The Jesuits and Native Communities

Pierless Bridges, Vol. 3, 2022
September 29, 2022
Alan Ziajka, University Historian Emeritus University of San Francisco


The Jesuit engagement with Native American communities in North and South America is intertwined with the origins of the Society of Jesus in sixteenth-century Europe and the colonizing efforts of European powers. In 1540, Ignatius of Loyola, a Basque military officer turned priest and religious leader, formed the Society of Jesus to serve the pope. Part of that service was directed to international missionary activities. In the Constitutions, the order’s foundational document, Ignatius stated that Jesuits should “be ready at any hour to go to some or other parts of the world where they may be sent...anywhere his Holiness will order.”1 Although not initially part of its mission, when the Jesuit Order began to successfully educate its own members, many European monarchs and governments began to request that Jesuits educate their citizens as well. Within four years of its founding, the Society of Jesus started to establish schools throughout Europe to provide education for young men from all backgrounds. By 1556, the Jesuits had opened forty-six colleges in Italy, Spain, Portugal, France, and Germany, and had begun missions in China, Japan, India, and Africa.2

Francis Xavier, one of the men who helped St. Ignatius found the Society of Jesus, traveled to Japan and India to establish missions, and was on his way to China when he died. In 1594, Jesuits founded St. Paul’s College of Macao, the first Western university in East Asia. The college was a base for Jesuits engaged in missionary and educational activities throughout China during the next several decades. Two of these first Jesuits, Matteo Ricci and Ferdinand Verbiest, became the foremost Western scholars of Chinese history, cultural, and languages. By the mid- seventeenth century, the Society of Jesus was operating several schools in China. Jesuits, such as Ricci, learned Mandarin as a key step to educate and convert the Chinese to Christianity. In 1669, Verbiest enhanced his missionary work by demonstrating such impressive skills as an astronomer and mathematician that he was invited by the Chinese Emperor to direct the imperialcourt’s official observatory in Peking. Jesuit missionaries, led by Xavier, arrived in Japan in the late 1540s, and within a decade, the Jesuits had converted 100,000 Japanese to Christianity. In 1587, however, the Japanese Emperor suppressed Christianity as a threat to national unity and banned Jesuit missionaries from the country. In 1542, Xavier arrived in India, established Goa as the center for a Jesuit ministry, and was soon followed by other Jesuits. By 1548, Jesuits were also in Africa, building churches, starting schools, and managing farms in Mozambique.3

Beginning in the early sixteenth century, Jesuits launched their missionary and educational activities among the Native Communities of North and South America. The following sections will summarize some of those activities as a preface to the Jesuits’ arrival in the San Francisco Bay Area in 1849, and the founding of the University of San Francisco in 1855.

La Florida and the Calusa

In 1513, Ponce de León claimed the present-day Florida for the Spanish crown, and in 1565, St. Augustine was founded. The Jesuits, led by Juan Rogel, came to Florida in the wake of the Spanish colonizers. In 1568, Rogel entered Florida, and supported by Spanish soldiers, made an ill-fated attempt to convert the Calusa Native American to Christianity. Rogel found that the Calusa had built hundreds of intricately constructed temple mounds; he praised their natural abilities, qualities, and “well-ordered lives;” but he failed to convert them to Christianity. He came to believe that the Calusa priests resisted conversion because they were “in league with the devil,” and Rogel’s mission failed. By 1600, the Calusa Native Americans were decimated by European smallpox for which they had no immunity.4

Sinaloa, Northern Mexico, and the Chichimeca, Cháhita, Totorame, Tahue, Acaxees, and Ximimes People

From 1519 to 1521, Herman Cortés, the Spanish colonizer of Mexico, destroyed Aztec civilization. Spanish colonizers believed that the conversion of the Indigenous People of Mexico to Christianity was critical to their economic success, especially as a source of labor in the silver mines. In 1591, Spanish soldiers came to Sinaloa, a region along the Northern Coast of Mexico, where they faced armed resistance from Indigenous People: The Chichimeca, Cháhita, Totorame,Tahue, Acaxees, and Ximimes. The Spanish Viceroy requested Jesuit assistance “to convert and indoctrinate the Chichimeca Indians...with such organization and the stability that the religious establishments can bring. I hope that the Indians will be persuaded to accept Spanish rule and they will be less of a threat.”5 In 1591, the first two Jesuits sent to Sinaloa, Gonzalo de Tapia and Martin Pérez, began their missionary work among the Native Americans. With the help of interpreters, but without the presence of Spanish soldiers, they visited hamlets, preached, and wrote a catechism in the local native language. The Jesuits told the Native Americans of Sinaloa that they were not like the Spaniards that preceded them. “We have not come for gold or the silver that’s buried in your land. We have not come to make slaves of you and take your wives and children. You see only two of us, alone, unarmed. We have come only to tell you about thecreator of heaven and earth. Without knowledge of him you will be unhappy forever.”6

In 1597, a Jesuit mission was established in Sinaloa, and by 1623, according to Jesuit reports, more than 100,000 of the Indigenous People of the region had been baptized. Other Jesuits arrived to establish schools to aid the conversion of the Native Americans. Tension was created, however, between those Native Americans who accepted Christianity and those who did not. Violence ensued, and the Jesuits reversed their policy of having no Spanish soldiers accompany them in their missionary work. Because of their contact with priests and soldiers, there were widespread epidemics of smallpox, typhus, and mumps among the Native Americans. By the seventeenth century, there were frequent rebellions against Spanish rule, during which many Native Americans, soldiers, and priests were killed.7

