Teaching About The Mission Period Through Stories

2013-09-03 — Good Characters (Leave a message)

Stories of the California Missions (iOS app for iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad) is a collection of short narratives of interesting events connected with the 21 missions of Alta California during the mission period—between 1769 and 1846. It contains printed and audio versions of 16 stories that bring history to life. As you listen, you will have a sense of what it was like to live in a time and place where ordinary people eked out a hard existence as they laid the foundations for what would become the prosperous land of California.

These stories are excellent tools for describing and helping children understand and remember the key points of the history of the mission period. They are arranged chronologically so you can use them to present a comprehensive picture of the reasons for the missions, the ways they were built and operated, the impacts they had, and their importance in California and U.S. history. They tell the whole history through engaging stories of real people and events.



Chapter 1, “The Missions,” gives an overview of the entire period. It is not a story, but a portrait of Spanish colonization of California. It shows how the missions fit into the bigger picture of the conquest and settlement of the New World. Use this chapter to place the missions in their historical context.

Use Chapter 2, “Beginning a Mission,” to describe how the plan became reality. It illustrates the pattern by which all the missions were established by detailing the founding of the first mission in Alta California.

Chapters 3 and 4 introduce the three groups of people who lived at the missions: padres, soldiers, and Indians. “Father Magín” pictures the life and motivation of the padres by describing the actual activities of one priest at one mission. “A Marriage at the Mission” gives a glimpse into the lives of one soldier and one Native American.

Chapters 5 and 6, “Mission Martyr” and “The Indian Girl Who Saved a Mission,” illustrate the hostility that was sometimes present between the padres and the Indians. These stories also show the affection that was also frequently evident.

Chapters 7 and 8 broaden the historical picture, placing the expanding mission system in the larger context of the scramble among European countries for colonies in America and the struggles of the colonies for freedom from European domination. “From Russia with Love” also paints a vivid picture of the difficulties of life and travel in these early outposts. “Good and Bad Pirates” illustrates how the missions were caught up in the drama that surrounded them.

The stories in Chapters 8 through 16 all took place after Mexico revolted from Spain. They show the missions struggling during a lawless, chaotic time. These stories show the tensions between the missions and the growing pueblos, or secular settlements (Chapter 9, “The Town that Destroyed a Mission”) and the animosity between the missions’ soldiers and Indians (Chapter 10, “Chumash Revolt” and Chapter 11, “The Indian Who Outsmarted Three Armies”). Chapters 12 (“The Battle Nobody Won”) and 14 (“Farewell to San Luis Rey”) depict the difficulties the Spanish padres encountered when Mexico took control of the missions.

Chapter 13, “The Island Woman,” is an unusual story that illustrates a little of the impact of settlement on the native population.

The last two chapters tell of events that occurred after the missions were secularized. “Murder at the Mission” shows the depravity to which both the missions themselves and some people who inhabited the secularized missions sank. Chapter 16 brings the stories of the mission period to a close. The rise of the Californios, the sale of mission lands, and U.S. acquisition of California are all part of the story of Pio Pico, “The Last Mexican Governor.”


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