A few became silversmiths, though none ever accomplished much in this line. They made better sandal-makers, shoemakers, and hatters. As horse-trainers they were speedily most efficient, the cunning of their minds finding a natural outlet in gaining supremacy over the lower animal. They braided their own riatas from rawhide, and soon surpassed their teachers in the use of them. They were fearless hunters with them, often “roping” the mountain lion and even going so far as to capture the dangerous grizzly bears with no other “weapon,” and bring them down from the mountains for their bear and bull fights. As vaqueros, or cowboys, they were a distinct class. As daring riders as the world has ever seen, they instinctively knew the arts of herding cattle and sheep, and soon had that whole field of work in their keeping. “H.H.,” in Ramona, has told what skilled sheep-shearers they were, and there are Indian bands to-day in Southern California whose services are eagerly sought at good wages because of their thoroughness, skill and rapidity.
Now, with this list of achievements, who shall say they were not educated? Something more than lack of education must be looked for as the reason for the degradation and disappearance of the Indian, and in the next chapter I think I can supply that missing reason.
At the end of sixty years, more than thirty thousand Indian converts lodged in the Mission buildings, under the direct and immediate guidance of the Fathers, and performed their allotted daily labors with cheerfulness and thoroughness. There were some exceptions necessarily, but in the main the domination of the missionaries was complete.
It has often been asked: “What became of all the proceeds of the work of the Mission Indians? Did the padres claim it personally? Was it sent to the mother house in Mexico?” etc. These questions naturally enter the minds of those who have read the criticisms of such writers as Wilson, Guinn, and Scanland. In regard to the missionaries, they were under a vow of poverty. As to the mother house, it is asserted on honor that up to 1838 not even as much as a curio had been sent there. After that, as is well known, there was nothing to send. The fact is, the proceeds all went into the Indian Community Fund for the benefit of the Indians, or the improvement of their Mission church, gardens, or workshops. The most careful investigations by experts have led to but one opinion, and that is that in the early days there was little or no foundation for the charge that the padres were accumulating money. During the revolution it is well known that the Missions practically supported the military for a number of years, even though the padres, their wards, and their churches all suffered in consequence.
THE SECULARIZATION OF THE MISSIONS