The Journal of San Diego History
Summer 1993, Volume 39, Number 3
Richard W. Crawford, Editor

Book Review

Ethnology of the Alta California Indians. Vol. II. Edited with an introduction by Lowell John Bean and Sylvia Brakke Vane. New York: Garland Publishing, Inc. 1991.

Reviewed by Ronald J. Quinn, Lecturer in the History Department, San Diego State University, and State Historian for the California Department of Parks and Recreation.Spanish Borderlands Sourcebooks Vol. 4 is part of an ambitious project under the general editorship of David Hurst Thomas of the American Museum of Natural History. When completed the series will contain twenty-seven volumes, and will encompass nearly five hundred articles on Indian-white contact from Florida to California.

Lowell John Bean and Sylvia Brakke Vane have edited this volume which is the second of two volumes on Alta California Indians. This volume emphasizes the contact phase between Native Americans and European and American settlers.

Essentially, this resource book is divided into three parts: the mission experience, articles exemplifying Native American cultures in the various regions of California, and lastly, comprehensive articles which have application to tribes throughout the state. In the third section about half the essays deal with federal or state policy towards the Native Americans. Section one includes essays on the standard themes of the mission period, disease, revolt, and secularization. The articles are representative, and show the preoccupations of historians from the representative, and show the preoccupations of historians from the 1930s to the present. And section three demonstrates clearly the impact of American policies upon the cultures of the tribesmen. While the editors admit (xx) the selection of material is arbitrary, this seems most apparent in the section on regional cultures. The articles in this section lack a coherent theme.

Local readers will welcome the inclusion of George Harwood Philips’ article on “Indians in Los Angeles, 1781-1875,” and Richard Carrico’s study on the quest for self-determination in San Diego county. There are also specific investigations of the Diegueno, Luiseno, Cahuilla, and Morongo cultures that will be of particular interest to Southern California readers.

This volume is a welcome reference tool for the general reader as well as the professional scholar. There is a wealth of information here that will lead the reader to seek more specialized knowledge on a variety of subjects. The lack of an index and the dated nature of a few of the articles do not seriously mar the overall usefulness of this sourcebook.

Buy Volume 3 from
Buy Volume 4 from

Buy these books from
You get Amazon’s low price and the
San Diego History Center gets credit when you buy through this link.