Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 37.djvu/491

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MISSIONS AND MISSION INDIANS OF CALIFORNIA.

of Indian neophytes, doubtless often with old grudges to pay off and eager to find favor in the eyes of their masters, and to claim the reward of their zeal in the new faith. Another fruitful occasion for wholesale capture was the escape of converts to neighboring tribes, and the attempt to recapture them by armed force, to which are to be added, of course, the petty manifestations of hostility on the part of the unconverted tribes. Overt acts on their part were followed by reprisals, and these always meant a fresh supply of converts.

Having gained possession of their subjects, the next step was to convert them to Christianity—a process neither very long nor tedious. Before baptism it was customary to prepare the candidates—if the term be applicable to unwilling captives—by preliminary instruction, which the padres state never occupied less than eight days. How clear an insight into the mysteries of the Christian religion a pagan Indian, fresh from the worship of his fetiches, is likely to obtain in eight days may be imagined; but the fathers declared that the instruction was ample. The usual method of enlightenment is thus detailed by Beechey:

"Immediately the Indians are brought to the mission they are placed under the tuition of some of the most enlightened of their countrymen, who teach them to repeat in Spanish the Lord's Prayer and certain passages in the Romish litany; and also to cross themselves properly on entering the church. In a few days a willing Indian becomes a proficient in these mysteries, and suffers himself to be baptized and duly initiated into the church. If, however, as it not unfrequently happens, any of the captured Indians show a repugnance to conversion, it is the practice to imprison them for a few days, and then to allow them to breathe a little fresh air in a walk round the mission to observe the happy mode of life of their converted countrymen; after which they are again shut up, and thus continue to be incarcerated until they declare their readiness to renounce the religion of their forefathers." A remark by Beechey that he thought the teachers had an arduous task, elicited from the priest the reply that "they had never found any difficulty; that the Indians were accustomed to change their own gods, and that their conversion was in a manner habitual to them." This was undoubtedly true, as was evidenced by the rapidity with which numbers apostatized in favor of their earlier gods whenever occasion offered.

Discipline among the converts was administered with some severity. As was to be expected, desertion and the non-performance of their religious duties were the chief occasions of punishment. A church-service is thus described by Beechey (page 367):

"After the bell had done tolling, several alguazils went round to the huts to see if all the Indians were at church; and if they