Peru and the Aymara and Quechua

The Spaniard Francesco Pizarro conquered the Inca Empire in 1533. The Inca Empire was centered in Cuzco in the Andes Mountains, where it controlled much of South America. The first contingent of eight Jesuits arrived in Lima (Callo) in 1568, after the Spanish conquest of Peru was complete. The Jesuits in Peru focused more on establishing colleges than missionary work, and by 1754, they had founded fifteen colleges, employing 542 Jesuits. The Jesuits did, however, create one mission in Juli, an Aymara village in the Andes on the shores of Lake Titicaca. The Jesuits declared Juli an Aymara town, in which no Spaniards were allowed except for Jesuits. Spanish authorities and soldiers were prevented by the Jesuits from stealing Aymara property, taking their wives and daughters, and forcing the Aymara to work in mines. The Jesuits established a school, church, and hospital for the Aymara, but they could not eliminate the Aymara’s faith in their native gods. The Jesuits judged their work a success, however, by the increased knowledge and understanding of Christianity among the Aymara. The Jesuits stayed in Juli until 1767, when they were expelled by the Spanish crown as part of the worldwide suppression of the Jesuits. The Society of Jesus did, however, develop a model for other Jesuit missions in South America, especially the reduccións (reductions) in Paraguay. Reduccións were missions where Jesuits protected Indigenous People from outsiders, such as Spanish authorities and soldiers, and where they controlled the religious, political, and economic life of the community.8

Paraguay and the Guaraní

Spanish colonizers first arrived in present-day Paraguay in 1516, and they established the town of Asunción by 1537. The Guaraní were the Native Americans of the region. The Spanish authorities saw Jesuit missions as a buffer against rival powers in the area, such as Portugal, and they began to support the building of Jesuit reduccións in Guaraní villages in 1591. When the Jesuits arrived, the Guaraní were providing forced labor for the Spanish in Asunción and other Spanish towns. Those Guarani who lived outside the Spanish controlled areas were exposed to Portuguese slavers from Brazil. The Spanish home government started to grant Jesuits permission to train the Guaraní in the use of weapons in service of the crown and for use against Portuguese intruders, including Portuguese slavers. Each Jesuit reducción housed more than 3,000 Native Americans, who raised and exported cattle and tea to other parts of South America. By 1667, tea exporting rose to 6,000 pounds per year. Throughout Paraguay, the Jesuit reduccións lasted until 1767, when like in Peru, the Jesuits were forced out of the country by the Spanish monarch, a decision officially supported by the pope six years later. These Jesuit protectorates, however, served as templates for Jesuit engagements with the Native Americans of North America.9

New France (Canada) and the Hurons

The first Jesuits came to New France in 1611, in the wake of French explorers and trappers. The Jesuits sought to convert Native Americans, such as the Hurons, to Christianity. Approximately 30,000 Hurons occupied four hundred square miles of territory in present-day Canada, between the Southeast edge of Lake Huron and the Northwest rim of Lake Ontario. The Jesuits learned the Huron language, recorded their culture, and converted about 10 percent of the Hurons to Christianity by 1648. The Jesuits also attempted to make stable agriculturists out of the Huron people, who were mostly hunters and gatherers Their efforts were undermined, however, by the European diseases that the priests and other Europeans carried with them and that were transmitted to the Native Americans. From 1636 to 1640, 15,000 Hurons died of influenza, smallpox, and measles. By 1650, rival Mohawks and Senecas destroyed the villages of the already decimated Huron nation, and they drove the Jesuit missionaries back to Quebec. Twenty years later, Jacques Marquette, a Jesuit missionary and explorer, journeyed throughout the Great Lakes Region and down the Mississippi River with fur trader Louis Joliet, helping lay claim for what became the vast French Louisiana territory.10

Maryland and the Algonquin

In 1634, Jesuits arrived in the English Royal Colony of Maryland with the first two hundred colonists. The Jesuit leader, Andrew White, had secured 12,000 acres of land from his Catholic ally, George Calvert, the first Lord Baltimore. The land was a royal gift from James I, the Catholic monarch of England. George Calvert’s son, Cecil Calvert, became the second Lord Baltimore, and went to Maryland with the Jesuits. The Jesuits sought to convert and educate the Native Americans in the area, the Algonquin, who lived in hamlets on the Eastern shore of the Chesapeake Bay, and who were farmers, fishmen, and hunters. White learned enough of the Algonquin language to have some success in his first attempts to convert the Algonquin to Catholicism. These conversion efforts ended in 1645, however, as vast numbers of the Algonquin died of smallpox and influenza or were driven out of Maryland by clashes with the growing number of English settlers. By 1650, there were 25,000 settlers in Maryland, including 2,300 Catholics and 10 Jesuit priests.

The Jesuits increasingly faced persecution in Maryland from the Protestant majority, just as they did in England and in other English colonies. Beginning in 1692. the practice of Catholicism in Maryland was declared a penal offense. Jesuits were not allowed to teach in schools, and they were heavily taxed on entering the colony. Some Jesuits were imprisoned, others were deported to England, and all were prevented from saying mass, administering the sacraments, or owning property. Some Jesuits started saying mass in private Catholic homes, whose owners attached chapels to their houses. By the early 1700s, however, anti-Catholic laws were no longer enforced, and Catholics and Protestants increasingly worked together in the growing commercial enterprises of Maryland, including slavery. By the early 1700s, the Native American population had been driven out of the colony by white settlers, and for the Jesuit priests who returned to the colony, converting the Native Americans of Maryland to Catholicism was moot.11

Baja California and the Cochimí, Pericúes, and Guaycuras

In 1683, a miliary force of Spaniards, led by Admiral Antondo Antillón, landed on the coast of Baja California to establish a settlement. They were accompanied by a Jesuit Priest, Francesco Kino. This initial colonizing effort failed, however, due to Native American resistance and poor supply lines from the mainland of Mexico. In 1697, however, Spanish soldiers and Jesuits, led by Juan Salvatierra, returned to Baja and established Mission Loreto. Between Mission Loreto’s founding and 1769, the year the Spanish crown expelled the Society of Jesus from North America, the Jesuits created nineteen missions in Baja California. The northern most mission was at Santa Maria de los Ángeles, three hundred miles south of present-day San Diego. Jesuits brought the Native Americans of the region, primarily the Cochimí, Pericúes, and Guaycuras into the missions, which were modelled on the reduccións of Peru and Paraguay.

