The salmon-hued tower of Mission La Purisima looms over the pastoral grounds near Lompoc where generations of California fourth-graders field trip each year to learn about the state’s mission era and the people who called Purisima home centuries ago.
|La Purisima Mission|
But life at the mission wasn’t always so serene. Forced hard labor, deadly outbreaks of disease, and the prohibition of native languages were the reality for the Chumash Indians who lived there.
For anyone who visits La Purisima on March 16, the day marks the anniversary of a bloody battle.
Cannonballs and musket fire rained over the sanctuary of the mission. In 1824, the Chumash at missions Santa Ines, Santa Barbara, and La Purisima rose up against the Mexican military forces that commanded the missions, holding Purisima for weeks before a battalion of more than 100 soldiers came to reclaim it. The conflict ended with at least 16 Chumash killed.
That history is a far cry from the candle making and blanket weaving often demonstrated at the La Purisima Mission State Historic Park’s “life days” events and what’s been taught during decades of fourth grade mission projects.
The California Department of Education adopted a new framework for social studies curriculum that begins this year, including changes to the fourth grade mission project. According to the framework, “teachers should focus on the daily experience of missions rather than on the building structures themselves.”
The most direct cause of the uprising was an incident that happened on Feb. 21, 1824, at Mission Santa Ines, according to John Johnson, curator of anthropology at the Santa Barbara Natural History Museum. All the primary sources said that a Chumash man from La Purisma was visiting Santa Ines to see an imprisoned relative, and for reasons that aren’t totally clear, he was severely beaten by a soldier named Valentín Cota. Before the day was over, parts of the mission went up in flames, a handful of soldiers and Chumash were dead, and revolution was already stirring at the two nearby missions.
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