheme which did not endure for long in California is the more widely
known sistema de castas, or caste system, of Spain’s American empire. Derived from a pre-
colonial system of privilege and rank based on religious purity, in the Americas this system
divided colonial society based on qualities claimed to be associated with continental ancestral
origin. It created ranks that preserved privilege for the colonizers, permitted sub-Saharan
Africans to be enslaved, established Indians in semiautonomous repúblicas de indios as tribute
payers and food producers, and permitted a scale of limited rights for a rapidly growing
population with multiple ancestries.
This system remained vital in centers of colonial control,
but on the California frontier where colonists were few and were outnumbered 8 to 1 by mission
neophytes and more so by hostile un-missioned natives, caste differences were muted because
they divided. What was needed was unity among colonists. The colonists solved this dilemma by
gradually elevating lower castes to reduce distinctions. After 1790 they abandoned caste entirely
in favor of the de razónsin razón distinction.
These patterns are found in Paul Olivas’ family
Like most of California’s original colonists, the castes of Paul’s colonial ancestors were
recorded as español, mulato, mestizo, negro, and indio, implying the presence of European, sub-
Saharan African, and Native American ancestries.
But caste terms give a misleading sense that
each denotes a precise bio-geographical ancestry or degree of mixture. In fact, two centuries of
contradictory classification practices before California’s colonization undermined such precision.
In California, individuals might be elevated in the caste system if they had skills needed for a
task considered above their caste. Or they might hope that being far from their place of origin
would help them conceal stigmatized ancestry or birth. Individual mobility between castes
resulted, though it seldom enjoyed official approval.
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Nine of Paul Olivas’ ancestors who migrated to California as colonists changed caste
during their lifetimes. Maximo Alanís, who had been a mulato and an indio prior to the Rivera
expedition, was considered mestizo in California in 1782 and español in 1790. His wife, Juana
María Miranda, was elevated from mestiza to española. Juan Matias Olivas and his wife María
Dorotea Barbara Espinosa, both mulatos in Sinaloa, were deemed mestizos in California, though
Matias also was once ruled an indio. Other instances deviate from the more common upward
mobility in California. Rosalino Fernández declined from mestizo to mulato, probably because he
married Juana Josefa Quintero, a mulata whose father Luis Manuel Quintero rose from negro to
mulato due to his value as a tailor needed to make and repair soldier’s uniforms. María Gertrudis
Bojórquez fell to mulata before rebounding back to mestiza. José María Domínguez declined
from español in 1785 to mestizo in 1790. Lastly, Juan Julían Ríos regressed from mestizo to
mulato after his marriage to the Obispeña neophyte, María Irena, while her status as india neofita
remained unchanged by her baptism or marriage. These inconsistencies reveal that the active
muting of caste differences on the frontier was also rendering caste statuses less certain to those
charged with recording it.
The genetic record hammers home the lesson that caste was an imperfect indicator of bio-
geographical ancestry and tells us something more about assimilation. John Johnson and Joseph
Lorenz have explored the mitochondrial genetic history of California’s gente de razón.
Mitochondrial DNA is passed from mothers to children with no input from the father and, thus,
preserves a record of ancient origins in the female line. Johnson and Lorenz samples from
Californio families include four mitochondrial DNA lineages of colonial women ancestral to
Paul Olivas. The castes mulato and español imply exclusively Old World ancestries. However,
María Petra Rubio passed on mitochondrial DNA of Native American origin, despite being
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classified as a mulata, as did María Micaela Landeros and María Nicolasa Beltrán, who both
were considered españolas. So, too, did María Francisca Romero, but this is less surprising
because she was considered mestiza, which implies partial Native American ancestry. All four
women were gente de razón before their move to California, so the mismatch between caste and
DNA suggests, for at least the first three women, generations of distance between them and a
mitochondrial ancestor from a Native American community. The genetic record, then, reveals
past episodes of the assimilation of individual Native American women.
The assimilation of Native Americans in Paul’s family ancestry prior to California’s
colonization draws our attention back to María Irena and Monica. Did these Native California
women have appreciably different experiences than Paul’s earlier Native American ancestors?
Of course, with details lost to time, only a general answer can be given. The available record
suggests assimilation, but for these women’s children rather than the women themselves. In
contrast with historian Gloria Miranda’s interpretation, catechesis did not earn María Irena or
Monica the status of a completely assimilated gente de razón. Obispeña neophyte María Irena’s
marriage to the soldier Juan Julián Ríos took her back and forth between the San Luis Obispo
mission community and the garrison of the presidio at Monterey. At San Luis Obispo, she would
have maintained relationships with fellow Obispeños, and share such relationships with her
children, who must have learned some Obispeño culture from their mother, despite the mission’s
emphasis on Hispanicization and Christianization. At the presidio, María Irena and the children
would have conformed more to gente de razón norms. Had the caste system remained salient, the
Ríos children could have been assigned the castes coyote or lobo, depending on how their
father’s caste was interpreted. They received no caste designations. All of them were recorded as
gente de razón, unlike their mother, who continued to be classified as india and neofita. They
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were properly baptized and otherwise attended to church and civil doctrine. At least two sons
became a soldiers, one of whom was killed by insurgents Chumash neophytes at Mission La
Purísima during the Chumash Revolt of 1824. The Ríos children who reached adulthood married
other de razón of colonial ancestry. One daughter, Margarita, married Nicolas Higuera, a soldier
who received a land grant in Napa. As we have seen, Paul’s ancestor, Maria Hermenegilda, wed
José Salazar, a Mexican colonist and local civil official. Thus, all of María Irena’s children and
grandchildren continued on the path to assimilation by living in, identifying with, and being
identified by others as part of the gente de razón community.
On Paul’s mother’s side, Monica’s daughters experienced a more rapid and complete
assimilation due to their mother’s severed connection to her own community of origin and her
early exit from their lives. Their assimilation was complicated in a different way by United
States jurisdiction and racialization. Paul’s grandmother, Ampara Alvarado, was born a year
after the conclusion of the U.S.Mexican War, just in time for the U.S. census of 1850. Unlike
her mother, who was recorded as Indian, Ampara was classified as white and remained so in
future records, as was her younger sister, Juana. Association with Ignacio Alvarado and María
Luisa Avila, who were considered leading citizens by the Americans, undoubtedly encouraged
Ampara and Juana’s classification. The girls continued to be seen as part of one of the area’s
“founding” families while they resided in or near the Casa Alvarado.
However, like the Spanish
caste system, the American racial system divides to preserve privileges, and those began to be
more strongly felt after two decades of American rule. How those privileges were allocated
involved some give-and-take of competing forces.
Two contradictory trends beginning in the late nineteenth century shaped the identities of
Ampara, Juana, and their children. One trend entailed a loss of status and the other represented
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an effort to reclaim it. In the first instance, Californio families were unable to retain their large
ranchos following devastating droughts and a costly, drawn-out process for transferring title
from Mexican to U.S. standards. During the 1870s, Californios found themselves with little land,
having to rely on wages earned as farm and ranch labor for new Anglo landowners. The loss of
socioeconomic status was paralleled by a growing Anglo tendency to see Californio laborers as
part of a racially inferior Mexican working class as labor migration from Mexico began to be
more noticeable toward the end of the century. Rising anti-Mexican sentiment fed off of and into
rising anti-immigrant sentiment nationwide that worsened in the early twentieth century.
Paul’s grandparents, Gerardo Preciado and Ampara Alvarado, moved to Altar, Sonora in
the 1870s after the Rancho San José was sold off in pieces, then sold their two acres of land
within the old rancho to their siblings, Juana Alvarado and Jesus Preciado.
Perhaps they began
to feel the anti-Mexican prejudice, or perhaps there was just no longer sufficient blacksmith
work for Gerardo. After Ignacio Alvarado’s death, Juana and Jesus retained the Casa Alvarado as
a base for their extended family that included at least one of Ampara and Gerardo’s children.
When Jesus died before 1900, Juana and the children who were not yet married moved to a
working-class neighborhood on Pomona’s south side. They purchased a home around which
married children and cousins rented other homes. One of Ampara and Gerardo’s younger
children moved in with Aunt Juana and her sons. Other Preciados began to leave the city. Paul’s
mother, Maria Ygnacia, left with her first husband after 1900. Family members found work in
the burgeoning citrus orchards and packing houses that replaced the ranchos, while a few
obtained work in construction, one became a barber, and another became a teamster. Work in the
fields, vineyards, orchards, and packing houses of American California’s industrialized
agriculture, then as now, defined a class that struggled to obtain and retain sufficient housing. So,
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the Preciado’s investment in housing was no small matter.
Two of Ampara’s children
purchased a house together in the Twenties, creating a second family base a little more than a
mile from their cousins. The family’s households sometimes included a niece, nephew, or
cousin. When Paul and his parents moved to Pomona that same decade, they rented near their
kin, maintaining a close network comprised of Ampara and Gerardo’s and Juana and Jesus’
grown children and grandchildren.
The family’s decline in socioeconomic status was marked by difficulty maintaining
recognition as white in the American racial system. One atypical census taker in Pomona in 1880
initially recorded Californios and Mexican immigrants as black, though the entries were
corrected to white to conform to the census rules. Juana and Jesus’ household was among those
recorded this way. One of Ampara and Gerardo’s sons was recorded oddly as Mongolian in
1903, though there is no evidence that the label stuck. He was a day laborer at the time. The 1910
census saw widespread use of the category Other to classify persons perceived as having some
Mexican derivation, with enumerators writing Mexican in the margin by those rows in their
census tables. Preciados recorded this way lived in households dependent on farm work,
including Paul’s mother’s household. Other Preciado households were recorded as white. The
same use of Other plus Mexican continued in 1920 on a much-reduced scale, but few of the
Preciados were affected. The Census Bureau permitted the use of Mexican as a racial category in
1930, and Preciado households were more often recorded this way than as white.
The second trend began with the romanticization of the Southwest by the Santa Fe
Railway to draw business and settlers. Not only did the effort take hold, but it continues to be
manifest in various ways throughout the region. Whereas romanticized images of Pueblo Indians
were a lure for New Mexico and Arizona, in California the state’s Spanish colonial history
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provided the inspiration. Surviving missions, ranchos, and other structures became a focus of
boosterism, with festivals appearing late in the nineteenth century marked by costumes, dancing,
horsemanship, and other displays of “Spanish” identity by members of the Californio families.
For the few wealthy families that had married Anglo-American capital with Californio land,
displays of Spanishness fit perfectly with the American celebration of pioneer heritage. For
working class Californio families fending off racialization as Mexican, asserting Spanish identity
provided temporary relief from racial prejudice. Paul’s extended family numbered among the
Although his father’s birthplace of Santa Barbara led the state in romanticizing a Spanish
past, it was Pomona’s contributions to the Spanish heritage movement that Paul’s family
experienced most directly. A local historical society formed in 1916 memorialized the families
and remaining structures of the Rancho San José as the valley’s historical beginnings. Streets in
Pomona were named for the Palomareses, Alvarados, Avilas, and Preciados. Ignacio Alvarado’s
old adobe home, the Casa Alvarado, was among the original structures memorialized in Bessie
Adams Garner’s book, Windows in an Old Adobe.
When Juana Alvarado Preciado died in
1921, she was mourned in the Pomona Bulletin newspaper as “a pioneer of this city… whose
parents and ancestors were among the leading Spanish families of this section.”
Her Native
California ancestry went unmentioned. Shortly before her death, Juana’s daughter’s family
convinced a 1920 census enumerator to record their race as Spanish, a strategy to resist
classification as Mexican being practiced in other Californio communities. The Pomona Bulletin
announced that Paul’s extended family was holding an “old time party” in 1924 at his aunt
Mary’s house, where his half-brother and a cousin would perform on Spanish guitar and violin.
Newspaper obituaries became a regular place to declare Spanishness to cement some final
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respect. When Paul’s mother Maria Ygnacia died in January 1930, the Pomona Progress-
Bulletin reported that she had been born in the old Alvarado adobe.
The Progress-Bulletin’s
obituary for Maria Ygnacia’s brother, Policarpio, in 1941 romanticized their father, Gerardo
Preciado, as “a Spanish pioneer… for whom a Pomona street is named.
As interest in heritage
grew during the Sixties and Seventies, a grandson of Juana Alvarado who had joined the Spanish
colonial heritage organizations, Los Californianos and Los Pobladores, was proudly
memorialized in his Los Angeles Times obituary as a “10th-generation Californian from a pioneer
California family.
Thus, while growing up among the working poor with recurring
disparagement as a Mexican who was expected to remain in the working class, Paul was raised
in an extended family that pushed back against prejudice by asserting Spanish identity and
pioneer roots. These were the identities and family history Paul chose to set aside to remake
himself into a Chumash Indian named Semu.
Early Life and First Fictions
Young Paul Olivas’s family lived in or near Ventura for the first seven years of his life.
Maria Ygnacia had eight previous children, seven with her husband, Jose Maldonado, a farm
worker who had emigrated from Mexico in 1865. She separated from Jose in 1910 to become the
common-law wife of Juan Pablo Olivas, also known as Paul J. or John Paul (which I use
hereafter), who had spent part of his childhood in a Catholic orphanage. John Paul and Maria
Ygnacia married formally in 1915, the year after Paul’s sister was born. John Paul worked as a
farm laborer but tried his hand at other activities. The family moved frequently between Oxnard,
Santa Paula, and Fillmore, as John Paul alternated between work in the inland lemon groves and
the coastal plain row crop farms. By 1926, the family had relocated to Pomona, where they had a
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larger family support network. Though the Olivases continued to move in search of work,
Pomona remained a base they returned to past the deaths of Paul’s parents.
Recalling his boyhood years later, Paul remembered that his father was respected for
planting such straight rows of beans. Another story from this part of Paul’s life reveals the
family’s embrace of spiritually based healing long before Paul turned to Indianism. Paul and one
of his half-brothers suffered from migraine headaches which they treated by resting in a
darkened room. Their mother obtained a handkerchief that had been touched by Brother Isaiah
(a.k.a., John Cudney), a popular charismatic faith-healer during the Twenties. She used this
“magic handkerchief” to cover the boys’ eyes when the migraines came, and Paul credited it with
ending his migraines. Paul’s embrace of healing methods outside of biomedicine predate his turn
to an Indian identity.
The Olivas household engaged in economic strategies typical of lower working-class
communities of color in California in the early twentieth century. Children in John Paul and
Maria Ygnacia Olivas’s family did not finish high school. Instead, they entered the workforce as
wage laborers during their teens. This gave the Olivas household at least three wage earners
during the Twenties and Thirties, mainly in the citrus orchards and packing houses, where work
was seasonal and wages were low. Managing housing as an extended family was a strategic
adaptation. In the Twenties and Thirties, nine of the residences used by the Olivas and their
extended Preciado kin lay within a three-block area of south Pomona centered around the home
owned by Maria Ygnacia’s cousin. Houses changed hands between family members, and the mix
of family members in a single residence changed often. The house occupied by Paul’s parents in
1926 had once been his aunt’s home. Only as urban growth began to displace farming in the late
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Thirties did the family’s residential stability increase, as some of the men shifted to concrete
work, road work, and other construction labor.
In January 1930, Paul’s mother, Maria Ygnacia, died. The family remained in Pomona
while Paul’s father dabbled in gold mining, or perhaps conned people into investing in an alleged
venture, as Paul’s sister claimed.
That same year, Paul married Carmelita Sosa (b. 1909 d.
1996), a young woman from Ventura of Anglo, Mexican, and Native American ancestry to
whom his father’s family had ties. She joined the Olivas household in Pomona. Carmelita’s
great-grandmother, Dolores Twist (b. ca. 1830), was a Native American who lived in Santa
Barbara during the 1860s and 1870s in a common-law relationship with an Anglo man. Her tribal
affiliation is unknown, but she likely was part of an influx of southern California or northern
Baja California Mission Indians who came to Santa Barbara after 1850 seeking agricultural and
domestic work.
