Mission Indians live again by way of public database
SAN MARINO - Reclaiming a neglected part of California's past, historians have unveiled an immense data bank that for the first time chronicles the lives and deaths of more than 100,000 American Indians in the Spanish missions of the 18th and 19th centuries.
In an eight-year effort, researchers at the Huntington Library here used handwritten records of baptisms, marriages and deaths at 21 Catholic missions and two other sites from between 1769 and 1850 and created a cross-referenced computerized repository that is now open to public access.
The Early California Population Project, its creators hope, will help bring the state's Spanish colonial and Mexican eras from out of the long shadows cast by the 13 English colonies on the East Coast.
"What we are trying to do here is to say these people have a history, and it's not a history that can be caricatured," said the project's general editor, historian Steven Hackel. "It's a history that emerges from a deep native past and a deep Spanish past and shows how the two came together for better or worse."
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