Department or Program



For generations, the Kumeyaay Indians evolved and thrived in the mercurial environment of Southern and Baja California. The arrival of shiploads of Spanish Franciscan missionaries and soldiers on the shores of what is now San Diego in 1769 markedly disrupted this life. Their aim was to convert the Kumeyaay into a Christian labor force. After initial armed skirmishes, the Kumeyaay largely evaded the Christianizing efforts of the missionaries by distancing themselves from them. Over the following six years, tensions simmered as the missionaries attracted more converts and the scope of Spanish settlement on Kumeyaay land expanded. It reached a boiling point in 1775 when a group of Kumeyaay burned the mission to the ground. This thesis analyzes Kumeyaay motivations for the revolt and its resulting effect. It contributes to a growing effort to research Spanish colonial California from the perspective of California Indians. To do so, it examines circumstances and events to discern motivation, drawing on a cross-section of historical scholarship, archaeological, anthropological, and ethnographic studies, and my own translations of Spanish diaries and letters. I find that the likely motivation for the revolt was the a growing Spanish threat to Kumeyaay culture. At the same time, I challenge the polarizing historic portrayal of the Spanish in California, and evaluate the varied, and sometimes contradictory, Kumeyaay responses to the Spanish.

Level of Access

Open Access

First Advisor

Melvin, Karen

Date of Graduation


Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts

Number of Pages


Components of Thesis

1 pdf file.

Open Access

Available to all.