Like other descendants of Dolores Twist, Carmelita knew of her ancestor’s
native identity, and may have stimulated Paul’s interest in his own native history. In April 1930,
roughly six months before the birth of their first child, Paul began boxing as a Pomona Indian at
the nearby Ontario Arena under the nom de guerre, Chief Semu Huaute. Although he won his
early bouts convincingly, Paul’s boxing career was brief, consisting of five fights in 1930 and
two more in 1935. But he did begin drifting toward an Indian identity in other ways. When he
applied for a Social Security number in 1937, he checked “White” for Color, but also wrote in
“Spanish American Indian.” On his October 1940 draft form, “Mex” was written in, then erased,
and “Indian” checked. But there is little evidence beyond this that Paul developed interest in his
California Indian ancestry further during the Thirties or Forties, and no expression of a specific
tribal identity at this time. He did not give his children Indian names until many years later,
according to family members. Paul and Carmelita’s marriage dissolved around 1940 after Paul
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had affairs with a pair of other women, including one of Carmelita’s friends from the Soboba
While Paul was still working in citrus, World War II opened more construction and
industrial work opportunities to Mexican Americans, allowing Paul to become an iron worker. In
April 1944 with the war dragging on, Paul enlisted in the Naval Reserve. Following basic
training and armed guard school in San Diego, Paul was transferred to Treasure Island in San
Francisco Bay at the rank of Gunner’s Mate, 3rd class. He remained there for a year, never
leaving for combat zones in the Pacific. At the end of the year, he spent more than five weeks in
the Oakland Naval Hospital, and another month in the Seattle naval hospital before receiving a
medical discharge in September 1945 for psychoneurosis anxiety, an episodically debilitating
personality disorder. Paul’s service record indicates that his disorder pre-existed his enlistment
and was aggravated by his military experience. Paul received the World War II Victory Medal
and WW II Honorable Lapel Button for his service, but not the Purple Heart, since he was not
wounded in combat. In later years, Paul strove to conceal his war experience, even from family.
For the rest of his life, he claimed to have been wounded in combat while serving as a gunner’s
mate on an ammunition ship in the Pacific, sometimes specifying the Saipan and Philippines
campaigns in June and October 1944, which included ships from Treasure Island. He often said
he had a steel plate in his head due to his wounds. In fact, he had not left California.
Paul returned to Pomona in 1945 returned to Pomona as a veteran supported by disability
payments and occasional wage work. His father had died while Paul had been hospitalized. Paul
and his second wife set about raising a family of five children between 1946 and 1952. His
previous children often joined them during summer months. Paul struggled with alcoholism after
his discharge from the Navy, which may have contributed to two arrests and convictions in 1947
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and 1948. No further incidents occurred, so Paul may have gained control of his drinking around
1950 as he later claimed.
Carving Indian Roots
The post-war years witnessed a new effort to resolve outstanding California Indian land
claims against the federal government. In 1928, Congress had authorized the State of California
to file suits against the federal government, seeking relief for California tribes’ loss of lands and
other suffering caused by Congress’s failure to ratify treaties. The resulting process produced a
judgment roll in 1933 listing persons identified as California Indians entitled to federal financial
compensation. The 1933 roll was updated to produce a new roll in 1952, and payments were
distributed to those individuals. Passage of the Indian Claims Commission Act of 1946 renewed
interest in documenting losses incurred by individual tribes. The judgment rolls were re-opened
again in 1954, triggering new efforts to locate eligible individuals (the rolls were re-opened again
in 1968, creating a third and much larger roll in 1972).
It was widely held that California’s
Mission Indians had not survived European disease, missionization, and urbanization as distinct
groups except where there were reservation safe havens. Any Mission Indians remaining in
urban areas were assumed to have assimilated into the SpanishMexican Californio population.
In hindsight, it is clear that such a merger was overstated, though it is equally certain that some
enclaves had been overlooked.
The survival of culture and institutions was not deemed relevant
for compiling a judgment roll. Only descent was deemed relevant. The roll was to include
anyone who could demonstrate descent from an Indian who was in California on June 1, 1852. It
so happened that Californio descendants included an active network of genealogists who had
used genealogy to assert Spanish identity to counter anti-Mexican prejudice. These genealogists
re-entered old communities like the Pomona Valley, selling or volunteering their services to find
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Native California ancestors that could qualify Californios for the judgment roll. This, in turn,
stimulated a new embrace of Indian identities, and the beginnings of neo-Indianism.
Many Pomona residents were disappointed with their results after paying a genealogist’s
fee, but Paul Olivas had a different experience.
Paul’s ancestor, Monica, qualified him for the
judgment roll. By late 1953, he was identifying himself as a California Indian and took up wood
carving to express that identity and generate income for his family. This brought him to the
attention of the Pomona Progress-Bulletin in March 1954 for a human-interest story about a
disabled World War II veteran from “a disappearing race.”
In the accompanying photograph,
Paul did not have the long hair or jewelry he displayed in 1961, but he did wear cowboy hat. The
reporter noted that Paul “talks a great deal of his forebearers and hopes to help preserve Indian
culture through his new-found talent” of woodcarving. Paul claimed the carvings depicted native
stories he learned as a child. However, experts sent to evaluate his eligibility for state-funded
training felt Paul’s carvings of stereotypical Indian images and Mexican-inspired forms lacked
the skill or authenticity. One called his carvings “primitive,” and urged him to improve by
studying “real Indian art.” The story caught the attention of the Los Angeles Times, which
published their own interview with Paul nearly three months later. Paul was better prepared,
saying his Indian name was Semu, his father’s tribal affiliation was Chumash, and his mother’s
was Cahuilla.
He cited the census records of his judgment roll-qualifying great-grandmother,
Monica, inadvertently revealing the influence of genealogists:
My great-grandmother worked as a servant here at the Palomares Adobe, and her
name, Monica Mora, was listed in the first census taken in Pomona in 1851 [sic].
She lived to be more than 100 and died at Ramona House, near Hemet.
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Paul used the interview to paint himself as Indian as possible. For example, in the quote
above, Paul added color and concealed details of the 1850 census record. Although Monica is
listed (without surname or occupation) as an Indian, Paul concealed that her daughter, his
grandmother Ampara, is recorded as white. He linked Monica to the home of the colorful annual
Ramona pageant based on Helen Hunt Jackson’s best-selling novel to tap into popular imagery
of Indians and Californios, while simultaneously naming the place where he told the previous
reporter he planned to sell his carvings. He went on to primitivize his childhood as shoeless,
houseless, and Indian-looking other ways, beginning a lifetime of such colorful depictions. The 2
by 5 foot cottonwood log he was carving into a figure from “the legend of ‘two mouths,’ [was] a
story he remembers hearing around the campfire when he was a boy.” Paul was quickly
becoming adept at using the press to his own advantage. He even claimed he had been wounded
in action during World War II to appear more sympathetic.
Most bold of all is a statement Paul made in the article about his grandfather. “After my
grandfather was shot by the white men, my father and his brother headed for the hills and lived
in Santa Paula Canyon. You know it didn’t mean anything to shoot an Indian in those days.”
The claim is fiction, though it rests ever so tenuously on family history. It also suggests that Paul
did not realize that his paternal grandfather, Blas Olivas (b. 1836 d. ca. 1884), possessed no
California Indian ancestry and was never characterized as Indian.
Blas’s wife, María Francisca
Domínguez (b. 1852 d. ca. 1878), was the great-granddaughter of Paul’s Chumash ancestor,
María Irena. During the Civil War, Blas served in the U.S. 1st Battalion of Native California
Cavalry, comprised primarily of Californios. Following the war, he was described as a laborer.
By 1880, Blas was an invalid, asthmatic, and widower boarding at the Parian dance hall in the
old Chumash barrio in Ventura. Paul’s father, Juan Pablo, was not with him, but had not “headed
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for the hills.” Juan Pablo had been placed in the care of the Santa Barbara Catholic Church after
his mother died. The Church sent him to their orphanage near Watsonville, California in 1878,
about 20 miles north of Monterey.
Paul embellished his story over time. In 1999, he told his
nieces that his father had been sold by the Catholic Church into slavery on a Spanish land grant
near Monterey.
One can easily see that Paul was using actual history as a scaffold on which he
built a story with a more indigenous feel.
The murder element of Paul’s fictional history also may have been inspired by real events
close to his ancestors. Fifteen months after the 1880 census was taken, a Chumash man was
murdered near the Parian dance hall where Blas lived. The man was stabbed by Cirilo de Jesús
Sosa, a Mexican immigrant, and the great-uncle of Paul’s first wife. Sosa had the help of
Romualdo Olivas (no relation), who was born to Mexican parents in Los Angeles in 1859. Sosa
and Olivas framed another Chumash man who was convicted for the murder, although Olivas
was convicted for his part.
A second murder case directly involved Blas’s father, Juan Silvestre
Olivas (b. 1806 d. 1897), who, of course, lacked Native California ancestry like his son. Juan
Silvestre was a hired hand on the Rancho Sespe in Ventura County in 1877 when conflict broke
out between the ranch’s owner, Thomas W. More, and a group of American squatters who had
settled on land claimed by More. On the evening of March 24, seven of the squatters set fire to a
barn to draw More out where they could kill him. Juan Silvestre and two other ranch hands
witnessed part of the shooting and fled, but Juan Silvestre went first to notify More’s brother in
the ranch’s sheep camp. Afterwards, Juan Silvestre testified to the grand jury and in the
subsequent trials.
Despite Paul’s creativity with his family history, the Los Angeles Times story revealed a
painful fact: Paul’s family was poor. He could not afford proper chisels to make his carvings. He
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hoped that the State Rehabilitation Department would provide him training to improve his skills
enough to augment the family’s income. Although his request was denied, a short time later the
Times reported that a reader had been moved to donate a set of chisels to Olivas. The value of
Paul’s embellishments of his family history were evident in the donor’s explanation for her gift:
“It seemed like one way the white man could repay the Indian for some of the mistreatment he
gave him, the donor said.
Cousin John’s “Native” Ethnobotany
Paul was not the only descendant of María Irena who began asserting a Chumash identity
in the 1950s. As Paul was struggling to reintegrate into Pomona life after the war, a cousin who
shared his paternal Chumash ancestry was carrying out his own project of claiming Indian
identity, one inspired not by personal trauma but by professional opportunity. About twenty
miles south of Pomona in Orange County lived children of John Paul Olivas’ half-brother, who
were Paul’s half cousins. One of these cousins was John Bruno Romero (b. 1889 d. 1974) who,
like other family members, began his working life as a farm laborer before moving into
plumbing, surveying, and other work. During the New Deal era, John Bruno worked in
archaeology and related projects through the California State Relief Administration. While so
employed, he was tasked with creating Indian ethnobotanical collections. This brought about a
change in him. Between 1923 and 1940, John Bruno usually identified himself as Spanish,
Mexican, or White. But when the archaeological and ethnobotanical projects were the point of
interest, he asserted an Indian identity. After discovering a mastodon tusk and teeth in an Orange
County canyon in 1932, in the ensuing press coverage John Bruno identified himself as a full-
blooded Cahuilla Indian despite having no Cahuilla ancestry. In a 1937 newspaper photo with his
native foods collection he again was described as Indian. Based on his botanical collections, John
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Bruno wrote The Botanical Lore of the California Indians, with Side Lights on Historical
Incidents in California, published by a vanity press in 1954. In this book, John Bruno identified
himself as a full-blooded Chumash named Ha Ha St of Tawee. He continued to assert a Chumash
identity until his death. Like his cousin Paul, John Bruno’s embrace of a Chumash identity came
when genealogists were working on eligibility for the California Indian judgment roll.
One curiosity of The Botanical Lore of the California Indians is its dedication and
presentation of materials attributed to William Pablo, who Romero calls his uncle. Pablo was
an actual medicine man and leader of the Morongo Reservation Cahuilla, an opponent of the
federal government’s allotment program intended to forcibly assimilate native peoples, and a
proponent of Indian sovereignty. John Bruno, who was unrelated to Pablo, falsely claimed to
have grown up among the Cahuilla. He had spent his childhood far from Cahuilla territory in
Montecito, near Santa Barbara, before moving to Orange County in the first decade of the
twentieth century with his parents, siblings, and his uncle, John Paul Olivas.
John Bruno’s
fictions had their intended effect on some readers, but not others. A reviewer from the social
sciences expressed delight at seeing an ethnobotany written by a “full-blooded Chu-Mash”
collaborating with a prominent Cahuilla medicine man.
Botanical reviewers panned the book.
After finding non-native plants and incorrect habitats in the account, one botanist concluded,
“May one wonder if Vantage Press had the manuscripts checked by a botanist or by a
Another wrote, “It purports to be an account of Indian folklore, including
legends and medicinal uses of Californian plants, but it is more entertaining if read as pure
fiction rather than for information.”
He gave a sampling of those fictions: a giant elm forest
destroyed by the Spanish, yet elms are not native to California; a mountain laurel said to be loved
by the deer except that it does not grow west of Kentucky; the white man is urged to conserve a
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valuable herb, yet it has never been found in California. And so on. More than a decade later, the
authors of a more rigorous Cahuilla ethnobotany discovered that as many as 22 Cahuilla plants,
plant names, or uses listed by Romero were not recognized by any of their Cahuilla consultants.
They did not bother to cite John Bruno’s most problematic assertions.
Another curiosity is Romero’s listing for Lophophora williamsii, the most common
species of peyote, whose closest habitat to California is Texas and Chihuahua. Romero told
readers this was the “American Desert Agave or Button Root, Indigenous to the Mojave
Desert… and the Borrego Valley” before mysteriously concluding that the plant’s uses included
some “which I shall not divulge at this time, as it would probably invite total extermination of
the desert agave, as occurred in the case of the bison and the messenger dove.”
If we needed
further evidence that John Bruno was no botanical expert, here we see him confusing peyote,
which contains mescaline, with mescal, as the agave and its derivative alcoholic drink are called.
By this time, sacramental use of peyote had reached southern California through road men of the
Native American Church, and John Bruno’s cousin Paul became involved in its use at very
roughly this time. We might speculate that they shared notes on the subject. In any event, beyond
the influence of the California Indian land claims settlement judgment roll process that John
Bruno and Paul both probably experienced, we can see that John Bruno was inspired to claim an
Indian identity in part by his ethnobotanical work. He was not driven by a personal trauma like
that of his cousin Paul.
What’s In a Name?
The names Paul and his cousin John Bruno chose to Indianize themselves provide
additional illustrations of how the social and cultural distance between them and their Chumash
ancestors left knowledge gaps that both men had to fill in creatively if they were to appear Indian
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to others. Romero derived the Tawee portion of his Indian name from Tahquitz, an important
figure of Cahuilla legend, preserved in the placenames of a prominent peak and a canyon on
opposite sides of Mt. San Jacinto.
Otherwise, his Ha-Ha-St name and Paul’s Ah-Ah-Ota for his
Two Mouths/Two-Faced Whiteman sculpture appear equally made-up and un-Chumashan. The
name, Semu Huaute, which Paul claimed was Chumash, has long been dismissed quietly by
scholars of the Chumashan language family. This is particularly true of Huaute, which Paul
pronounced by vocalizing each vowel individually, dividing the word into four syllables. Paul’s
translation of Semu Huaute into English, which he had long given as Brave, Wise Like Owl,
further undermines Paul’s claim for the source of the name. During a talk given on Earth Day
1992, he broke down the translation of his name as follows:
'seɪ-mu, brave
ˌhu-ǝ-, owl
-'u-, wise
-teɪ, like
Chumashan languages have no adjectives, so a word such as wise must be rendered as a
verb in a clause. Since that is not what Paul presented, it is clear immediately that Paul’s
translation of Huaute is impossible.
