On Wednesday, Sept. 23, much of the Catholic world was focused on the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington D.C. Pope Francis, a pope who has come to symbolize the rights of the poor and downtrodden, anointed Junipero Serra a saint. In doing so, the Pope cast light on the brutal history and treatment of Native Americans during the Mission period.
But Californians shouldn’t sit back smugly and think that violence against Indians was just a problem of the Franciscans. Serra, a citizen of Spain, may have started the trend of forcing Indians to work against their will, but the Mexicans and Americans who assumed control over California at different points in the 19th Century were worse in many ways.
In working on Tangled Vines, the most disturbing part of my research has been the realization that Native Americans paid the highest personal price for the development of the wine business. California wine may now earn international accolades and generate $24.6 billion a year, but the industry was founded on a philosophy of greed and violence.