The rapid expansion of the Spanish into Baja California led to resistance among the Native Americans. In 1734, a rebellion broke out among the Pericúes, whose chiefs were accustomed to having more than one wife. The Jesuits, in attempting to break the power of the chiefs, attacked the institution of polygamy. In response, the chiefs organized a revolt during which two Jesuit priests and a soldier were killed, other Jesuits were forced to flee, and four missions were destroyed. Spanish soldiers finally ended the rebellion.

The Native Americans of Baja California had been hunters and gatherers, but when they were confined to the tight quarters of the missions, diseases such as smallpox, measles, and dysentery, rapidly spread among them. The population of Native Americans on the Baja Peninsula fell from about sixty thousand in 1697 to barely one thousand in 1833, the year Mexican authorities secularized the missions.12

Arizona and the Pascua Yaqui, Seri, Tohono O'odham, Cocopha, and Gila River Community

The Jesuit Francisco Kino spent two years in Baja California as a chaplain and cartographer with the Spanish military in its unsuccessful initial attempt to colonize that region. His goal was to establish the Jesuit Order in Baja California and ultimately in Alta (Upper) California as well. Kino explored Baja California and discovered that the Gulf of California ended at the Colorado River. He also determined that California was not an island, contrary to what the Spanish believed at the time. Kino wrote extensively about the flora, fauna, history, and geography of the region.

In the 1680s, Kino established a string of missions from Sonora, Mexico, to Southern Arizona (near present-day Tucson), as stepping-stones for entry into Alta California. Within these Jesuit- controlled missions, Kino developed cattle ranching, agriculture, trade, commerce, and mining among the people. Spanish soldiers and colonists complained that Kino was overly protective of the Native Americans at his missions, but he did in fact protect Native Americans from exploitation by Spanish authorities. Kino’s goal was to convert the Native Americans of the region to Christianity, a goal he thought was best achieved without secular interference. He also believed that the Native Americans of the region embraced a belief system compatible with Christianity, that they accepted monotheism, and they eschewed polygamy. The Native Americans of the region were also highly susceptible to European diseases, as were Indigenous People throughout the Spanish colonies. During the next 80 years of mission expansion in Sonora, the population declined from approximately five hundred thousand to about five thousand people. In what is present-day Southern Arizona, the Native American population fell from about sixty-four thousand to six thousand.

Through Juan Salvatierra’s political efforts, the Jesuit missions in Baja California, in Sonora, and in southern Arizona, were granted exemptions from control by the Viceroy of Mexico. Even the miliary officers stationed in the Baja California missions were appointed by and reported to their Jesuit superiors. By 1768, the Jesuits had a string of missions in Arizona, on the Eastern edge of Alta California, and another set of missions in Baja California, on the Southern border of Alta California. Under Salvatierra and Kino, the Jesuits were on the cusp of realizing their long-term goal to establish a major Jesuit presence in present-day California. Political and religious developments in Europe intervened, however, to thwart that goal. Beginning in the late 1760s, the Society of Jesus was suppressed by the major powers of Europe, an effort supported by the pope in 1773.13

The Suppression of the Jesuits

By 1750, the Jesuits had established more than seven hundred schools throughout Europe, Africa, Asia, and North and South America. Almost all these schools were connected to churches or missions, and many schools had robust libraries. Around the world, the Jesuits also managed hospitals, supervised farms, and ran several printing presses and observatories. Overall, the Jesuits had created the largest network of schools, missions, and related enterprises the world had ever seen.

By the middle of the eighteenth century, many European monarchs believed that the Society of Jesus had become too powerful. European monarchs wanted increased authority over religious affairs, a goal that was undermined by the Jesuits’ fidelity to the papacy. Pope Clement XIII tried to defend the Jesuits against the growing anti-Jesuit sentiment among European monarchs, but he died in 1769. The College of Cardinals selected a new pope, Clement XIV, who reversed the pro-Jesuit policies of his predecessor. In 1773, under pressure from the monarchs of Spain, Portugal, and France, the pope suppressed the Jesuits for the “welfare and peace of the Church.” The Superior General of the Society of Jesus and his advisors were arrested and imprisoned. Jesuit schools, missions, churches, printing presses, and hospitals were closed or transferred to local bishops, cardinals, or to other Catholic religious orders, such as the Dominicans or Franciscans. The suppression of the Jesuits effectively destroyed their worldwide educational and missionary network, though individual Jesuits were sometimes allowed to join other orders or become secular priests.