Chumash languages also lack a general term for owl, and
none of the words for the various types of owls is ˌhu-ǝ, or anything like it. Similarly, 'seɪ-mu is
not a word for brave in any Chumashan language and it does not appear as a word in any
Chumashan lexicons. For example, “to be brave” is constructed in Ineseño Chumash through a
modification that linguists call reduplication a repetition of a part of the parent word. Thus,
ɑxmujun, to sting or smart (with pain), becomes ɑxmujuxmujun, to be brave.
There are many
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complexities to Chumashan languages that are unfamiliar to anyone who has not closely studied
this language family. Such complexities often hinder word-for-word translations, and Paul’s
utterance, “Brave, Wise Like Owl, defies easy translation to and from a Chumashan language. It
is not clear how a native Chumashan speaker would have rendered this, though it is certain that it
would not be “semu huaute. I coaxed one expert in Ventureño Chumash into an attempt, and he
suggested that siʃe kɑ’ɑɬ’ɑɬt
͡ʃǝpʃ was one possible rendering of “an owl that is wise,” if one
chose the Ventureño word for barn owl (ʃe) as a starting point.
Then there is the problem of Semu’s four-syllable pronunciation of Huaute.
Anthropologists with experience in Mexico quickly recognize huau- as a common structure in
Uto-Aztecan languages, pronounced as waw or wow. Huaute is, in fact, a name (pronounced
'waw-teɪ) in Sinaloa, Nayarit, and Jalisco for the amaranth plant, its seed, and flowers. The word
is Hispanicized from the Nahuatl, huautle, much as the Spanish tomate and coyote derive from
tomatl and coyotl.
Use of the name huaute declined along with use of amaranth as a food grain
since the eighteenth century.
Intriguingly, Paul’s family did have ties to a region with Uto-
Aztecan speakers. Paul’s maternal grandfather, Gerardo Preciado, emigrated from Altar in the
Pimaria Alta region of Sonora in the mid-nineteenth century, and he and Ampara moved there in
the 1870s. It is likely that Paul’s mother spent part of her childhood in Altar with her parents.
Paul visited northwest Mexico with his father and may have visited kin in Altar. There are
possible pathways for Paul to have encountered the word huaute. But for this to be the source of
the name that Paul pronounced so uniquely, he would have had to encounter it in writing and
been given no guidance in its pronunciation, leaving him free to create his odd, four-syllable
pronunciation. Since it is a botanical name, huaute may have been brought to Paul’s attention by
his cousin John Bruno.
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The word semu also appears in Uto-Aztecan languages of northwest Mexico. In the Opata
language of Sonora, semu is the word for hummingbird.
Rather than Brave, Wise Like Owl,
Semu Huaute may be translated more accurately as Hummingbird Amaranth, perhaps a variety
of hummingbird that is drawn to amaranth blossoms. Did Paul’s mother or a Sonoran aunt
endearingly call him Hummingbird in Opata? The answer appears to be lost to us. Speculation
aside, it should not surprise us that John Bruno and Paul could not formulate actual Chumashan
names for themselves. Lacking a native speaker’s knowledge or formal education in Native
California languages, Paul and John Bruno created Indian-sounding names from a disadvantaged
working-class position that failed to fool experts. Even so, simply because Paul’s Semu Huaute
sounds less contrived to the non-specialist than what many neo-Indians were concocting for
themselves at that time, it probably contributed to his relatively successful reinvention of
Being Semu, the Early Years
Paul’s reinvention of himself as an Indian was deeper and more consequential than his
cousin, John Bruno’s. The difference between their experiences is rooted in Paul’s success
building ties to Indian communities, neo-Indians, and others who vouched for him. Paul drew
upon ties in the community at nearby Soboba reservation, Native American railroad workers in
Barstow, Craig Carpenter’s LONAI network and Hopi Traditionalists, a well-connected
theosophist, and the Native American Church. Probably getting it started was Craig Carpenter,
who returned to southern California from Hotvela in the winter of 1955-1956 to build support for
Indian Traditionalists. Carpenter promptly set about finding Indians who would support the
millennial prophecies of the Hopi Traditionalist faction and LONAI. He sought individuals who
already had demonstrated a desire to preserve traditional culture. Victoria Weirick, who had been
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preserving Cahuilla history and culture on the Morongo Reservation, was among his first
southern California contacts. Paul Olivas was another. Both men have said that Carpenter
encouraged Paul to spread the Traditionalists’ message after the Meeting of Religious People in
August 1956.
Paul’s attendance at that meeting is not confirmed, but he must have met
Carpenter about this time. After meeting Carpenter and the Hopi Traditionalists, Paul’s
appearance began to conform to a more “traditional” Indian look, and he began to use the name
Semu more consistently. Unfortunately, little more has come to light regarding Paul’s
interactions with Carpenter and the Hopis before 1967.
Paul also established a connection with a community of Laguna Pueblo railroad workers
in Barstow, northeast of Los Angeles in the Mojave Desert. Through an agreement with the
Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe Railway in the 1880s, Laguna Pueblo of New Mexico
established communities of railroad workers in California and New Mexico cities, which were
recognized by the Pueblo after 1900 as official colonies with continuing rights and
responsibilities at Laguna. One of these colonies had been in Barstow, so when Japanese
American railroad workers were forcibly interred in 1942, Laguna families returned to Barstow
to fill the need for workers. Laguna language, culture, and ceremonies remained vital in these
colonies. The Barstow colony devoted itself to preserving and performing Laguna dances. It is
not clear how Paul met the Barstow Laguna dancers; perhaps he attended a performance, or
perhaps he met them through Carpenter’s recruiting efforts. Regardless of how it happened, Paul
knew the Barstow Lagunas by the late Fifties, nd ahe and his daughters were taught dances at
Laguna Pueblo itself which they performed around southern California through the early Sixties
to educate, entertain, and raise donations of food and clothing for Laguna and other
impoverished Native American communities.
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A charitable event in the San Fernando Valley in December 1959 illustrates Paul’s
changes after establishing ties to the Laguna colony. Local Camp Fire Girls clubs were hosting a
Christmas party at which they donated clothing and food they had gathered during the past year
for the Soboba Reservation. Representing Soboba at the Christmas event was Paul, identified as
Semu, “the medicine man who works with [the Soboba] as counselor, confessor, and nurse.”
An accompanying photo reveals Paul/Semu in an elaborate costume, headpiece, squash-blossom
necklace, and Pueblo-style moccasins. He was accompanied by Alvin Wacanda and Jack Garcia
from the Barstow Laguna community with whom he performed Buffalo, Deer, Corn (harvest),
and Sacred Eagle dances for the Camp Fire Girls. Le Roy Palman, a Cahuilla from the Salton
Sea, served as emcee for the dancers, but Semu was portrayed as the group’s leader.
Another connection that promoted Paul’s transformation into Semu was a friendship he
struck up around 1960 with artist/writer, Indian admirer, and theosophist Cabot Yerxa, whose
Desert Hot Springs home, Cabot’s Old Indian Pueblo, was both a stopping place for like-minded
or curious travelers and a part-time museum and trading post (see Figure *[Yerxa & Semu]).,
Yerxa’s letters to friends following Paul’s visits in the early Sixties preserve the impression Paul
made, details of his new persona as Semu, and Yerxa’s promotion of Paul among his Hollywood
friends. Among the subtler aspects of Paul’s performance of Semu were his attire and stories.
Yerxa recorded that Semu always wore Pueblo style mocassins, a red or black bandana around
his head, and over this, a cowboy hat which never came off. Yerxa accepted Semu’s stories that
he was a combat veteran, and that old men of his tribe had begun training him to be a medicine
man when he was a child. Semu regaled Yerxa with stories of stalking owls in the Santa Rosa
Mountains south of Palm Springs to obtain feathers that empowered his ritual paraphernalia,
since he was of the Owl Clan. He recounted dreams, which Yerxa, being a theosophist,
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interpreted as memories from Semu’s past incarnations. He shared a story of Soboba Indians
meeting an old medicine man who turned into a crow and traveled faster than a car. He showed
his wood carvings with Yerxa, who would eventually receive Paul’s 1955 Two Mouths, or Two-
Faced Whiteman carving, which still resides at Cabot’s. A carving of the “little people” of the
desert encouraged Yerxa to believe that Leprechauns must be real because similar stories were so
Preserved in Yerxa’s letters is another detail reflecting Paul’s strengthening ties to the
Hopi Traditionalist faction. Returning from a trip to Arizona and New Mexico in September
1960, Semu recounted having been taken into a kiva. We can confidently assume that this
occurred at Hotvela, where the Traditionalist faction had been taking outside supporters into
kivas for a decade or more to nurture their support.
Yerxa wrote,
Of this he was very proud, because no strange man is ever taken there. In this
kiva, no one word of any kind is ever spoken except in the language of that
particular tribe of Indians, not for several hundred years, so he said he did not
utter one word, even though he knows English, Spanish, and some of their local
language.... Semu said, ‘It was like being in another world.’ I think he learned
secret words, so he can go to Indian hogans and be given food, shelter and
Paul’s later work television and films may have begun with Cabot Yerxa. Yerxa shared
his enthusiasm for Semu with friends in Hollywood, who began trying “to get Semu into the
Yerxa’s own appraisal of Semu was extravagant:
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Semu is unlike any man you ever met. With him, you sense calmness, and
spiritual values. He makes you think of a mountain, after days spent on flat
ground. Or climbing a small ridge in rolling territory and looking over the top to
see a placid lake, with trees at the water’s edge in some places, casting heavy
reflections on the water. This lake appears to be deep, quiet, and undisturbed by
passing winds.
In April, 1961, the Los Angeles Times ran the article described that opened this chapter,
in which Paul Semu displayed his new persona as medicine man and last surviving member of
the Chumash tribe.
The Times gave no reason for running the article, but it is possible that
Yerxa’s Hollywood friends prompted the Times’ interest. The article gave Paul an unprecedented
opportunity to embellish his identity as Semu. The Hopi influence is evident in Paul’s
declaration that the Chumash may have originated in Hawaii. Paul would have known that
claims of ancient ties between Hawaii and the Hopi were discussed in Traditionalist meetings in
1957 and 1959, when Carpenter brought the Hawaiian spiritualists, “Daddy” Bray and George
Robinson, Jr., to Hopiland. Paul simply extended the idea to encompass the Chumash. Paul
misled readers into thinking that he had grown up speaking Chumash (it was Spanish) and that
he had only attended school through the fifth grade (it was tenth grade). Though he called
himself the medicine man of the Barstow Laguna Tribe, he claimed to rehabilitate alcoholics
beyond that community.
Paul displayed his new, richer version of Semu to a group of housewives in December
1962. Friends who hosted him in their Rialto home invited a reporter from the San Bernardino
County Sun for whom Paul was well prepared.
Using the name Paul Semu, he arrived dressed
in the romanticized Southwest Indian style clothing similar to Yerxa’s description. He wore a
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bright red corduroy shirt untucked with a wide belt over it around his waist, and mocassins on his
feet. A beadwork collar encircled his neck beneath the shirt, and a semi-precious stone bead
necklace and a small pouch hung around his neck. His usual bandana and cowboy hat adorned
his head. The reporter characterized him with clichés: “quiet, reserved, proud.” Accepting the
donation of clothing and food destined for Indian communities, Semu spoke to the housewives
about poverty and lack of sanitation on reservations. Borrowing a theme from the Hopi
Traditionalists, Semu stated that Indians resisted sending their children to boarding schools
because “Juvenile delinquency among the Indians was unheard of until some of the younger
people started returning to the reservation from schools.” He added his own distinctive
The Indian doesn’t whip his child…. Indians believe that when the child is born
there are two selves, or minds. The one is the infant mind which knows nothing.
Then there is the ‘other self’ which is fully developed at birth. The Indian parent
talks to the child through his ‘other self.’ He tells the child he will be obedient,
kind, truthful; he tells him he is loved and will be directed. The child has no wish
to be disobedient.
He spoke about alcoholism which was disrupting this ideal way of life on reservations.
He described helping alcoholics who requested treatment from him using secret rituals and
prayers that had taken him 35 years to learn. Nevertheless, he said a “‘dream tea’ is given to the
patient so that the medicine man can reach the ‘other self.’ The rattle that is used simulates the
heart beat and aids in hypnosis.” Calling himself a non-Christian, Semu guilelessly claimed that
“Our god teaches tolerance, mercy, and love of all mankind, overlooking the Christian roots of
this formulation. The reporter listed Semu’s speaking engagements with women’s and children’s
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groups, then closed with an impassioned endorsement indicative of the effectiveness of Paul’s
performance: “When you have listened to Semu, you have not just listened to a medicine man, a
historian, and a leader of his people. You have listened to a true philosopher.”
In April 1963, Paul capitalized on another opportunity for charity and publicity, this time
by his Barstow Laguna friends. Mrs. Winnie Anders of a Long Beach suburb had shipped a
donation of food and supplies to Santo Domingo Pueblo in New Mexico after observing
“starving conditions” there with her husband.
The governor of the pueblo rejected her gift,
returning it with a note saying, “Give it to the starving California Indians!” Described by the
reporter they had brought with them as “four Pueblo Indians, decked out in tribal trappings,”
medicine man Paul Semu, Jake Garcia, spiritual leader Johnny (Garcia) Whitecloud, and Albert
Camarillo arrived at the Anders home to “apologize on behalf of the Pueblo nation for the insult
she received” from Santo Domingo’s governor. Semu, who did most of the talking, asserted that
“somebody ordered the governor not to attract publicity that would let word leak out to the
people about how the Indians are treated by the government.” In what the reporter called a
“bitter, scathing” statement, Semu charged, “We had our own religion, our own honor and a
history of peace until the white man stepped off the boat with his Ten Commandments…. ‘Thou
Shalt Not Kill’ and he began to wipe us out… ‘Thou Shalt Not Steal,’ and they robbed us blind.”
As they departed, Whitecloud told Mrs. Anders they would honor her husband by initiating him
into the Society of the Turtle, “accompanied by a ritual handed down through the centuries.
The four visitors undoubtedly engaged in some staging in their interaction with Mrs.
Anders for the reporter they brought with them. This event reveals more about the Barstow
Lagunas with whom Paul had built a relationship. The Whitecloud/Garcia family, led by their
elder John P. Garcia, presumably had been Paul’s dancing instructors. Garcia, known to friends
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and family as Grandpa Whitecloud (the family’s original surname), was a founder of the Barstow
Laguna colony and a respected cultural conservator in the greater Los Angeles powwow scene.
Known mainly for promoting dancing, Grandpa Whitecloud and the other Lagunas left the
hyperbole to Paul, who delivered rhetoric borrowed from Craig Carpenter and the Traditionalists.
The four left after calling upon ancient ritual to cement their image as “traditional” Indians.
Paul knew members of the nearby Soboba Reservation since at least 1937, when he had
an affair with a resident that produced a son. Once, long after establishing himself as Semu, Paul
claimed that his medicine man training began on trips with Soboba elders to Mt. San Jacinto.
Paul’s continuing ties to Soboba were visible in 1963 in a tragic incident that he used to gain
more publicity. About 20 miles west of Pomona on the night of March 24, 1963, World War II
Soboba combat veteran and steelworker, Frank Soza shot his stepdaughter and her husband in a
drunken rage. She survived, but her husband was killed instantly. Soza fled into the hills and
eluded law enforcement for eight days as he walked more than 100 miles east to his parents’
home at Soboba. Once there, family members convinced him to surrender to police. He turned
himself in accompanied by his brother and Paul, identified by the reporter as the medicine man
of the Soboba tribe.
The manhunt was covered intensively by the local press. A handful of the
stories mention Paul without using the name Semu, which suggests that his longer ties to Soboba
might have hindered their acceptance of his new name. Pasadena’s Star News reported that Paul
and Soza’s brother aided the sheriff’s search parties in scouring the hills for the suspect.
Relatives recalled a television news interview in which Paul claimed to have tracked Soza
through the hills, even though the search for Soza was fruitless.
