The Russians are coming! The Russians are coming! and the Spanish Missionaries too

In Chapter 19, Taylor discusses the colonization in western America, mainly Alaska and California. The Spanish missionary work in California is more popular than the Russian colonization and trade efforts in Alaska. The Russian expeditions and treatment of the natives interested me. In 1741 Chirikov and Bering discovered Alaska, but Chirikov was quickly run off by natives, returning to Russia (Taylor, p. 448). Bering and his crew barely survived the winter on an island in the Bering Sea (p. 448). Bering was able to bring back sea otter pelts, which became the catalyst of Russian interest in America. Russians began hunting seals, sea otters, sea lions, and foxes. The promyshlenniki treated the natives horribly. They held the women and children as ransom until the Aleut men brought back a sufficient amount of fur (p. 451). The women and children would then be released back (p.451). It was a system of “forced commerce (p.451).” Women were often used as sex slaves during captivity only adding more fuel to the anger of the natives (p.451). The Aleuts on Umnak and Unalaska revolted, but the Russians retaliated and destroyed 18 villages (p.451). In the 1780s Shelikhov “tried to control, regulate, and reorganize the chaotic and destructive exploitation of the sea otter and the Aleut (p. 452).” Shelikhov did reduce the rape of women and increase the payment for pelts, he still used the forced commerce practice as did the promyshlenniki (p.452). The Aleuts were quickly depopulated due to “hunger, new diseases, labor exploitation, and violent retribution (p. 452).”  Even though the Russians had a goal more similar to the French, I think the treatment of the natives by the Russians would have created a legend similar to the Black Legend in other parts of America.

False rumors of the rate of Russian and British colonization caused the Spanish to panic and colonize California. The Spanish colonization in California was primarily a mission expedition. By claiming that the missions benefited the natives, the Spanish took the land without any formal purchase (p.459).  The growth of colonies was stunted by the lack of an overland route from Sonora to the San Gabriel mission. Some emigration did occur with the discovery of a route, but the Spanish broke their promises to the natives at the critical Yuma crossing. The Spanish took over fields for livestock, raped native women, and whipped the men who protested (p. 459). The natives eventually revolted, permanently closing of the crossing at the Yuma crossing. The emigration to the California colony was again halted.

Although the missions were more popular and successful in converting the natives than in Mexico, the corruption was still present, perhaps to a lesser degree. The neophytes had to work long hours at a steep pace. They were punished if they resisted. Many neophytes died rapidly due to disease and intense labor. The Spanish were able to sustain a mission-centered colony in California despite the high rate of native death and lack of emigration. Taylor describes the Spanish colonization in California well, but I wish he would have made the distinction between how the priests, soldiers, and colonists treated the natives instead of bundling them all under the ‘Spanish.’

In week 2 @JANEWTON made a point to recognize that “there were varying levels of violence, peaceful interaction with natives, trade, implementation of religion, etc with almost every European nation that attempted to colonize the land.” I believe that in chapter 19 Taylor made a point to include the Russians to further emphasize the differences in colonization. The Spanish missionaries in California serve as an example to remind us that each colony was different even if it was controlled by the same country.