By 1774, the suppression of the Jesuit Order was complete in Spain, France, Portugal, and in the Italian States. In England and its colonies, 274 Jesuits were permitted to become “secular priests” if they signed an act of submission, acknowledging their new status. John Carroll, a Jesuit born in Maryland, reported from Rome on the pressure placed on the new pope to suppress the Jesuits. Afterwards, Carroll secured permanent appointment to the Maryland Colony as a secular priest. In 1789, Carroll was instrumental in founding Georgetown College, the first Jesuit institution in the new republic of the United States, whose Constitution was also ratified in 1789. Carroll later served as the first Catholic bishop and archbishop in the United States, operating from the Archdiocese of Baltimore, Maryland.

Besides the United States, the only countries that Jesuits were allowed to remain were Prussia, under the Lutheran Frederick the Great, and Russia, under Russian Orthodox Catherine the Great. In the Spanish colonies in New Spain, the suppression of the Jesuits was initiated before it was completed in Europe. In 1765, the Spanish Crown sent an inspector general, José de Gálvez, to New Spain with orders to suppress the Jesuits, change colonial administration, and embark on the settlement of Alta California. Spain was increasingly concerned that some other nation, such as Russia, would seize Alta California.

In 1768, Gálvez arrested the Jesuits in Baja California, temporarily imprisoned them, and had them exiled to non-Spanish territories. Gálvez replaced the Jesuits with Franciscans from the College of San Fernando in Mexico City, under Father Junípero Serra. Gálvez also appointed Captain Gaspar de Portolá, a Spanish noble with a lengthy military career, to serve as governor of the Californias. With the Jesuits expelled, Inspector General Gálvez, Father Junípero Serra, and Captain Gaspar de Portolá planned the settlement of Alta California. They named their enterprise “the Sacred Mission.” In 1769, “the Sacred Mission” began its colonization of present- day California, and the establishment of a string of missions, presidios, and pueblos. This resulted in the destruction of much of the unique cultures of the California Native Americans and the death of about 100,000 Native Americans out of the approximately 310,000 who lived in California when the Spanish first arrived.14

The Rocky Mountain Mission and the Salish, Yakima, Umatilla, Nez Percés, Cheyenne, Assinoboine, and Crow Native Americans.

The Restoration of the Society of Jesus began in 1814 under Pope Ferdinand IV, but the order never fully regained its power throughout the world. Even after the restoration, hostility continued toward the Jesuits in Europe and elsewhere. In Italy, for example, violence was directed toward the Jesuits during the unification of the Italian states from 1815 to 1871. As a result, approximately four hundred Jesuits fled Italy to the Pacific Northwest of the United States. The Jesuits established the Rocky Mountain Mission, encompassing present-day Oregon, Washington, Montana, and Idaho. In that region, the Jesuits tried to establish missions among the Salish (referred to by Europeans as Flatheads), Yakima, Umatilla, Nez Percés, Cheyenne, Assinoboine, and Crow Native Americans.15

The Rocky Mountain Mission was initially led by Pierre-Jean De Smet, a Belgium Jesuit who recruited displaced Italian Jesuits for his mission. In 1841, De Smet established St. Mary’s Mission among the Salish of Montana’s Bitterroot Valley. In setting up this first mission in the region, De Smet was influenced by the model of the Jesuits’ reduccións in Paraguay. Based on the Paraguay template, De Smet wrote that for the Jesuits to convert the Flatheads to Christianity, these native people must be kept “from all contaminating influence...not only from the corruption of the age, but what the gospel calls the world.” He believed that white settlers had an especially bad influence on Native Americans. The Jesuits should exercise “caution against all immediate intercourse” with the white settlers, De Smet said, “even with the workmen, whom necessity compels us to employ, for though these are not wicked, still they are far from possessing the qualities necessary to serve as models to men.” In describing the approach to be used with the Flatheads in the mission, De Smet noted, “we shall confine them to the knowledge of their own language, erect schools among them, and teach them reading, writing, arithmetic, and singing.” To reduce the Flathead’s reliance on hunting, which often led to warfare with other Native Americans, De Smet also planned to develop a self-supporting agrarian economy centered around the mission. De Smet used this same template to structure the other Jesuit missions among the Coeur d’Alenes of Sacred Heart Mission and the Kalispels of St. Ignatius Mission. De Smet reported initial success at St. Mary’s Mission, and wrote that after three months, “the Flathead nation has been converted” and “it would be easy to make this tribe a model for other tribes, the seed of 200,000 Christians, who would be as fervent as were the converted Indians of Paraguay.”16

Despite De Smet’s first positive comments, and his extraordinary efforts, the Jesuit ideal for the Rocky Mountain Mission floundered on the hard rock of reality. As the Jesuit historian, Gerald McKevitt, wrote:

“Blackfeet incursions into Flathead country produced instability and constant fear of attack. Confronted with disease and epidemic, the tribes became disillusioned with the priests’ power; and missionaries made mistakes resulting from their blissful ignorance of native culture. Instead of conversion, there was schism; instead of religious enthusiasm, the Flatheads came to regard the missionaries with stony indifference. As a result, ten years after itsfounding, the Jesuits withdrew from St. Mary’s Mission.”17

The situation was similar at other locations within the Rocky Mountain Mission, where incursions by an increasing number of white settlers and gold prospectors undermined the Jesuits’ efforts. In 1849, De Smet was removed from missionary work by the Jesuit Superior General, and he was sent to Saint Louis to engage in fundraising and the recruitment of new Jesuits. Nevertheless, the Rocky Mountain Mission continued to offer education for the Native Americans in the region, who were permitted to maintain their native languages and dress. By 1896, the schools of the Rocky Mountain Mission enrolled more than 1,000 Native American students from a host of tribes: the Salish, Yakima, Umatilla, Nez Percés, Cheyenne, Assinoboine, and Crow Nations. These Jesuit institutions consisted of boarding schools for boys and girls, where traditional subjects were taught, and printing presses, workshops, and farms were available to the students.18 As late as 1933, the Jesuit Provincial reported that for the region that included Oregon, Washington, Montana, and Idaho, there were 10,000 Native Americans under the “spiritual care” of twenty Jesuit priests and six brothers.19