By the spring of 1963, Paul had identified himself at various times as Pomona Indian,
California Indian, Cahuilla, Soboba, Laguna, and Chumash, with the last becoming his
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preference. In remaking himself into an Indian, Paul had to overcome his lack of affiliation with
an Indian community and the non-Indian identity embraced by his family and community of
enculturation. So, he built ties where he could and with what he could, always constrained by his
poverty and disability. Paul never gained acceptance into any of the tribal communities to which
he built ties as one of their own, presumably because that was never their expectation in the first
place. What the bouncing back and forth between groups and identities reveal is Paul’s strategy
of opportunism in the face of ethnic boundaries that he could not breach. There was self-interest
in this opportunism, certainly, but the bouncing also may be more reasonable than first appears,
when one considers Paul’s participation in the Native American Church, the final key in his
transformation into Semu.
Dream Tea
Paul’s participation in the Native American Church’s sacramental use of peyote was
essential to his claim of being a medicine man. As a body of belief and practice created and
spread by Native Americans, Paul’s peyotism represents his acculturation toward Native
Americans rather than a novel invention of his own. The peyote religion is pan-Indian, differing
little from one nation to the next, and its meetings may include participants from diverse
communities. The religion began in the late nineteenth century in the southern Plains, from
which it spread outward through proselytizing. It melds Native American elements with
Christianity. Peyote, a hallucinogenic cactus, is consumed as a sacrament in a ritual known as a
meeting guided and supervised by a specialist called a roadman. Meetings are held as needed
when someone seeks spiritual guidance to solve a problem or answer a question. The ritual has
long been used to treat alcoholism, which may be how Paul was introduced to it and was a major
reason he became adept at it.
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Native American’s sacramental use of peyote moved westward from the Plains states
during the twentieth century. The peyote ritual reached Washo Indians in Nevada in 1929. By
1937, it had been brought to Washo and Northern Paiute communities in California. Non-Indian
anthropologists and poets in the San Francisco Bay area and associates of occult leader and
pioneer rocket scientist Jack Parsons in Los Angeles were trying peyote during the late Forties.
Next to bring peyotism to California were Navajo railroad workers, who had adopted it in their
reservation homeland where it was a persecuted minority religion. Until the Fifties, the Navajo
workers in California probably traveled back to Arizona, New Mexico, or Utah for most
meetings. But Indian urbanization brought enough peyotists westward so that pan-tribal peyote
meetings were possible in the San Francisco Bay in 1955. The arrival of Oto roadman Truman
Dailey in southern California in 1959 made southern California meetings possible. These were
secretive, since California outlawed the possession of peyote that year. Dailey, who had served
Navajo peyotists for many years, began holding meetings for Navajo railroad workers and others
in the Mojave Desert, 27 miles west of Needles, in a Navajo hogan built from railroad ties. The
Mojave became the safe refuge for southern California peyotists from all tribes to practice their
faith, until the arrest of three Navajos on April 28, 1962 during a meeting led by Dailey at the
Needles hogan. The ultimate resolution of their case in 1964 permitted sacramental use of peyote
by Indians in California.
Precisely where and when Paul was introduced to the peyote ritual remains unclear. He
sometimes claimed to have begun his medicine man training in the Mojave Desert, an intriguing
clue, perhaps, since it could not have been among Chumash. The likely connection is through
railroad workers in Barstow. He may have met some of the Navajo peyotists through the
Garcia/Whitecloud family in the Fifties, or vice versa. There were roughly 300 or so Navajos in
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Barstow at the time.
It is also possible that Craig Carpenter introduced Paul to peyotists after
his return to southern California. Some of LONAI’s neo-Indian leaders were peyotists, and
Carpenter had assisted with rituals in a part of the Navajo reservation where peyotism first took
Peyote is often consumed in the form of a tea. Paul mentioned his “dream tea” alcoholism
treatment to the group of Rialto housewives he gathered charitable donations from in December
1962. He gave a more detailed description to Cabot Yerxa during a visit at Yerxa’s home on July
12, 1960. Yerxa reported Paul’s description in a letter, as follows:
All people and animals, too, are born with a subconscious mind, as you call it. But
I call this “My other self,” and on this, I work. That is my secret. A horse, a dog,
any animal, remembers in its subconscious mind. If whipped, injured, caught in
traps etc., that part remembers. Humans are born with this, and then of course are
taught things which are remembered in the mind. You can preach to a drunk
Indian all you want to, and remonstrate, and forbid him to drink, and show him
how bad it is to do. Still, he will return to the bottle and get drunk again, over and
over. But, when I am called to straighten up a drunk Indian, first I must be assured
he believes in the Indian God. Then comes a series of chants, dances of old
patterns, drums, etc. The man then drinks a mixture that I have made up out of
plants from the desert. Over this liquid I have prayed and set apart for this
particular man. The whole thing is a form of religion, practiced by Indians but
scorned by whites.
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After a period of time, and several meetings with the man, he usually is cured. In
very stubborn cases, where the man has been years with the bottle I do this. I give
him a drink out of his own bottle, but into this I have put a strong collection of
desert plants brewed to double strength. It has little taste or smell. But after a
short time the Indian will throw up everything he has inside except his gizzard.
He will be a very sick Indian, in temporary pain.
Oh, yes, here let me say I forgot the main secret –– that in the very beginning of
the whole treatment, through chants, drums, rattles, and prayers –– I first get the
man to be half asleep. I want his waking mind to be dulled, dulled to the
borderland of sleep, then my talks and prayers are to HIS OTHER SELF, his so-
called subconscious mind. My effort is to convince “His other self” that drinking
is bad and foolish, and destroying his life and future. When I am successful in
doing this, ever afterward, when companions say, come and drink, “His other
self” says, “no,” and tells his waking mind to say “NO,” and the battle is won, this
Indian will always stay sober after that.
Semu described other herbal cures for Yerxa, for stomach ailments, measles, injuries, and
bed wetting, but treating alcoholics was his focus. According to Yerxa, Semu performed his
cures in California, Arizona, New Mexico, and Nevada, claiming only four failures among 80
patients. He called those he cured his “boys” and they called him “father” in return.
We can
see why Semu called himself an intertribal medicine man.
Peyotism became the basis for bonds between Semu and others who endorsed his
authority. A shared appreciation for peyote’s power was part of the bond between Semu and
John “Rolling Thunder” Pope after 1961. Pope had married into a Western Shoshone peyotist
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community in Nevada and hosted meetings along with his wife at their home.
Actor Ted
Markland, a star of the TV series, The High Chaparral between 1967 and 1971, had begun
participating in peyote meetings with Navajos in 1958, then later turned to exploring its power
with Hollywood friends and Semu in the desert at Joshua Tree National Monument, not far from
Cabot’s Old Indian Pueblo. Markland’s descriptions suggest that Semu was the teacher and
Markland the pupil.
In 1967, Markland introduced Semu to LSD guru, Timothy Leary, as a
“shaman and veteran of thousands of peyote nights.” During an LSD- and peyote-fueled trip to
Joshua Tree, Semu barely managed to conduct Leary’s wedding ceremony.
Paul participated in efforts to legalize the peyote ritual in 1963. When three Navajos were
arrested for possession of peyote at Truman Dailey’s meeting at the hogan in the Mojave Desert
on April 28, 1962, the Native American Church mobilized quickly to defend their religious
One element of their strategy was a public information campaign. The press covered
two lectures given by Paul Semu in 1963 on sacramental peyote use. Both talks probably hewed
to an identical script. The best documented of these was an early October lecture to the San
Diego chapter of the California Parapsychology Foundation.
Described as a full-blooded,
Channel Islands tribe medicine man, and attired in his usual bright shirt, cowboy hat, and
mocassins, Semu challenged the misperception that peyote was a dangerous habit-forming
narcotic, stressing the religious nature of its use by Indian people. He described the pilgrimages
to obtain peyote in Texas and Mexico, and the drying of buttons for chewing or making tea. He
discussed the need for purification before the peyote ritual, including sweat baths and fasting,
and supervision by a “medicine man” in a ritual context accompanied by sacred drums. He also
described the effects of the drug on the worshipper:
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Some become numb when they first take the drug. Others stay alert for a while.
Soon it is dreamland. Strange colors and shapes appear. Strange-looking figures
whisper good advice about life. A man never forgets such advice. He is a new
man. No one needs to take peyote a second time, although some do. Few people
want to. It requires a lot of sacrifice, and teaches its lessons the first time it is
Semu stated that he and twelve other medicine men had begun speaking to Anglos since
“tribal leaders ruled six months ago that white men should be told some Indian secrets.”
he is embellishing on the decision to implement the public information campaing, because the
only secretive aspect of peyotism was the need to conceal its use from law enforcement in states
where possession or consumption of peyote was illegal. The rhetorical picture of tribal leaders
choosing to share long-held sacred secrets was borrowed from Hopi Traditionalists, when Dan
Katchongva and Andrew Hermequaftewa sought outside support in the 1940s. Of course, Paul
had been describing his knowledge as secret for many years by this point. Paul’s second speech
on peyote was October 13 at the “last Ceremonial in the Council Grove at Thousand Palms
Oasis” near Indio. At this gathering, Laguna tribe members initiated four white men into the
Turtle Society, one of whom probably was the husband of Mrs. Anders, who Semu, Jake Garcia,
Johnny Whitecloud, and Albert Camarillo had visited in April.
Due to its not-tribal and proselytizing nature, peyotism gave Paul access to and mastery
of a Native American ritual tradition, and with it a basis for calling himself a medicine man.
Because of this, he was able to more fully become Semu. Peyotism did not make him Chumash,
or Cahuilla, or a member of any other native nation, but it did make him Indian in a very real
sense. It Indianized him and gave him a claim to a kind of native authority. Thus, Paul’s
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peyotism stands out from his earliest efforts to make himself Indian, and unquestionably is why
his transformation was more all-encompassing that of his cousin John Bruno Romero. Paul
gained knowledge, experience, and authority on a form of ritual and spiritual healing originating
within an organized Native American network. This experience turned the wood carving,
disabled, California Indian veteran of 1954 into the “counselor, confessor, and nurse” of 1959,
medicine man of 1960, and peyote authority of 1963.
This chapter has told the story of how and, to an extent, why Paul Emiliano Olivas
reinvented and transformed himself from a SpanishMexican Californio farm worker to Semu
Huaute, a Chumash medicine man. It is a reinvention and transformation containing truths,
exaggerations, and outright fabrications. One truth was that he had a Chumash ancestor and
another Native Californian ancestor. One of many exaggerations was that he was full-blooded
Chumash. Among his numerous fabrications was the claim of a lifetime of secretive training by
Chumash elders. Paul’s need for reinvention had distant roots in Spanish colonialism, which
brought most of his ancestors from northwest Mexico to California where they assimilated a
small number of Native Americans and began new identity changes that created some ambiguity.
It reflected the consequences of a subsequent colonization by the United States, which brought
prejudice and marginalization at the hands of Anglo Americans and a reshaping of identity that
added a new dose of identity ambiguity to the old. More immediate to Paul’s own circumstances,
his need for reinvention reflected a personal history of poverty and prejudice associated with his
birth identity, psychological trauma, a lingering battle with alcoholism, and the lack of any
existing alternative identity that accurately expressed the complexities of Paul’s ancestry.
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For Paul, becoming Indian was a way out of these difficult circumstances. Inspiration
came from the genealogists involved in California judgment roll studies and a cousin who caught
the same sense that being Indian might be an improvement. But it was not as simple as declaring
oneself Indian. There were early struggles to appear convincing, including rejections by an
official sent to evaluate wood carvings and the professional reviewers of Pauls cousins book.
But Paul experienced enough early successes to make it feel like the right thing to do. The press
came back for more. Someone sent wood chisels, calling it a repayment for the mistreatment of
Indians. But readings in the library could not overcome Pauls deficit of knowledge about Native
California, so greater breakthroughs did not come until he made fruitful contacts with other
Indians and neo-Indians. Associations with Soboba, Craig Carpenter, Hopi and LONAI
Traditionalists, the Barstow Laguna colony, and followers of peyotism made a more credible
Semu possible.
Paul’s reinvention of himself as Semu depended on his ability to perform who he wished
to be and be seen as. These performances were seldom formal affairs, though there were some of
those, too, in dancing and public speaking. Paul succeeded with a mix of more and less formal
performances, some little more than symbol-laden conversations, such as his one-on-one visits
with Cabot Yerxa, or in small gatherings with charitable housewife groups. Dressing as if he
were in a picture postcard purchased on a Southwest reservation in the Forties or Fifties was a
wordless performance in and of itself. The centrality of performance in Paul’s transformation
into Semu reminds us that the performer must appeal to the preconceptions of an audience. The
performer does not have limitless ability to create if the identity is already in the audience’s
conception of their social universe. For Paul’s audiences, Indian already had meaning and
expected modes of appearance, character, and behavior. Successful performance needed to
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appeal to these before it could stretch things in a new direction. Paul largely conformed to
preconceptions, so much so that specialists could be dismissive, such as one senior colleague of
mine who, when he met Paul Semu in the Sixties, wrote him off as a Hollywood Indian. But
Paul mixed and matched influences and symbols into a distinctive representation of Chumash
identity, incorporating a personal history of struggle and an undercurrent of knowledge gained
through his participation in peyotism that my colleague was unaware of. Paul’s self-
representation would resonate at a new level among youthful countercultural seekers and show
business romantics after 1966.
Despite the presence of identifiable Native Californians and more distant unidentified
Native Americans of Mexico among Paul’s ancestors, it is fair to characterize him as neo-Indian
based on several indisputable points. The first is that he changed his racial and ethnic identity
during his lifetime, having been born into and raised in a family that stressed its Spanish,
Mexican, and Californio roots above all others. Becoming Semu necessitated a breach with some
members of his extended family that remained noticeable until his death. His new identity was
embraced most by his children and non-kin. The second way in which Paul/Semu was neo-
Indian is that he never was affiliated with a community whose identity he claimed. Pre-existing
Chumash communities never completely embraced him as “one of us.” There were meetings and
conversations after Paul became Semu, especially focused on family ancestry which mattered
to everyone. Semu filled this void by creating his own communities of non-Indian counterculture
followers and detribalized urban Indians after 1967. The only other community that
unequivocally accepted him as a fellow Chumash was an organization founded by neo-Chumash
who had been inspired by his teachings. In other words, he never belonged to a Chumash
community that he did not have a hand in creating from non-Chumash people. Finally, a third
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way he was neo-Indian was that by not being raised in a Chumash community, he lacked the
kind of knowledge that would make him recognizably Chumash to members of those
communities and some well-informed others. His adopted name, Semu Huaute, originating in
Sonora, illustrates this very problem.
Finally, to acknowledge an important contradiction, in one sense, Paul/Semu was not
neo-Indian. His involvement in peyotism after the mid-Fifties made him a religious convert to a
distinctly Native American religious tradition. It affiliated him with no single native nation but
did acculturate him to a Native American form of belief, practice, healing, and worship. His
fellow peyotists welcomed him and gave him the gift of ritual, spirituality, and sobriety in the
desert. Perhaps this is why the Mojave Desert remained a touchstone for him thereafter,
appearing in countless stories, mostly fabricated, about the source of his knowledge. In this
sense, then, Semu Huaute was a California Indian. Real people and their identities are
complicated that way.
Ann Frank, “Pomona Man Claims He Is Last Member of Channel Isle Tribe,” Los Angeles
Times, April 6, 1961.
William Rosar, email message to author, September 14, 2000.
A genealogy was compiled for Semu in 1995 by John Johnson of the Santa Barbara Museum
of Natural History; John R. Johnson, email message to author, September 25, 2000. I
repeated the exercise with some additional sources, then Johnson and I compared notes. My
research confirms his. This chapter reports my research except where noted.
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The affidavit also sought to correct two genuine errors in the original death certificate that
had been completed by Paul’s sister. She had erroneously reported John Paul Olivas’
mother’s surname as Rodriguez when it was Dominguez, and she had given June 29, 1872
as John Paul’s birthdate, when it was 1871. Los Angeles County Registrar-Recorder/County
Clerk, Certificate of Death, no. 2381, Juan Pablo Olivas, February 10, 1945.