The San Francisco Bay Area and the Ohlone Native Americans

Before 1769, the San Francisco Bay Area had been occupied for approximately 10,000 years by the Ohlone people. The Ohlone included the Ramaytush in what is now the City of San Francisco, the Chochenyo and the Karkin in the East Bay, the Yokuts in the South Bay and Central Valley, and the Muwekma throughout the region.  The Ohlone consisted of forty to fifty different tribes that spoke eight to twelve distinct but closely related languages. At the time of first contact, the Ohlone people were living from the Carmel River on the southern edge of Monterey Bay; north to San Francisco Bay; and east to the base of Mt. Diablo, encompassing what are now several East Bay cities, including Berkeley, Oakland, and Fremont. Along the San Francisco Bay, the Ohlone people established thirty to forty permanent villages and a series of shell mounds composed of earth, shells, and the ashes of their ancestors.20

Other Native American groups in the Greater Bay Area included the Coast Miwok, Southern Pomo, Kashaya, Patwin, and Mishewal Wappo in the North Bay, and the Bay Miwok in the East Bay. In the 1770s, the Ohlone and other Native Americans living in the Bay Area were confronted by the first Spanish colonizers and Franciscan priests who established the California missions and founded San Francisco in 1776. Over the next eighty years, the European encounter with the Native Americans of the San Francisco Bay Area led to a 90 percent decline in the Native American population, estimated to be 26,000 in 1769. In California, the total Native American population was estimated to be 310,000 in 1769, but it fell to 24,000 by 1852. European diseases, the mission system, the Gold Rush, and organized killing decimated the Native American people and almost destroyed their culture.21

Beginning in 1776, Franciscans established six missions in Ohlone territory, including Mission San Francisco de Assisi (Mission Delores), Santa Clara Mission, and missions in San Jose, Santa Cruz, San Juan Bautista, and San Carlos. In 1821, Mexico won its independence from Spain, and in 1833, the Mexican government secularized the missions and began to grant large tracts of mission land (once Native American land) to individual Mexicans. For example, Luis Maria Peralto, a former Spanish and Mexican military officer, received a land grant of forty-four thousand acres in present-day San Leandro, Oakland, Alameda, Emeryville, Piedmont, and Berkeley. Surviving Ohlone often worked on Peralto’s rancho, herding cattle, and butchering the cattle for hides and tallow. Beginning in 1848, the Gold Rush further decimated the Ohlone, and gold miners, settlers, soldiers, and vigilantes initiated a campaign that led to the deaths of thousands of Ohlone people. As one federal agent stated in 1850, “Of the numerous tribes which but a few years ago inhabited the country bordering on the bay of San Francisco, scarcely an individual is left.”22 According to the 2020 federal census,23 however, there are approximately 18,500 Native Americans still living in the San Francisco Bay Area, a tribute to their resilience in the face of horrible treatment.

Despite decades of terrible human and cultural loses, some Ohlone people were able to relocate to various locations in the San Francisco Bay Area, and to gradually revitalize their culture and language. The Ohlone are not, however, a federally recognized tribe. In 1925, Alfred Kroeber, the head of the University of California Anthropology Department, mistakenly declared in his Handbook of the Indians of California, that the last Ohlone tribe had become extinct. In 1927, the superintendent of the regional Bureau of Indian Affairs removed the tribe from the list of federally recognized tribes, and despite numerous efforts, tribal status has not yet been restored to the Ohlone.24

The Jesuits in San Francisco

The first Jesuits in San Francisco were Michael Accolti and John Nobili. They were originally from Italy, were recruited by Pierre-Jean De Smet for the Rocky Mountain Mission and had been serving in the Jesuit mission on the Willamette River in Oregon Country since 1844. They faced many of the same issues as other Jesuits in the Rocky Mountain Mission regarding the conversion of the Native Americans of the area, the Kalapuya people, to Christianity. Accolti was constantly mediating between Native Americans and whites who inundated the region. Given the scarcity of funds, and the lack of qualified personnel for the Oregon mission, Accolti began to think that the Oregon Jesuits should devote themselves to broader educational and ministerial efforts among the rapidly increasing white population of the Pacific Coast.25

In 1848, Fr. Accolti was made superior of the Jesuit residence at Willamette, and in that same year, he and Fr. Nobili received a letter from Anthony Langlois, a French-Canadian priest working in San Francisco, asking them to help civilize and educate that tumultuous Gold Rush town, whose population was dramatically increasing as tens of thousands of people descended on the city on their way to the gold fields of Northern California. The overwhelming majority of these people were young men of European descent, and many were Catholics, including a sizeable group from Fr. Accolti’s own congregation in Oregon. After many petitions, Accolti received permission from the superior of the Rocky Mountain Mission, headquartered in present- day Idaho, to follow the gold-seekers to Northern California.26

In December 1849, Accolti and Nobili made a five-day voyage from Astoria, Oregon, to San Francisco. At the time, San Francisco was experiencing rapid growth and virtual civic chaos. Murder, prostitution, thievery, and gambling were commonplace. Fortunes were made and lost in a day through various kinds of speculation. Upon arriving in the city, Fr. Accolti wrote:

“Whether it should be called a madhouse or Babylon I am at a loss to determine; so great in those days was the disorder, the brawling, the open immorality, the reign of crime which brazen-faced triumphed on a soil not yet brought under the sway of human laws.”27