Jacques Galinier and Antoinette Molinié, The Neo-Indians: A Religion for the Third
Millenium, trans. Lucy Lyall Grant (Boulder: University Press of Colorado, 2013).
Although Paul liked to claim that he was born in a cave, his birth certificate which he filed
in 1981 as a prerequisite to legally changing his name to Semu Huaute in 1982 specifies that
his birth was at home in the city of Ventura. Both Paul and family friend, Simon Hernandez,
testified to the veracity of this under penalty of perjury, with Hernandez stating that he
clearly recalled the birth. Paul’s Mission San Buenaventura baptismal record confirms the
date of birth and notes his illegitimacy. See Certificate of Birth for Pablo Emiliano Olivas,
April 1, 1981, State Certificate No. 104-11-035445, State of California, Ventura County
Clerk and Recorder; U.S. Treasury Department, “Paul Emil Olivas, Application for Social
Security Account Number (Form SS-5), January 18, 1937; Mission San Buenaventura
Baptisms, no. 2323, Pablo Emiliano Olivas, September 24, 1911. Paul’s ancestors, José
Rosalino Fernández and Juan José Villa, were among 15 colonial soldiers on guard duty at
San Buenaventura on July 1, 1784. It is likely that his other ancestors in the Santa Barbara
Presidio Company were posted to the mission at one time or another. See Felipe de
Goycoechea, “Company of the Royal Presidio of Santa Barbara, July 1, 1784,” Archivo
General de la Nación, Mexico City, DF, Mexico, Tomo 15, Obras Públicas Californias,
1784-1803, 2-3.
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For an overview of the approach used in this section and the next, see Haley and Wilcoxon,
“How Spaniards Became Chumash.” Relevant overviews of California social history
include, Barbara L. Voss, The Archaeology of Ethnogenesis: Race and Sexuality in Colonial
San Francisco (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2008); Steven W. Hackel, Children
of Coyote, Missionaries of St. Francis: IndianSpanish Relations in Colonial California,
1769-1850 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2005); Douglas Monroy,
Thrown Among Strangers: The Making of Mexican Culture in Frontier California
(Berkeley: University of California Press, 1990); Albert Camarillo, Chicanos in a Changing
Society: From Mexican Pueblos to American Barrios in Santa Barbara and Southern
California, 1848-1930 (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1979); and Leonard Pitt, The
Decline of the Californios: A Social History of Spanish-Speaking Californians, 1846-1890,
(Berkeley: University of California Press, 1966).
Only lineal ancestors are listed, so other spouses or children are not included here. Sources
are given in the text.
William M. Mason, The Census of 1790: A Demographic History of Colonial California
(Menlo Park, California: Ballena Press, 1998), 2-3, 18-40.
Pedro Amador, recorded as an español in the sistema de castas, enlisted in the military in
1764 at Loreto, Baja California, where he was serving when the Portolá expedition was
organized. He returned to Baja California after the expedition, and retired to his hometown
of Cocula, Jalisco in 1774, but he reenlisted later that year and was posted to San Diego. In
1781 he guided settlers from Sonora to California with the Rivera y Moncada expedition. He
spent the early 1780s in Baja California, then was assigned to the Santa Barbara and San
Francisco presidios before the decade ended. Amador led the guard at Mission Santa Cruz
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from 1795 to 1797. He retired in 1801 and died at Santa Clara in 1824. Amador County,
California is named for him. Amador is an ancestor of Paul Olivas’s mother. See Felipe de
Goycoechea, Census of the Population of Santa Barbara, October 31, 1785, BSM Vol. I,
pp. 4-9; Mission Santa Clara, Death 5720, ECPP; Hubert Howe Bancroft, History of
California, Vol. II, 1801-1824 (San Francisco: A.L. Bancroft, 1885), 384-385; Marie E.
Northrop, SpanishMexican Families of Early California: 1769-1850, Vol. I, Second ed.
(Burbank, CA: Southern California Genealogical Society, 1986), 6, 33-34; Mason, The
Census of 1790, 101; Harry W. Crosby, Gateway to Alta California: The Expedition to San
Diego, 1769 (San Diego: Sunbelt Publications, Inc., 2003), 144.
A paternal ancestor to Paul Olivas, José Francisco Sinoba was an español born in Mexico
City to a father from the province of Valladolid, Castilla-León, Spain and a mother whose
father also was from Valladolid. He was a common soldier despite his privileged birth. See
FamilySearch, Mexico Baptisms, 1560-1950, online (Salt Lake City: Genealogical Society
of Utah, 2008), Film 35184, image 957, and Film 205938, image 646,; Phelipe Barrios, List of Individuals of the Compañia de Cuera of
[Loreto]... garrisoned in the new presidios of San Diego and San Carlos de Monterrey,” in
Spanish-American Surname Histories, comp. & trans. Lyman Platt, online (Provo: Operations, Inc., 1999-2000),; FamilySearch,
Mexico Marriages, 1570-1950, online, (Salt Lake City, Genealogical Society of Utah,
2008), Film 35272, image 879,; Mission San Francisco de Asís,
Marriage 2, Mission San Gabriel, Death 1175, ECPP; FamilySearch, Spain Baptisms, 1502-
1940, online (Salt Lake City: Genealogical Society of Utah, 2008), Film 1383790, Manuel
Cartajena Torres,; Bancroft, History of California, Vol. I (1884),
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346, 348, 461; Oscar Osburn Winther, The Story of San Jose, 1777-1869, California’s First
Pueblo,” California History 14, no. 1 (1935): 3; Northrop, SpanishMexican Families, Vol.
1, 333; Mason, The Census of 1790, 83; William M. Mason, Los Angeles Under The Spanish
Flag: Spain's New World (Burbank: Southern California Genealogical Society, Inc., 2004),
17, 19, 23, 67.
J.N. Bowman and Robert F. Heizer, Anza and the Northwest Frontier of New Spain,
Southwest Museum Papers 20 (Los Angeles: Southwest Museum, 1967); Vladimir
Guerrero, The Anza Trail and the Settling of California (Berkeley: Heyday Books, 2006).
Ramón Bojórquez had served as a soldier at Tubac Presidio in southern Arizona. Both he
and María Francisca were classified as mestizos, but María Gertrudis’s caste was recorded
inconsistently in California as mestiza or mulata. See Mission San Jose, Death 2823, ECPP;
Mission Santa Clara, Death 5068, ECPP; Mission San Francisco Asís, Marriage 2, ECPP;
Santa Barbara Presidio, Death 237, ECPP; Juan Bautista de Anza, Captain Juan Bautista de
Anza Correspondence on Various Subjects, 1775, trans. and ed. Donald T. Garate (San
Leandro, CA: Los Californianos, 1995), 160; Jose Joaquin Moraga, Real Presidio de San
Francisco, Lista de La Compania, 31 Agosto de 1782,” BPSM Vol. IV, pp. 601; Bancroft,
History of California, Vol. I (1884), 296-297, 306, 478; Northrop, SpanishMexican
Families, Vol. 1, 80-81; Mason, The Census of 1790, 30, 67, 83, 104; Winther, “The Story
of San Jose,” 3.
Santiago and José Miguel Pico were born in San Javier de Cabazán, Sinaloa. María Jacinta
Bastida was born in Tepic, Nayarit. Santiago was identified as mestizo, and both María
Jacinta and José Miguel as mulatos. The Picos were granted Rancho San José de Gracia de
Simí in 1795 and 1821.See Anza, Correspondence, 163, 188; Mission San Gabriel, Marriage
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531, Santa Barbara Presidio, Death 420, ECPP; José Miguel Pico and María Casilda de la
Cruz Sinova, SGMI; José María Ibarra, “Padrón de Santa Barbara, Año de 1834, p. 14,
BSM Vol. V, p. 506-525; Bancroft, History of California, Vol. I (1884), 461, Vol. 2 (1885),
111; Marie E. Northrop, SpanishMexican Families of Early California: 1769-1850, Volume
II (Burbank, CA: Southern California Genealogical Society, 1984), 205-206, 212; Mason,
The Census of 1790, 33, 85, 90; Mason, Los Angeles Under the Spanish Flag, 69, 70, 72, 74;
William M. Mason, The Garrisons of San Diego Presidio: 1770-1794,” Journal of San
Diego History 24, no. 4 (1978), online,
Felipe Santiago Tapia and his family were from Culiacán, Sinaloa. They were recruited at
Tubac. Felipe and his first wife were considered mulatos. Juana María’s was recorded as a
mestiza. No record has been found for José Bartolomé’s caste, but his color was recorded in
1822 as prieto (dark). José Bartolomé was granted Rancho Topanga in 1804. See
FamilySearch, Mexico Baptisms, Film 665427, images 28-29, 88, and Film 665426, image
248; Rina Cuellar Zazueta, transcriber, Inventario del Archivo Parroquial de Catedral de
Culiacan, online (Tumacácori, AZ: Tumacácori National Park, National Park Service, n.d.),
Part 2: 192,; Anza, Correspondence, 161,
307; Moraga, Lista de La Compania, 31 Agosto de 1782”; Mission San Gabriel, Deaths
3045, 4804, ECPP; Bancroft, History of California, Vol. I, 350, 477-478, Vol. II, 112, 270,
350-53, Vol. III, 634; Northrop, SpanishMexican Families, Vol. II, 279-281, 283-284;
Winther, “The Story of San Jose,” 3; Mason, Los Angeles Under The Spanish Flag, 78, 92;
Mason, The Census of 1790, 32, 105.
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William Marvin Mason, “The Garrisons of San Diego Presidio: 1770-1794”; Diego
Gonzalez, “Real Presidio de Monterey, Lista de la Compania del Referido Presidio, 31 Julio
1782,” Personal papers, Zoeth Eldredge, BPSM, Vol. IV, 663-694; Mission San Luis
Obispo, Baptisms 465 and Marriages 131, ECPP; Mission San Carlos, Deaths 2357 and
2583, ECPP; Hubert Howe Bancroft, California Pioneer Register and Index, 1542-1848
(Baltimore: Regional Publishing Co., 1964), 16; Northrop, SpanishMexican Families, Vol.
1, 189; Mason, The Census of 1790, 94, 189. On mission protection of neophyte women
from over-exploitation, see, for example, See also Marie Christine Duggan, The Chumash
and the Presidio of Santa Barbara: Evolution of a Relationship, 1782-1823, Papers from the
Presidio, 2 (Santa Barbara: Santa Barbara Trust for Historic Preservation, 2004), 41-42.
Tipu lay somewhere north of Santa Margarita in the upper Salinas River valley. Information
on Tipu and Irena descendants lack of knowledge about her was provided by John R.
Johnson, email message to author, September 25, 2000.
Marriages between the colonists and Native Californians were rare. The Early California
Population Project database contains the records of marriages in California from 1769 to
1850. Of the 27,000 marriage records in the database, only 78, or three-tenths of one
percent, were between a colonist and a Native Californian. The number of Native
Californians who married colonists is lower still, since six of the 78 marriages are
remarriages by widows of colonists. Intermarriage occurred in two waves. The first began in
1773, slowed by 1790, and petered out over the rest of the decade. More than half of the 78
marriages occurred in this wave, including that of Julián Ríos and María Irena. An initial
rush of twelve marriages before 1777 was aided by the isolation of men on a frontier that
included few female colonists before 1776, and the political need to build ties between the
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small contingent of colonists and the numerous natives. The second wave did not begin until
1832 and runs to the end of the database’s records in 1850. One third of the marriages
occurred during this span, which was stimulated by secularization of the missions which
forced many natives to move and seek work on the emerging ranchos. It also reflects the
long-term impact of the collapse of traditional foraging economies, the disastrous reduction
in Native California population due to epidemic disease, and new ideas fostered by Mexican
independence. The period between the two waves, from 1800 through 1831, witnessed only
10 (13%) marriages between colonists and natives. This low incidence of intermarriage
testifies to the rigidity of the social boundary between colonial and native communities
during the first three decades of the nineteenth century.
To arrive at the number of marriages between colonists and Native Californians, I built
searches in which one spouse’s ethnicity was termed razón or unstated, and the other’s
ethnicity as india/o or religious status as neofita/o, using wildcards to capture variable
spellings and gendered terms. The searches were repeated to capture both possible gender
combinations. The results were examined one-by-one to cull marriages with indios from
Mexico who were part of the colonizing population. A few additional marriages were found
through other means and were added to my total. There may be more that I have missed, but
this method should account for the majority. See also Duggan, The Chumash and the
Presidio of Santa Barbara, 26, 72-73n70.
Richard S. Whitehead, Citadel on the Channel: The Royal Presidio of Santa Barbara, It’s
Founding and Construction, 1782-1798 (Santa Barbara and Spokane: The Santa Barbara
Trust for Historic Preservation and the Arthur H. Clark Company, 1996), 27-90; Mason, The
Census of 1790, 36-40.
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Maximo Alanís was classified as a mulato, indio, mestizo, and español at different points in
his life. Juana María Miranda was recorded as mestiza or española. Alanís was granted
Rancho San José de Buenos Aires in 1819. See FamilySearch, Mexico, Sonora, Registros
parroquiales, 1657-1994, online (Salt Lake City, Genealogical Society of Utah, 2009),
Purísima Concepción, Álamos, Sonora, Matrimonios 1779-1817, Image 23,; Mission San Gabriel, Deaths 3762,
ECPP; Bancroft, History of California, Vol. II, 354, 441, Vol. III, 196, 634, Vol. IV (1887),
635; Northrop, SpanishMexican Families, Vol. II, 2-4; Mason, “Garrisons of San Diego”’;
Mason, The Census of 1790, 50-51; Mason, “Los Angeles Under Spain,” 77, 82, 85, 89, 100,
Goycoechea, “Census of Santa Barbara, 1785”; Mission San Diego, Deaths 00587, ECPP;
Mission San Buenaventura, Marriages 28, ECPP; Bancroft, History of California, Vol. I,
461; Mason, The Census of 1790, 40, 83; Northrop, SpanishMexican Families, Vol. II,
323-324; Whitehead, Citadel on the Channel, 132-133.
On criados generally, see James F. Brooks, Captives and Cousins: Slavery, Kinship, and
Community in the Southwest Borderlands (Chapel Hill: Omohundro Institute and University
of North Carolina Press, 2002). For an exploration of the extent of Indian captivity in
colonial Los Angeles, see Michael J. González, This Small City Will Be a Mexican
Paradise: Exploring the Origins of Mexican Culture in Los Angeles, 1821-1846
(Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 2005). On the Olivas family, see
FamilySearch, Mexico Marriages, 1570-1950, Film 676111, image 21; FamilySearch,
Mexico Baptisms, 1560-1950, Film 677405, image 443; Santa Barbara Presidio, Deaths 14
and 192, ECPP; Mission San Gabriel, Deaths 2703, ECPP; Josef Francisco Ortega, The
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9/5/2021 6:20:00 PM
company which is to garrison the presidio and missions of the Channel of Santa Barbara,
October 30, 1781,” BPSM, Vol. 1, pp. 106-108; José Francisco Ortega, Santa Barbara
Presidio Company, July 1, 1782,” trans. by Thomas Temple, in History of Santa Barbara
County, ed. Owen H. O'Neill (Santa Barbara: Union Printing Co., 1939), 54-55; Felipe de
Goycoechea, Company of the Royal Presidio of Santa Barbara, July 1, 1784,” 2-3;
Goycoechea, “Census of Santa Barbara, 1785”; Goycoechea, “Company of the Presidio,
Santa Barbara, November 3, 1787,” trans. Geraldine V. Sahyun, BANC MSS C-A 54, State
Papers, Sacramento, Vol. 1, pp. 6-7; Goycoechea, List of the Company of Santa Barbara
and residents who should take communion with the Church, June 19, 1797,” trans. Henry
McConnell, BANC MSS C-A 8, Provincial State Papers, Vol. XV, p. 90 [89-93]; Josef
Arguello, “List which shows the number of head of Stock of all kinds possessed by the
individuals and nonresidents (with pasture rights) belonging to the jurisdiction of the
Presidio of Santa Barbara, September 12, 1786,” Santa Barbara Presidio Research Center
Archive, Santa Barbara, California; Raymundo Carrillo, Lista que Manifiesta los
Yndividuos que portienen a la Misión de Sta. Barbara para el cumplimiento anual de la Sta.