Antoine Langlois, the priest who had first invited Accolti and Nobili to San Francisco, also wrote in 1849, that “in spite of the temptations of bar-rooms and saloons on every hand for the multitudes that frequented was possible for a person to save his soul in San Francisco.”28

The arrival of the Jesuits Accolti and Nobili in San Francisco in December 1849, the year before California attained statehood, marked the beginning of a permanent Jesuit educational and religious establishment in the city and in the state. Although Fr. Accolti was ordered to return to Oregon in July of 1850, Fr. Nobili remained in Northern California and founded Santa Clara College in 1851. Accolti wrote to Rome asking permission to send additional Jesuits to California, but the letter took over a year to get to Rome, and the return letter denied permission to embark on any new apostolic work in California. By the time Accolti received the letter, however, many Jesuits were already at work in the Bay Area. Accolti sailed to Rome in late 1853, met with the Jesuit Superior General, Peter Beckx, and in the following year secured the “adoption” of the California and Oregon mission by the Jesuit province of Turin, Italy. This led to desperately needed economic and workforce support for the California enterprise, and it earned Accolti the reputation as founder of the Jesuit Order in California. 29

In 1854, the Turin provincial ordered Anthony Maraschi, a Jesuit then teaching at Loyola College, Maryland, to head for San Francisco. In 1855, Fr. Maraschi founded St. Ignatius Church and St. Ignatius Academy. After three name changes, St. Ignatius Academy became the University of San Francisco in 1930. Although Fr. Accolti was not in San Francisco when St. Ignatius Academy first opened its doors, he later served as Maraschi’s assistant for six months before being transferred to Santa Clara College. At Santa Clara College, Accolti was prefect of studies and professor of ethics for four years. He then served as parish priest of Santa Clara, retaining for one year the position of director of studies at Santa Clara College. Accolti also served on the Board of Trustees of both Santa Clara College and St. Ignatius College. In 1867, he returned to San Francisco, where he worked at St. Ignatius College and was chaplain at San Quentin Prison.30

Ignatius of Loyola, who founded the Society of Jesus in 1540, called for the establishment of Jesuit missions and educational institutions throughout the world. More than three hundred years later, in 1850, Fr. Accolti wrote:

“Once that our Society shall, like a vine, have been lawfully planted in California and shall have taken root, it will be easy for it afterwards to spread its branches; hence, when we shall have established one college, it will be an easy matter to put our minds and our hands to the starting of another. Thus will everything be more solid than if we keep many things at the same time before our eyes. Indeed we doubt not that many, nay, very many things for the greater glory of God will, throughout the length and breadth of California, present themselves to be done.”31

In 1851, Accolti and Nobili were invited by Joseph Alemany, the Archbishop of San Francisco, and by a group of Catholics in Santa Clara, to convert the deteriorated buildings of Santa Clara Mission into a school. These Jesuits established Santa Clara College, the first institution of higher education in the State of California. Santa Clara Mission had been started by Franciscan priests in 1777, who ran it until Mexico became independent of Spain in 1821. From that year until 1833, when the Mexican government dissolved the mission system, the Santa Clara Mission was managed by Mexican Franciscans.32

The Thamien Native Americans lived for thousands of years in what became Santa Clara Valley. The Thamien people, with their own language and culture, were one of the many tribes of the Ohlone Native Americans of the San Francisco Bay Area. Before the Spanish came to the region, the Thamien people lived along the banks of a river named by the Spanish as Río Guadalupe. Spain’s colonization policy, implemented by the Franciscans, called for the religious and cultural conversion of the Native Americans to Catholicism. Within a twelve-mile radius of the Santa Clara Mission, there were approximately forty rancherías, or villages, occupied by the Thamien people. These villages were taken over by the Spanish and the Thamien were moved into the mission system. At its peak, the Santa Clara Mission housed almost 1,500 Native Americans, as well as Franciscan priests, and soldiers. The Santa Clara Mission recorded more baptisms, marriages, and deaths than any other mission in the California system. European diseases decimated the Thamien people. By the time the mission system was ended by Mexico in 1833, the Native American population was largely gone, and a small group of Mexican Franciscans ran the mission, which was converted into a parish church in 1836. According to the secularization decree passed by the Mexican legislature, half of the mission land was to be divided among Native Americans, but the decree was never enforced. Instead, a cadre of Mexican landowners, who received land grants from the Mexican government, divided up the land.33

The United States took over California in 1848, a result of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo that ended the Mexican War. When the Jesuits arrived in Santa Clara in 1851, the Native Americans were no longer in the area. Joseph Alemany, the new Archbishop of San Francisco, went to court to secure title for the Santa Clara mission buildings and a small portion of the adjacent property for the Jesuits. The first Jesuit president of Santa Clara College, John Nobili, spent much of his tenure as president buying back as much of the old mission land as he could, taking the college deeply into debt. He also started to develop a college to serve the rapidly growing Catholic population of the area, both European newcomers and the descendants of Mexican families, the Californios. By 1851, there were approximately 40,000 Catholics among California’s 150,000 people, a population that continued to dramatically grow due to the Gold Rush.34

In San Francisco, Mission San Francisco de Asís was founded in 1776 by Francisco Palou, a Franciscan priest, under the direction of Father Junípero Serra. The mission was also known as Mission Dolores because of the presence of a nearby creek, Arroyo de Nuestra Señora de los Dolores, meaning Our Lady of Sorrows Creek. The mission was built by the forced labor of the Native Americans of the area, the Ramaytush Ohlone. At its peak from 1810 to 1820, the average annual Native American population at Mission Dolores was about 1,100. The Native Americans were forced to farm and produce various goods for sale. By 1810, the mission owned thousands of sheep, cows, horses, goats, pigs, and mules, and its ranching and farming operations extended as far south as San Mateo and as far east as Alameda. As was true at all the Spanish missions, the Native Americans at Mission Delores were decimated by disease and suffered massive cultural disruption. More than 5,000 Native Americans are still buried in the cemetery adjacent to the mission. In 1833, the Mexican government secularized most of the church properties, and the land was sold or granted to new Mexican owners. Like Santa Clara Mission, Mission Delores only retained title to the church, the priests’ residence, and a small amount of land surrounding the church. During the next decade, Mission Dolores fell into disrepair, and by 1842, only eight Native Americans were still living at the mission. In the early 1850s, two plank roads were constructed from what is today downtown San Francisco to Mission Delores,

and some of the remaining mission properties were sold or leased for use as saloons and gambling halls, representative of Gold Rush San Francisco.35

In 1854, the newly arrived Jesuits in the San Francisco Bay Area made an ill-fated attempt to establish a school near Mission Delores. While Michael Accolti was in Rome trying to secure resources for his Jesuit initiatives in the Bay Area, the newly installed president of Santa Clara College, John Nobili, purchased a vacant two-story building a short distance from Mission Delores. Nobili had the full support of Archbishop Alemany, who wanted a Catholic college in San Francisco to complement the new Catholic College in Santa Clara. Jesuit Francis Veyret was sent from Santa Clara College to be the first president and only instructor of the San Francisco college venture. The school closed, however, within a few months of its founding, and no records exist as to the specific date it opened or how many students enrolled. The school failed in part because students had a difficult time walking to it from downtown San Francisco, the city’s population center at the time. To get to the school, potential students had to take a stagecoach from Third Street to Mission Street, and then walk on a series of rickety planks through sand dunes and brush to get to the college. The school survived until September 1854, when it permanently closed its doors. This failed educational experiment saddled the Jesuits with a significant debt for years to come. Because of this outcome, and its proximity to the creek named Arroyo de Nuestra Señora de los Dolores, the school was later known as the “College of Sorrows.” 36

The Jesuits second try at founding a school in San Francisco was successful. The University of San Francisco began its existence as a one-room schoolhouse named St. Ignatius Academy. The institution’s founding president, Anthony Maraschi, was a Jesuit from Northern Italy, who was teaching at Loyola College of Maryland when the order reached him in 1854 to depart for California. When Fr. Maraschi arrived in San Francisco, he applied for and received permission from Archbishop Joseph Alemany to build a Jesuit church and school. When Fr. Maraschi asked the archbishop to designate a spot, Alemany pointed to a stretch of sand dunes west of the then- central part of San Francisco and, with a sweep of his hand toward the unoccupied land, said “any place over there.” Fr. Maraschi chose a few sand dunes on the south side of Market Street, between Fourth and Fifth streets, and proclaimed, “Here, in time, will be the heart of a great city.” Maraschi borrowed $11,500 and purchased a lot (127 by 275 feet) from Thomas O. Larkin, the first American Consul in Monterey. On this lot, Fr. Maraschi built the first St. Ignatius Church in San Francisco, a Jesuit residence, and a wooden frame building about twenty-six feet long by sixteen feet wide, the first home of St. Ignatius Academy. On October 15, 1855, the school opened its doors to its first class, which numbered three students. To greet those students, there were three instructors: Fr. Joseph Bixio, another Italian Jesuit; John Haley, a lay teacher from Ireland; and Fr. Maraschi. The Jesuits sold this original piece of property in 1886 for $900,000. St. Ignatius College moved to three other locations in San Francisco before moving to its current Fulton Street site in 1927.37

The First Board of Trustees

The institutions that became the University of San Francisco and Santa Clara University established Boards of Trustees within four years of their founding. Both boards were composed mostly of Jesuits, had considerable overlap among its members, and represented the close relationship between the two schools. Among the Jesuits, Michael Accolti served on the Board of Trustees of both schools, as did Anthony Maraschi. Other Jesuits who served on both boards included Joseph Bixio, Francis Veyret, Richard Whyte, Anthony Goetz, Felix Cicaterri, and Aloysius Masnata, who became the sixth president of St. Ignatius College in 1873. Nicholas Congiato was a Jesuit who served on the first Board of Santa Clara College and became the college’s second president. In 1862, Congiato became the second president of St. Ignatius College. Congiato had spent several years at the Jesuit mission in Willamette, Oregon, mediating disputes between white settlers and the Kalapuya, the Native Americans of that region. Joseph Alemany, the Dominican Archbishop of San Francisco, also served on the first Board of Trustees of both schools.38

Santa Clara College had five lay members on its first Board of Trustees, including Peter Burnett, the first governor of California. Burnett had converted to Catholicism, sent his two sons to Santa Clara College, and had helped draft the college’s original articles of incorporation.39 Although Burnett never served on the Board of Trustees of St. Ignatius College, he was active in the affairs of St. Ignatius Church in San Francisco. In the words of Jesuit historian John McGloin, Burnett was a “close friend of the Jesuit Fathers of old St. Ignatius as well as a devoted member of the Gentleman’s Sodality connected with the church.” When Burnett died in 1895, St. Ignatius Church was “the scene of an historically significant requiem service.... His obsequies were attended by Governor James Budd and his staff with the members of Sodality present in large numbers; the vast congregation which crowded the church testified to the esteem felt for the deceased.”40