Madre la Yglesía, 17 Febrero 1804,” Santa Barbara Mission Archive Library, Santa Barbara,
California; Mason, The Census of 1790, 540; Mason, Los Angeles Under The Spanish Flag,
11, 13, 66; Northrop, SpanishMexican Families, Vol. II, 185-87, 190, 278.
22, Mexico, Sonora, Registros parroquiales, 1657-1994, Film 666565,
images 21-23; Goycoechea, “Census of Santa Barbara, 1785”; Goycoechea, List of the
Company of Santa Barbara, 1797”; Arguello, “List of the Presidio of Santa Barbara, 1786”;
Carrillo, “Lista de Sta. Barbara, 1804”; Santa Barbara Presidio, Deaths 93 and 133a, ECPP;
Mason, The Census of 1790, 38, 50, 87, 90, 91; Mason, Los Angeles Under The Spanish
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Flag, 76, 77; Northrop, SpanishMexican Families, Vol. I, 168, 169, 190, 211, 268, 343,
Vol. II, 85-86, 219-221.
Ortega, The company to garrison Santa Barbara, 1781”; Goycoechea, Company of Santa
Barbara, 1784”; Goycoechea, “Census of Santa Barbara, 1785”; Goycoechea, List of the
Company of Santa Barbara, 1797”; Carrillo, “Lista de Sta. Barbara, 1804”; José de la
Guerra, “Lista que manifiesta los Individuos que en el portienen a los deban cumplia anual
Nuestra Madre Yglesia, Agosto 1825,” De la Guerra Papers, Folder 890, Santa Barbara
Mission Archive Library, Santa Barbara, California; Ibarra, “Padrón de Santa Barbara, Año
de 1834,” 13; Santa Barbara Presidio, Deaths 766, ECPP; Mason, The Census of 1790, 37,
90; Mason, Los Angeles Under The Spanish Flag, 65; Northrop, SpanishMexican Families,
Vol. I, 121-123, Vol. II, 65-66.
Ortega, The company to garrison Santa Barbara, 1781; Ortega, Santa Barbara Presidio
Company, July 1, 1782”; Goycoechea, “Census of Santa Barbara, 1785”; Goycoechea, List
of the Company of Santa Barbara, 1797”; Ibarra, “Padrón de Santa Barbara, Año de 1834,”
13; Santa Barbara Presidio, Deaths 2 and 151, ECPP; Bancroft, California Pioneer Register
and Index, 11; Mason, The Census of 1790, 38, 88, 90; Mason, Los Angeles Under The
Spanish Flag, 65; Northrop, SpanishMexican Families, Vol. I, 121, 151-52, Vol. II, 65;
Whitehead, Citadel on the Channel, 133.
National Park Service, Mission 2000, online (Tumacácori National Historical Park, National
Park Service, U.S. Department of the Interior, n.d.), ID 4970,; Ortega, The company to garrison Santa Barbara,
1781; Ortega, Santa Barbara Presidio Company, July 1, 1782”; Goycoechea, Company of
Santa Barbara, 1784; Goycoechea, “Census of Santa Barbara, 1785,”; Mission San Gabriel,
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Deaths 1314 and 4560, ECPP; Bancroft, History of California, Vol. I, 461; Mason, The
Census of 1790, 40, 84, Mason, Los Angeles Under The Spanish Flag, 26, 70; Northrop,
SpanishMexican Families, Vol. I, 356-58; Whitehead, Citadel on the Channel, 133.
José María del Carmen Domínguez was María Concepción Salazar’s second husband. Her
first was killed in a dispute less than a year after their marriage. Phil Reader, ed.,
“Branciforte Bicentennial Edition” (Special Issue), Santa Cruz County History Journal 3
(1997); Harry W. Crosby, Antigua California: Mission and Colony on the Peninsular
Frontier, 1697-1768 (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1994), 414; Mission
San Luis Obispo, Baptisms 1109, ECPP; Mission Santa Cruz, Marriage 847 and Death 2074,
ECPP; Mission San Fernando, Marriages 899, ECPP; Robert H. Jackson, The 1845 Villa de
Branciforte Census,” Antepasados 4 (1981): 48; U.S. Census Bureau, 1860 United States
Federal Census (Provo, UT: Operations, Inc., 2009), California, Santa
Barbara County, p. 182,; Bancroft, History of California, Vol. I,
606 n 12, Vol. III, 588, 696; Bancroft, California Pioneer Register and Index, 317; John R.
Johnson, email message to author, September 25, 2000.
Francisco Javier Alvarado [Jr.] and María Arcadia Ruiz, SGMI; Mission San Gabriel,
Baptisms 4105, 5198, Deaths 5544, ECPP; Bancroft, History of California, Vol. I, 661, Vol.
II, 110-11, 349, 356-7; Crosby, Gateway to Alta California, 144; Mason, The Census of
1790, 89; Mason, Los Angeles Under The Spanish Flag, 77, 95; Maynard Geiger, O.F.M.,
Six Census Records of Los Angeles and Its Immediate Area Between 1804 and 1823,”
Southern California Quarterly 54, no. 4 (1972): 325, 332, 341; Northrop, SpanishMexican
Families, Vol. I, 6-8, 34; Los Angeles Plaza Church, Baptism 264, ECPP; Bancroft, History
of California, Vol. III, 62, 517, 554-55, 635-36, Vol. IV, 632; Mildred Brooke Hoover,
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Douglas E. Kyle, and Ethel G. Rensch, Historic spots in California (Stanford: Stanford
University Press, 2002), 166; Northrop, SpanishMexican Families, Vol. I, 8, 57; Bess
Adams Garner, Windows in an Old Adobe (Claremont: Pomona Progress-Bulletin and
Saunders Press, 1939), 85. Bancroft and Northrop incorrectly place Alvarado in San Diego
in 1780; they most likely confused him with Ignacio Alvarado, presumably a brother, who
was stationed at the presidio.
Mission San Gabriel, Baptisms 8545 and 8545a, ECPP. John R. Johnson’s search of the
ECPP for baptisms of neophytes named Monica who would have been born ca. 1835 netted
only two possibilities, both baptized at San Gabriel. The other Monica baptized at San
Gabriel had living, identified parents; the one listed here did not. Johnson’s efforts to track
Monica in censuses after 1852 proved futile, as have my own; Johnson, mail message to
author, January 6, 2008.
Entries corresponding to Luisa and the two sons from Ignacio’s previous marriage follow
Ignacio’s in the 1852 census, although their names are missing. Next are an adult male
Indian and three female Indians whose names and occupations are missing from the
damaged page. The last three could represent Ampara and Juana, and possibly Monica.
Identification of Ampara Alvarado’s death is complicated by the existence of a daughter and
son with the same names as their parents who shared a home well into the twentieth century.
Ampara and Gerardo moved to Altár, Sonora in the 1870s from which Ampara may never
have returned. U.S. Census Bureau, 1850 United States Census (Provo, UT:
Operations, Inc., 2009), California, Los Angeles County, 70,;
Northrop, SpanishMexican Families, Vol. I, 57; State of California, California State
Census, 1852 (Provo, UT: Operations, Inc., 2010), Los Angeles County, 43,
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9/5/2021 6:20:00 PM Monica’s absence is documented in U.S. Census Bureau, 1860
United States Federal Census, California, Los Angeles County, San Jose Township, p. 290;
and U.S. Census Bureau, 1870 United States Federal Census (Provo, UT:
Operations, Inc., 2003, 2009), California, Los Angeles County, San Jose, 9,
Thomas W. Temple's annotations on a copy of the 1870 Federal Census list Ampara
Alvarado’s baptism/birthdate (23 Feb. 1849), mother (Monica) and father (Juan de Díos
Alvarado). Temple’s data came from Ampara’s baptism record, which has not been
relocated at this time. Temple’s transcriptions of Juana Alvarado’s baptism and marriage
both identify her father as Juan de Díos Alvarado, and the marriage record credits Ignacio
Alvarado and Luisa Avila for raising her. In this case, the original records are Los Angeles
Plaza Church Baptisms, book 2, no. 591, February 23, 1852, and San Gabriel Mission,
Marriages, book 3, no. 173, January 7, 1869; John R. Johnson, email message to author,
January 5, 2008. On the circumstances and sexual vulnerability of criadas and domestic
servants, see Brooks, Captives and Cousins, 48-51, 236-238, 335-336 and González, This
Small City Will Be a Mexican Paradise, 95-100. Paul’s belief in Monica’s surrogacy was
recorded by William Rosar, personal communication to the author, August 28, 1999.
Monica’s descendants claimed that she died near Hemet, California in the twentieth century
but no trace of her after she left the Alvarados has emerged.
U.S. Census Bureau, 1870 United States Federal Census, California, Los Angeles County,
San Jose, 9-10;, California Voter Registrations, 1866-1898 (Provo, UT: Operations, Inc., 2011), image 156,;,
California, County Birth, Marriage, and Death Records, 1849-1980 (Lehi, UT:
Working Draft: Do Not Copy, Cite or Distribute without written permission from Brian D. Haley
9/5/2021 6:20:00 PM Operations, Inc., 2017), Los Angeles, Marriage, image 5. On the Californio’s
loss of most of the land grant ranchos and subsequent political and economic
marginalization, see, for example, Pitt, The Decline of the Californios; and Camarillo,
Chicanos in a Changing Society.
Davd J. Weber, The Spanish Frontier in North America (New Haven, CT: Yale University
Press, 1992); Ramon A. Gutiérrez, When Jesus Came, the Corn Mothers Went Away
(Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1991); Daniel Nugent, “Two, Three, Many
Barbarisms? The Chihuahuan Frontier in Transition from Society to Politics,” In Contested
Ground: Comparative Frontiers on the Northern and Southern Edges of the Spanish
Empire, eds. Donna J. Guy and Thomas E. Sheridan (Tucson: University of Arizona Press,
1998), 182199; Gloria E. Miranda, “Racial and Cultural Dimensions of Gente de Razón
Status in Spanish and Mexican California,” Southern California Quarterly 70, no. 3 (1988):
John K. Chance, Race and Class in Colonial Oaxaca (Stanford: Stanford University Press,
1978); María Elena Martínez, Genealogical Fictions: Limpieza de Sangre, Religion, and
Gender in Colonial Mexico (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2008); Cynthia Radding,
Wandering Peoples: Colonialism, Ethnic Spaces, and Ecological Frontiers in Northwestern
Mexico, 17001850 (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1997).
Mason, The Census of 1790, 45-64.
The breakdown of caste among Paul’s ancestors is 15 españoles, 14 mulatos, 10 mestizos, 1
indio. Nine persons are counted more than once due to mobility between castes. Among the
españoles, Francisco Sinoba’s Spanish immigrant ancestry can be traced through Mexican
and Spanish records, beginning with his March 1, 1750 baptism record from Mexico City, in
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9/5/2021 6:20:00 PM, Mexico, Select Church Records, 1537-1966, online (Provo, UT: Operations, Inc., 2016), Film 004534426, image 957, The African component implies a history of enslavement,
probably in the mines of Sinaloa and Sonora where there were large numbers of mulatos; see
Peter Gerhard, The Northern Frontier of New Spain, revised ed. (Norman and London:
University of Oklahoma Press, 1993), 244-287.
The Bourbon Reforms in the 1760s attempted to enforce a more bio-geographical logic to
the caste system, but by then it was too late. See Magali M. Carrera, Imagining Identity in
New Spain: Race, Lineage, and the Colonial Body in Portraiture and Casta Paintings
(Austin: University of Texas Press, 2003). A large body of research on caste mobility now
exists. On California, see Mason, The Census of 1790, 45-64, and Haley and Wilcoxon,
“How Spaniards Became Chumash.” For Mexico, see, for example, Patricia Seed, Social
Dimensions of Race: Mexico City, 1753,” Hispanic American Historical Review Vol. 62,
no. 4 (1982): 569606; R. Douglas Cope, The Limits of Racial Domination, (Madison:
University of Wisconsin Press, 1994); Radding, Wandering Peoples; Chantal Cramaussel,
“The Forced Transfer of Indians in Nueva Vizcaya and Sinaloa: A Hispanic Method of
Colonization,” in Contested Spaces of Early America, eds. Juliana Barr and Edward
Countryman (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2014), 184-207; Ben Vinson,
III, Before Mestizaje: The Frontiers of Race and Caste in Colonial Mexico (Cambridge:
Cambridge University Press, 2017).
Mason, The Census of 1790, 50-51, 54, 83, 90, 94;, Mexico Marriages,
1570-1950, Film 676111, image 21;, Mexico Baptisms, 1560-1950, Film
677405, image 443; Goycoechea, “Census of the Population of Santa Barbara, October 31,
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9/5/2021 6:20:00 PM
1785”; Winther, The Story of San Jose, 3; Mason, Los Angeles Under the Spanish Flag,
67; Gonzalez, “Real Presidio de Monterey, Lista de la Compania del Referido Presidio, 31
Julio de 1782”; Mission San Luis Obispo, Baptisms 465 and Marriages 131, ECPP; Mission
San Carlos, Deaths 2357, ECPP.
Neither the records nor the DNA reveal specific Native American cultural affiliations. John
R. Johnson and Joseph G. Lorenz, “Genetics and the Castas of Colonial California,” in Alta
California: Peoples in Motion, Identities in Formation, 1769-1850, ed. Steven W. Hackel
(Berkeley: University of California Press for Huntington-USC Institute on California and the
West, 2010), 171.
On the caste possibilities for María Irena and Julián Ríos’ children, see Carrera, Imagining
Identity in New Spain, 92-94. Monica’s characterization as Indian and María Irena’s as india
and neofita after baptism and marriage defy Gloria Miranda’s assertion that completion of
catechesis turned mission neophytes into gente de razón; see Racial and Cultural
Dimensions of Gente de Razón Status,” 268. For more on the Ríos children, see Mission San
Carlos, Baptisms 1932, 2378, ECPP; Mission San Luis Obispo, Baptisms 640, 808, 1109,
1381, Deaths 1995, ECPP; Mission San Antonio Padua, Deaths 2233, ECPP; Starr Gurke,
trans., Some early Spanish documents: excerpts from the W.B. Stevens Collection and the
Branciforte Archives,” Santa Cruz County History Journal Vol. 3 (1997): 43-58; Bancroft,
California Pioneer Register and Index, 187, 304, 317; Jackson, “The 1845 Villa de
Branciforte Census,” 45-57; Northrop, SpanishMexican Families, Vol. I, 189-191.
U.S. Census Bureau, 1850 United States Federal Census, California, Los Angeles County,
35b; U.S. Census Bureau, 1860 United States Federal Census, California, Los Angeles
County, San Jose, 290; U.S. Census Bureau, 1870 United States Federal Census, California,
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9/5/2021 6:20:00 PM
Los Angeles, San Jose, 622A and B; U.S. Census Bureau, 1880 United States Federal
Census (Lehi, UT: Operations, Inc., 2010), California, Los Angeles County,
San Jose, ED 33, Page 389D. A possible exception to Ampara and Juana Alvarado’s
consistent classification as White is State of California, California State Census, 1852, Los
Angeles County, 43, where they may have been among the individuals enumerated as
Indians whose records are not fully legible.
Camarillo, Chicanos in a Changing Society; Pitt, The Decline of the Californios.
42, Sonora, Mexico, Civil Registration Deaths, 1862-1987, online, (Provo, UT: Operations, Inc., 2015), image 91; “Real Estate Transfers,” Los Angeles
Times, December 19, 1886.
Brian D. Haley, “Better for Whom? The Laborers Omitted in Goldschmidt’s Industrial
Agriculture Thesis,” Human Organization 69, no. 1 (2010): 97-106.
U.S. Census Bureau, 1880 United States Federal Census, California, Los Angeles, San Jose,
ED 33, Page 389D. U.S. Census Bureau, 1900 United States Federal Census (Provo, UT, Operations, Inc, 2004), California, Los Angeles County, San Jose, ED 127,
Page 16; San Bernardino County, Victor, ED 246, Page 3. U.S. Census Bureau, 1910 United
States Federal Census (Lehi, UT, Operations, Inc, 2006), California, Los
Angeles County, Pomona Ward 3, ED 331, Pages 14B, 16B; San Antonio, ED 336, Page
20A; Chino Ward 1, ED 93, Page 9A; Ventura, ED 217, Page 11B, and ED 218, Page 8A.
U.S. Census Bureau, 1920 United States Federal Census (Provo, UT,
Operations, Inc, 2010), California, Los Angeles, Los Angeles Assembly District 71, ED 282,
Page 11B, and ED 311, Page 23B; California, Los Angeles, Pomona Ward 1, ED 588, Page
10A; California, Los Angeles, Pomona Ward 2, ED 591, Page 16A; California, San
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Bernardino, Chino, ED 146, Page 8A; California, San Bernardino, Ontario, ED 166, Page
4B. California, Ventura, Oxnard, ED 264, Page 9A. U.S. Census Bureau, 1930 United States
Federal Census (Provo, UT, Operations, Inc., 2002), California, Los Angeles
County, Beverly Hills, ED 839, Page 4B; La Verne, ED 1449, Page 15A; Los Angeles, ED
586, Page 17B; Pomona, ED 1458, Pages 3B, 6A; San Bernardino County, Chino, ED 11,
Page 11A; Ontario, ED 44, Page 13B., California, County Birth, Marriage,
and Death Records, 1849-1980, image 13416.
Haley and Wilcoxon, “How Spaniards Became Chumash”; Brian D. Haley, “The Case of the
Three Baltazars: Indigenization and the Vicissitudes of the Written Word,Southern
California Quarterly 87, no. 4 (2005): 397-410. For a broader view, see Leah Dilworth,
Imagining Indians in the Southwest: Persistent Visions of a Primitive Past (Washington,
DC: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1996).
See Pomona Valley Historical Society, Garner, Windows
in an Old Adobe.
“Pioneer Who Was Born In Pomona Dies At Age Of 62,” Pomona Bulletin, April 21, 1921.
The entry of Spanish for race later was corrected to White in accordance with the 1920
census rules; U.S. Census Bureau, 1920 United States Federal Census (Provo, UT: Operations, Inc., 2011), California, San Bernardino County, Chino, ED 146,
Page: 8A. For other declarations of Spanish identity in the census, see Haley and Wilcoxon,
“How Spaniards Became Chumash,” 440. “Old Time Party at Ayala Home Today,” Pomona
Bulletin, August 31, 1924. “Obituary,” Pomona Progress-Bulletin, January 30, 1930.
“Funeral Services Today for R.S. Preciado, Who Died of Pneumonia,” Pomona Progress-
Bulletin, December 15, 1941.
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“Ramon F. Preciado,” Los Angeles Times, July 22, 1982.
Maria Ygnacia had a son before she married Jose Maldonado. See California County Courts,
California County Marriages, 1850-1952, online, (Salt Lake City: Genealogical Society of
Utah, 2010), images 505-506,; U.S. Census Bureau, 1910 United
States Federal Census, California, Ventura County, ED 218, Sheet 8A; Ventura County
Genealogical Society, Index to Ventura County Marriage Records, 1873-1928, online
(Ventura: Ventura County Genealogical Society, n.d.), N-S, Paul Olivas, A second Paul Olivas lived in Ventura County during this
same period, and it is not always possible to distinguish the two men in these records with
high confidence. Frances Virginia Olivas was born February 25, 1914, in Saticoy,
California; Social Security Administration, Social Security Death Index, 1935-2014, online
(Provo, UT: Operations, Inc., 2011), Frances Rojas; SSN: 555-14-3357, U.S. Census Bureau, 1920 United States Federal Census,
California, Ventura County, ED 264, Page 9A. Ventura City and County Directory, 1912-
1926;, California Voter Registrations, 1900-1968, online (Provo, UT, The
Generations Network, Inc., 2008),
Semu Huaute and Melinda Castel de Oro, “Master of Coincidence,” News from Native
California 9, no. 1 (1995): 31.
Pomona, Ontario Directory, 1926-1928 (Los Angeles: Los Angeles Directory Company,
1926-1928); Pomona City Directory, 1937-1951 (Los Angeles: Los Angeles Directory
Company, 1937-1951); Pomona, Ontario, Upland, San Dimas, La Verne, Claremont, Alta
Loma, Chino, Cucamonga and Etiwanda Directory, 1926-1928 (Los Angeles: Los Angeles
Directory Company, 1926-1928);, California Voter Registrations, 1900-1968;
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9/5/2021 6:20:00 PM
U.S. Census Bureau, 1930 United States Federal Census, California, Los Angeles County,
ED 1458, Page 6B; U.S. Census Bureau, 1940 United States Federal Census, California,
Los Angeles County, ED 723, Page 12B.
William Rosar, email message to author, February 7, 2004; U.S. Census Bureau, 1930
United States Federal Census, California, Los Angeles County, ED 1458, Page 6B.
Information on the Twists was provided by John R. Johnson in an emails to the author on
October 24-25, 2014. Johnson’s extensive work reconstructing Chumash genealogies has
uncovered no Chumash connection for Dolores Twist. She is recorded uniquely as Dolores
Guda on the death record of her son Samuel. Johnson suggests that Guda may have been a
misreading of india which appears after his mother’s first name on Samuel’s baptismal
record. Samuel Twist (b. 1866 d. 1943), the half-brother of Carmelita’s grandmother
Susana Twist (b. 1869 d. 1923), was the natural son of Paul Olivas’s great uncle, Victor de
Jesús Olivas (b. 1849 d. 1889).
“Pomona Indian Wins Decision at Ontario,” San Bernardino County Sun, May 1, 1930;
“Balding Knocks Out Bruiser from L.A.,” San Bernardino County Sun, May 15, 1930;
“Herrera Gets Draw In Ontario Battle,” San Bernardino County Sun, June 5, 1930; “Borola,
Chrismas in Ontario Bout,” Los Angeles Times, June 8, 1930; “Herrera Wins Main Event in
West End,” San Bernardino County Sun, July 3, 1930; “Fight Card at Ontario Arena,” San
Bernardino County Sun, May 19, 1935; “Ontario Club Has Good Card,” San Bernardino
County Sun, June 19, 1935; U.S. Treasury Department, “Paul Emil Olivas”; U.S.
Department of Selective Service, World War II Draft Registration Card for Serial No. 2097,
Paul Emil Olivas, October 16, 1940, National Archives. John R. Johnson, email message to
author, November 8, 2007.
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9/5/2021 6:20:00 PM
U.S. Census Bureau, 1940 United States Federal Census, California, Los Angeles County,
ED 723, Page 12B;, California Voter Registrations, 1900-1968, Los Angeles
County, 1942, Roll 54, page 541; Stankevich, “Disabled Veteran Discovers Talent,
Pomona Progress-Bulletin, March 26, 1954; “Indian’s Talent for Wood Carving Fails to
Qualify Him for Training,” Los Angeles Times, June 13, 1954; National Personnel Records
Administration, “Olivas, Paul, SSN/SN 880 63 36, Summary Service Record,” Response to
Freedom of Information/Privacy Act Request No. 1-2711641788, documents in author’s
possession; Federal Bureau of Investigation, “Subject: Huaute, Semu,” Response to
Freedom of Information/Privacy Act Request No. 1095812-000. June 6, 2008, documents in
author’s possession.
58, California Death Index, 1940-1997, online (Provo, UT:
Operations, Inc., 2000), and California Birth Index, 1905-1995, online (Provo, UT: Operations, Inc., 2005),; William Rosar, email
message to author, April 24, 2001; Jan Greene, “Spark Still Glows for Chumash,” San Luis
Obispo Telegram-Tribune, October 11, 1990. In September 1947 in Marysville, California,
Paul was fined $100 for taking a bicycle or boat without permission, and in Pomona in July
1948 he received a suspended sentence for assault and battery; Federal Bureau of
Investigation, “Subject: Huaute, Semu.
Omer C. Stewart, Litigation and Its Effects,” in Handbook of North American Indians,
Volume 8: California, vol. ed. Robert F. Heizer, series ed. William Sturtevant (Washington,
DC: Smithsonian Institution, 1978), 705-712.
See, for example, Ernestine Ygnacio-Desoto, John R. Johnson, and Paul Goldsmith, 6
Generations: A Chumash Family’s History, DVD (Santa Barbara: Santa Barbara Museum of
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9/5/2021 6:20:00 PM
Natural History, 2009); Les Field, Alan Leventhal, Dolores Sanchez, and Rosemary
Cambra, A Contemporary Ohlone Tribal Revitalization Movement: A Perspective From the
Muwekma Costanoan/Ohlone Indians of the San Francisco Bay Area,” California History
71, no. 3 (1992): 413-431.
The preeminent figure in Californio genealogy was Thomas Workman Temple, II (b. 1905
d. 1972), whose efforts are preserved in numerous collections and publications. Northrop’s
SpanishMexican Families are based on work Temple initiated. The organization, Los
Californianos, continues the effort today. For examples of how genealogist’s judgment roll
work contributed to identification as Native Californian, see Haley and Wilcoxon, “How
Spaniards Became Chumash,” 440-441, and Lorraine Escobar, “Worthless Paper &
Shattered Identities,” (2010),
Genealogists in Pomona were charging $25 to provide a genealogy to use to seek a approval
for the judgment roll; William Rosar, emails to the author, February 5-12, 2004.
Stankevich, “Disabled Veteran Discovers Talent.
“Indian’s Talent for Wood Carving Fails to Qualify Him for Training.
Ibid. Paul makes some errors in his statement. The census was in 1850, and Monica, with no
surname or occupation stated, lived and worked at the Alvarado house, not the Palomares
Adobe. No evidence supports his contention that Monica lived and died at Ramona House.
A competing family oral tradition puts her death at Pala Reservation in San Diego County,
but that, too, lacks confirmation; William Rosar, email to author, September 8, 2000.
Ibid. Ampara’s race was recorded by leaving the race column blank, which was the official
method for recording persons as white in the 1850 and 1860 censuses. The carving,
depicting a two-mouthed whiteman encoiled by snakes, ended up in Cabot Yerxa’s Old
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9/5/2021 6:20:00 PM
Indian Pueblo Museum in Desert Hot Springs, California, retitled as the Two-Faced
Whiteman, or Ah-Ah-Ota. The image sounds unlike any Native California stories but bears a
resemblance to the story of “The Sea-Serpent,” said to have been told to E. Pauline Johnson
by a local chief in Seattle, Washington; “Teenagers Proving Valuable Asset To Cabot’s Old
Indian Pueblo,” Desert Hot Springs Sentinel, September 12, 1974; E. Pauline Johnson
[Tekahionwake], Legends of Vancouver (Vancouver & Victoria, B.C.: David Spencer,
Limited, 1911), online at, accessed October 31, 2014.
“Indian’s Talent for Wood Carving Fails to Qualify Him for Training.”
Blas Olivas is recorded as white in all the following: U.S. Census Bureau, 1850 United
States Federal Census, California, Santa Barbara County, 22; State of California, California
State Census, 1852, Santa Barbara County, 2; U.S. Census Bureau, 1860 United States
Federal Census, California, Santa Barbara County, 185; U.S. Census Bureau, 1870 United
States Federal Census, California, Santa Barbara County, 492; U.S. Census Bureau, 1880
United States Federal Census, California, Santa Barbara County, 22.
U.S. Census Bureau, 1880 United States Federal Census, California, Santa Cruz County,
ED 91, 81, and Defective, Dependent, and Delinquent Classes, California, Santa Cruz
County, ED 91, 11.
Semu Huaute, interview by William Rosar, August 26, 1999, audiocassette in author’s
Mark Ellis and John R. Johnson, “A Poor Man’s Justice,” Ventura County Historical Society
Quarterly, Volume 39, nos. 2/3 (Special Issue, 1993/1994).
Jesse D. Mason, History of Santa Barbara and Ventura Counties, California (Berkeley:
Howell-North, 1961, originally published Oakland: Thompson and West, 1883), 434-442;
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9/5/2021 6:20:00 PM
Charles F. Outland, Sespe Gunsmoke: An Epic Case of Rancher Versus Squatters (Ventura:
Arthur H. Clark Company and Ventura County Museum of History & Art, 1991), 41-46,
“Notes On Our Cuff,” Los Angeles Times, August 1, 1954.
“Romero–Manzo,” Santa Ana Register, September 21, 1923; U.S. Census Bureau, 1930
United States Federal Census, California, Orange County, ED 76, Page 10B; U.S. Census
Bureau, 1940 United States Federal Census, California, Orange Co., ED 95, Page 12A;
“Tusk On Display At Home Of John Romero; Find Is Declared To Be Genuine,” Santa Ana
Register, June 7, 1932; “Takes Pride In Rare Collection,” Santa Ana Register, October 18,
1937. John Bruno Romero, The Botanical Lore of the California Indians, with Side Lights
on Historical Incidents in California (New York: Vantage Press, 1954). Romero’s fabricated
Chumash name was given only on the dust jacket, not in the text itself, yet it is preserved in
the one review that did not question the work’s integrity; see August C. Mahr, Review of
The Botanical Lore of the California Indians, with Side Lights on Historical Incidents in
California, by John Bruno Romero, Ethnohistory 2, no. 3 (Summer 1955): 284. Vera
Morrman, “Old Chief Giving Up City Life,” The Register (Santa Ana, CA), September 9,
U.S. Census Bureau, 1900 United States Federal Census, California, Santa Barbara County,
ED 150, Page 7a;, California Voter Registrations, 1900-1968, Orange
County, 1900-1912, image 417.
Mahr, “Review of The Botanical Lore of the California Indians, 284.
John A. Small, Review of The Botanical Lore of the California Indians, by John Bruno
Romero, Bulletin of the Torrey Botanical Club 82, no. 5 (Sept. Oct. 1955): 405.
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9/5/2021 6:20:00 PM
C. V. Morton, Review of The Botanical Lore of the California Indians, by John Bruno
Romero, American Fern Journal 49, no. 1 (Jan. Mar. 1959): 37.
Lowell John Bean and Katherine Siva Saubel, Temalpakh: Cahuilla Indian Knowledge and
Usage of Plants (Banning, CA: Malki Museum Press, 1972), 3-4.
Romero, Botanical Lore, 37, 38.
Lowell Bean, “Cahuilla,” in Handbook of North American Indians, Volume 8: California,
vol. ed. Robert F. Heizer, series ed. William Sturtevant (Washington, DC: Smithsonian
Institution, 1978), 575-587.
Semu Huaute, “Chumash Indians of California.” Radio broadcast on KPFK, recorded on
Earth Day, April 22, 1992, San Diego, California, MP3 format, in She Who Remembers
Archive, 7, Genie Brittingham Erstad, comp.,
Marianne Mithun, email message to author, December 13, 2007; Timothy Henry, email
message to author, September 27, 2014.
Richard B. Applegate, “Ineseño Chumash Grammar” (Ph.D. dissertation, University of
California, Berkeley, 1972), 390. For consistency, I have changed Applegate’s orthography
to the International Phonetic Alphabet format, replacing his a with ɑ, and y with j.
Timothy Henry, email message to author, September 27, 2014. He responded that translating
bravery was more difficult, and “an owl that is wise and brave” is even less certain. I have
changed Henry’s orthography to the International Phonetic Alphabet. Henry’s rendering is
̓ ka’ał’ałtšǝpš. See Timothy P. Henry-Rodriguez, “A Mitsqanaqan
̓ Ventureño
English, English Mitsqanaqan
̓ Ventureño Dictionary,”
(, 2019), 23-
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9/5/2021 6:20:00 PM
Jane Hill, email message to author, December 14, 2007.
Huaute is sometimes spelled guaute, with no change in pronounciation. Jonathan D. Sauer,
“The Grain Amaranths and Their Relatives: A Revised Taxonomic and Geographic Survey,”
Annals of the Missouri Botanical Garden 54, no. 2 (1967), 136; Leticia Olvera Zapata,
“Análisis Técnico – Financiero en la Producción de Amaranto (Amaranthus hypochondiacus
L.) en el Municipio de Temoac, Morelos,” Tésis para el título de Ingeniero Agrónomo
Administrador (Saltillo: Universidad Autónoma Agraria “Antonio Narro”, 2006), 34; Juan
Negrin, “The Huichol Indians: A pre-Columbian culture in Mexico today,” The UNESCO
Courier (February 1979): 25-26.
Manuel García Madrid, Hía Tehicatzi: Vocabulario exhaustible en Lengua Ópata, Sonori o
Tehuima (Oaxaca, Mexico: Editorial Garabatos S.A. de C.V, 2005), 78. In 1702, the Jesuit
Natal Lombardo translated sëmû as “small bird.” Ignacio Guzmán Betancourt, ed. and
transcriber, Arte de la lengua tegüima, vulgarmente llamado ópata, compuesta por el padre
Natal Lombard (Mexico, DF: Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia, 2009), 62.
Serle Chapman, Of Earth and Elders Visions and Voices from Native America, (Missoula,
MT: Mountain Press Publishing Co., 2002), viii; Hamou, Gardien des Seuils, 366;
Matthiessen, Indian Country, 82.
Myla Vicenti Carpio, “Countering Colonization: Albuquerque Laguna Colony,” Wicazo Sa
Review 19, no. 2 (Autumn 2004): 61-78; Steve Smith, “Backward Glance: The Heritage of
the Whiteclouds,” two parts, Desert Dispatch (Barstow, CA), June 21 and 28, 2005. L.
Frank and Kim Hogeland, First Families: A Photographic History of California Indians,
(Berkeley: Heyday Books, 2007), 105.
“Indians and Camp Fire Girls Share Customs,” Van Nuys News, December 17, 1959.
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Ibid. No Soboba residents attended the event. Paul’s daughters also were not present, though
they would participate later in many similar charity events.
Cabot Yerxa, letters to Irene Osborne, July 13, 1960, October 6, 1960, undated (ca. October
1960), and September 18, 1960, copies in author’s possession. Semu recycled stories
frequently. He told the story of the medicine man turning into a crow to Melinda Castel del
Oro decades later; Huaute and Castel de Oro, “Master of Coincidence,” 32.
Ammon Hennacy wrote about entering kivas at Hotvela in 1951 and 1960; Hennacy, The
Book of Ammon, 181-182; Hennacy, “South and West,” The Catholic Worker, April 1960.
I have corrected minor spelling and punctuation errors in the original. Yerxa to Osborne,
September 18, 1960. Yerxa’s lacked an understanding of Native cultural diversity is on
display in this passage. He was mistaken to think that knowledge received in kivas (Pueblo)
would give one entry to hogans (Navajo).
Yerxa to Osborne, October 6, 1960.
Yerxa to Osborne, September 18, 1960. I have corrected minor punctuation errors in the
Frank, “Pomona Man Claims He Is Last Member of Channel Isle Tribe.”
A related idea is prominent Theosophists’ notion that Native Americans originated on a lost
continent in the Pacific Ocean. Frank Waters popularized and Southwesternized the idea in
1950 in Masked Gods; see Isaac Lubelsky, “Mythological and Real Race Issues in
Theosophy,” in Handbook of the Theosophical Current, edited by Olav Hammer and Mikael
Rothstein (Boston: Brill, 2013), 343, 345, 348; Garry W. Trompf, “Theosophical
Macrohistory,” in Handbook of the Theosophical Current, ed. by Olav Hammer and Mikael
Rothstein (Boston: Brill, 2013), 389, 390; Philip Jenkins, Dream Catchers: How
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Mainstream America Discovered Native Spirituality (Oxford: Oxford University Press,
2004), 140-144. Paul’s education is recorded in U.S. Census Bureau, 1940 United States
Federal Census, California, Los Angeles County, Pomona, ED 723, Page 12B. Paul said his
eldest daughter from his first marriage accompanied him on many of his trips, learning his
peoples’ history. Paul and his daughters’ charity work apparently continued for a number of
years largely out of the view of the press. See Frank and Hogeland, First Families, 105.
Betty Fortier, “Indian Medicine Man Has Tips On Child Psychology,” San Bernardino
County Sun, December 9, 1962.
Andy Park, “Indians Visit Lakewood, Apologize for Gift Snub,” Long Beach Independent
Press Telegram, April 7, 1963.
See Smith, “Backward Glance,” part 2, and Joan Weibel-Orlando, Indian Country, L.A.:
Maintaining Ethnic Community in Complex Society, (Urbana: University of Illinois Press,
1991), 101-104, 141 and 204n.1.
Semu Huaute, interview by William Rosar, August 26, 1999; Rick Nielsen, “Manhunt On
For Indian Wanted in Valley Death,” San Gabriel Valley Daily Tribune, March 25, 1963;
Rick Nielsen, “Death Suspect Arraigned After Eight Days in Hills,” San Gabriel Valley
Daily Tribune, April 2, 1963; “Deputies Comb La Puente Hills For Accused Killer,”
Pomona Progress-Bulletin, March 25, 1963; “Accused Indian Slayer Surrenders to Police,”
Pomona Progress-Bulletin, April 2, 1963.
“Indian Death Suspect Surrendered By Tribe,” Star News (Pasadena, CA), April 2, 1963.
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For overviews, see Omer C. Stewart, Peyote Religion: A History (Norman: University of
Oklahoma Press, 1987); Weston LaBarre, The Peyote Cult, 5th ed. (Norman: University of
Oklahoma Press, 1989). Non-Indian followers of Semu during the years of his Red Wind
and later communes have confirmed to me that Semu introduced them to the peyote ritual.
For the non-Indian users, see Jenkins, Dream Catchers, 146. On Indian use, see Omer C.
Stewart, “Peyotism in California,” Journal of California and Great Basin Anthropology vol.
8, no. 2 (1986): 217-225; Peyote Religion, 273-277, 308-310, 314, 319; LaBarre, The Peyote
Cult, 225. For Navajo railroad worker settlements in California and the fate of the hogan
near Needles, see Christopher E. Drover, “Navajo Settlement and Architecture in
Southeastern California,Journal of California and Great Basin Anthropology 7, no. 1
(1985): 46-57.
Drover, “Navajo Settlement and Architecture in Southeastern California.” It is possible that
some of the Barstow Lagunas were peyotists, but peyotism was not common at Laguna
Johnson and Budnik, Book of Elders, 104. One family member reported to me that Carpenter
assisted peyote meetings without partaking of the sacrament.
Yerxa to Osborne, July 13, 1960, emphasis in the original. Yerxa may have been quoting
Semu from memory. I have corrected minor spelling and punctuation errors in the original.
Paul’s dream teas may have included mixtures based on Datura sp. rather than peyote,
though his use of peyote is confirmed by many sources.
Yerxa to Osborne, July 13, 1960, October 6, 1960, undated (ca. October 1960), and
September 18, 1960.
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Pope and Paul/Semu probably met at the Hopi Traditionalist’s Meeting of Religious People
at Shongopavi, Arizona in May 1961. Carpenter claimed that Rolling Thunder joined the
Hopi Traditionalists’ cause at the 1961 meeting, but mis-dates it to June in one instance and
to April in another; Carpenter, Lecture at TILL Headquarters; Hamou, Le gardien des seuils,
367. On peyotism among the Temoke Band of Western Shoshone, see Stewart, Peyote
Religion, 267-268; Clemmer, Directed Resistance, 333-338, 467-468, 491, 504, 545, 549,
594; and by Rolling Thunder, see Sidian Morning Star Jones and Stanley Krippner, The
Voice of Rolling Thunder: A Medicine Man’s Wisdom for Walking the Red Road (Rochester,
VT: Bear & Company, 2012), 317-320.
Markland states that he and Semu were exploring peyote spiritualism about the time Aldous
Huxley was stirring up interest in the drug, but Markland’s own introduction to peyote in
1958 falls four years after publication of Huxley’s influential The Doors of Perception.
Bruce Fessier, “Star Has Deep Spiritual Connection to Park Hill,” The Desert Sun (Palm
Springs, CA), July 10, 2005.
Timothy Leary, Flashbacks (Los Angeles: Jeremy P. Tarcher, Inc., 1983), 254.
See Stewart, “Peyotism in California,” 219-221; Stewart, Peyote Religion, 308-310.
“An Indian Looks at Peyote,” San Bernardino County Sun, October 11, 1963.
Paul Wilhelm, the Indio Daily News reporter covering the event, was one of those inducted.
“Laguna Pueblos Adopt Wilhelm Blood Brother,” Indio Daily News, undated clipping, ca.
October 14, 1960; Paul Wilhelm, “Indian Ceremonials Give Hope, Says Medicine Man,”
Indio Daily News, undated clipping, ca. October 14, 1960.
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Pomona residents told William Rosar that Paul’s drinking continued past the point when he
grew his hair long and began to assume an Indian persona. This would extend his struggle
with alcohol into the late Fifties. William Rosar, email message to author, November 22,
ResearchGate has not been able to resolve any citations for this publication.
Full-text available
Walter Goldschmidt’s seminal research in the 1940s on the social consequences of industrial agriculture has fostered a continuing critique of large-scale commodity agriculture. Goldschmidt concluded that larger farm size produced a lower quality of life in rural towns by increasing the proportion of low-wage workers and moving capital and profits elsewhere. I address Goldschmidt’s counts of seasonal laborers employed at the large-farm town of Arvin and the small-farm town of Dinuba, noting that Dinuba’s seasonal laborers were more numerous than Arvin’s and less likely to reside locally. Goldschmidt excluded this data from his analysis and conclusions, a fact that has eluded all subsequent scholars. I argue that Goldschmidt’s community study method neglected class relationships that made Dinuba a predominantly middle-class community within a broader class-based geography. Using more recent studies from rural California, I suggest that the relative strength and coherence of Dinuba’s middle class may have prevented seasonal laborers from settling in the town. Goldschmidt’s conclusion that Dinuba was better than Arvin might now be seen as a perspective of middle-class Dinubans that its workers may not have shared. En route to this new interpretation, I relate the failure of scholars to find this important data in Goldschmidt’s original work to the influence of the concept of the family farm.
Worlds apart first encounters foundations of empire - Florida and New Mexico "Conquistadores of the Spirit" exploitation, contention and rebellion imperial rivalry, stagnation and the fortunes of war Indian raiders and the reorganization of frontier defenses forging a transcontinental empire - New California to the Floridas improvisations and retreats - the empire lost frontiers and frontier peoples transformed the Spanish legacy and the historical imagination.
Wicazo Sa Review 19.2 (2004) 61-78 The federal government's relocation program, coupled with its termination policy, attempted to usurp indigenous lands and indigenous cultures. Beginning in the 1950s, relocation and termination provided a way for the government to withdraw "legally" from its federal trust responsibility and impose a policy of assimilation on indigenous peoples. Terminating trust responsibilities, borders, and "Indianness" sent a clear message that the federal government intended for American Indians to cease to exist as cultural and self-determined peoples. The federal government's formula was to get Indians off the reservations and the federal dole—if no one lived on the reservations then there would not be a need for public funds to support social, educational, and land management expenditures on those lands. Seeking to absorb indigenous peoples into mainstream society, the relocation program aimed to send them from reservations to urban areas where they would provide vocational training, a place to live, and a job. As with other policy eras, indigenous people and the federal government had very different ideas on the meaning of relocation. No matter the reasons for moving, relocation, with or without the federal relocation program assistance, failed to completely assimilate indigenous people into American society. The myriad experiences of those who migrated to the cities and those who stayed on reservations created dynamic relationships between urban life, indigenous identities, and reservation life. Unfortunately, early studies of relocated Indians simplistically characterized assimilation in terms of success (staying) or failure (returning). These terms create another simplistic dichotomy similar to that of traditionalism versus progressivism. The notion of the reservation Indian versus the urban Indian utilizes colonialistic labels of progress that posit the "good" Indian against the "bad" Indian. Those who stayed in the city were "successful" despite unmeasured living conditions and situations; the only important criterion by federal standards was that they stayed. Failure meant leaving the city and returning to the reservation. Consequently, the urban Indian was seen as the assimilated Indian no matter what his or her socioeconomic and cultural status. As a result, the reservation/urban dichotomy denotes an urban Indian experience as being completely distinct from, and less authentic than, reservation life. The reservation is believed to generate "authentic Indians," ones who know their culture, practice their religion, and speak their language while always challenging the colonial policies of the federal government. Conversely, the dichotomy posits urban identity as being separate from the reservation; creating a home in the city represents a changed identity, removed from the reservation, giving rise to either the assimilated or the generic pan-Indian. As these polar identities become internalized, the process of American colonization further obscures, divides, and devalues indigenous peoples' lived realities. Succinctly describing this phenomenon, Anishinaabe scholar Lisa Poupart writes: "As Western constructions of abject difference are both forced upon and accepted by American Indians, we define ourselves through these constructions and subsequently participate in the reproduction of these codes... the very codes that created, reflected, and reproduced our oppression." In this case, the internalization of the reservation and urban dichotomy further divides and devalues indigenous people living in urban centers. The generic "Indian" or pan-Indian identity may be a reality for some. However, this paper argues that a concept of pan-Indian identity limits our understanding of the lived reality of urban indigenousness. Instead of concentrating on the division between the reservation and the urban, I will focus on the intersection where urban Indian organizations develop community while maintaining and nurturing connections with reservation life and culture. Although relocation was responsible for urbanization among Indians, primarily in the 1950s, the Lagunas began to live away from their reservation in the late 1800s. However, those who left found means to maintain social, economic, and political bonds with their people back home. The unique history of the Laguna Colonies, particularly the Laguna Colony of Albuquerque, illustrates the intersections of urban and reservation life and the dual landscapes where indigenous peoples counter colonization. Instead of assimilating the dichotomy of reservation and urban Indians, members of the Laguna Colonies live outside their reservation home while maintaining cultural connections through the colony. Moving to the city...
Gateway to Alta California: The Expedition to San Diego
  • W Harry
  • Crosby
Harry W. Crosby, Gateway to Alta California: The Expedition to San Diego, 1769 (San Diego: Sunbelt Publications, Inc., 2003), 144.
He was a common soldier despite his privileged birth. See FamilySearch, Mexico Baptisms
  • Paul Olivas
A paternal ancestor to Paul Olivas, José Francisco Sinoba was an español born in Mexico City to a father from the province of Valladolid, Castilla-León, Spain and a mother whose father also was from Valladolid. He was a common soldier despite his privileged birth. See FamilySearch, Mexico Baptisms, 1560-1950, online (Salt Lake City: Genealogical Society of Utah, 2008), Film 35184, image 957, and Film 205938, image 646,; Phelipe Barrios, "List of Individuals of the Compañia de Cuera of [Loreto]... garrisoned in the new presidios of San Diego and San Carlos de Monterrey," in Spanish-American Surname Histories, comp. & trans. Lyman Platt, online (Provo: Operations, Inc., 1999-2000),; FamilySearch, Mexico Marriages, 1570-1950, online, (Salt Lake City, Genealogical Society of Utah, 2008), Film 35272, image 879,; Mission San Francisco de Asís, Marriage 2, Mission San Gabriel, Death 1175, ECPP; FamilySearch, Spain Baptisms, 1502-1940, online (Salt Lake City: Genealogical Society of Utah, 2008), Film 1383790, Manuel Cartajena Torres,;