Governor Peter Burnett had other defining characteristics. He grew up in a slave-owning family in Missouri and personally owned two slaves. In the 1840s, he moved to Oregon, where he became Supreme Judge of the territory’s provisional government. He advocated for the exclusion of Black people from the Oregon territory, and he authored a law permitting the flogging of any free Black person who refused to leave the territory. In 1848, during the first year of the Gold Rush, Burnett moved to California and was appointed to the California Supreme Court. From that position, he ordered the extradition of a formerly enslaved man living in Sacramento back to Mississippi. Although he opposed California entering the union as a slave state, he called for the total exclusion of Black people from California. Burnett was elected the first governor of California after it was admitted to the union in 1850. In January 1851, during his first State of the State Address, he called Native Americans the “Indian foe” and “savages.” In his remarks, he said that a “war of extermination will continue to be waged between the races until the Indian race becomes extinct.” Governor Burnett then signed into law an “Act for the Government and

Protection of Indians,” which underpinned the enslavement and murder of many Native Americans in California.41

During the 1850s, numerous atrocities were committed against Native Americans, supported by the State of California and its governor. The state legislature, for example, authorized private militias to murder Native Americans, and there were at least 370 massacres and hundreds of vigilante killings of Native Americans in California between 1850 and 1854. Massacres took place in Northern California against the Modoc, Yurok, Shasta, and Tolowa tribes; and in Southern California, against the Cahilla and Cupena tribes. During the 1850s, the state legislature appropriated $1.3 million (in 1850s dollars) for these mass killing campaigns.42

It is not known how Burnett’s attitudes, words, and actions against California’s Native Americans were perceived among the Jesuits who served with him on the first Board of Trustees of Santa Clara College. Likewise, no evidence has surfaced regarding how the Jesuits of St. Ignatius Church and College viewed his sanctioning of the killing of Native Americans. Four books written by Jesuit historians about the Jesuits in the Pacific Northwest and California, the establishment of Santa Clara College, and the founding of St. Ignatius Church and College, are silent on this issue, though they do refer to Burnett’s support for the Jesuits.43 The Jesuits who established their institutions in the San Francisco Bay Area during the 1850s are not of course responsible for Burnett’s attitudes and actions. It is hard to believe, however, that the Jesuits at the time were unaware of Burnett’s views, or that they knew nothing about the implementation of those views in decimating the lives and cultures of Native Americans in California.

The attitudes, values, and policies of the Jesuits of St. Ignatius Church and College toward the Native Americans of the San Francisco Bay Area during the 1850s is unknown. Archival research at USF, Santa Clara University, and at the Jesuit Archives and Research Center in St. Louis failed to reveal any primary documents that illuminate the question of how the Jesuits of St. Ignatius Church and College felt about the plight of the Native Americans in the San Francisco Bay Area during the 1850s. In 1887, Nicolas Congiato, superior of the California Mission, who had served as the president of Santa Clara College from 1856 to 1857, and as the president of St. Ignatius College from 1862 to 1869, made a passing reference to the “Indians of Lake County” as being “offered to us” in a brief letter to the Jesuit Superior General in Rome.44 No further information, however, about that “offer” was found.44 Lake County is more than 130 miles north of San Francisco.

Almost all the students at St. Ignatius College, during its first decades, were first- or second- generation Irish or Italian Catholics, a partial reflection of the population of San Francisco. An analysis of the list of St. Ignatius College students from 1855 to 1905 reveals no students that appear to be Native Americans.45 Students were recruited from the immigrant communities in and around San Francisco, and from the mining communities in the gold fields of Northern California. One of the school’s prime recruiters was Fr. James Bouchard, who had a French mother and a Delaware Native American father. Fr. Bouchard was also an outstanding public speaker who filled the pews in St. Ignatius Church with his homilies.46

During and after the Gold Rush of 1849, the Irish came to San Francisco by the thousands, making up nearly one-third of the city’s population by 1880. Throughout the mid-nineteenth century, Italians also immigrated to the United States, and to San Francisco, in ever increasing numbers, swelling the population of San Francisco and expanding the enrollment of St. Ignatius College to 650 students by 1880. In the 1880 national census, the population of San Francisco was 233,959, 44.6 percent of whom were foreign born. In that year, San Francisco was the ninth largest city in the United States, but first in the nation, even ahead of New York City, in the percentage of its population that was foreign born. In 1880, there were approximately 2,000 Native Americans still living in San Francisco, less than 0.1 percent of the total population of the city.47

Current Locations of the University of San Francisco

In 2022, the University of San Francisco’s main campus encompasses fifty-five acres near Golden Gate Park, on land once occupied by the Ramaytush Ohlone. Parts of the campus extend west to Stanyan Street, east to Masonic Avenue, north to Anza Street, and south across Fulton Street. The main part of the USF campus was once owned by the Masons of San Francisco, who had acquired the property in 1854, and established a 28-acre cemetery on the site in 1864. In 1934, after several years of negotiations, the Masonic Cemetery Association agreed to sell the entire cemetery to the Jesuits of the University of San Francisco for $690,000. With the beginning of the Great Depression in 1929, however, and with the Jesuits’ growing financial burdens, USF was able to purchase only approximately half of the cemetery property, consisting of 14 acres of land south of Golden Gate Avenue, at a cost of $290,000, with an option to purchase the rest of the land by 1934. The Jesuits could not raise the funds necessary to exercise this option, and the land between Golden Gate Avenue and Turk Street was sold to private developers. The deeds to the property south of Golden Gate Avenue finally passed to the Jesuits in March 1934.48

In the last months of the negotiations between the Masons and the Jesuits, unclaimed headstones and tomb monuments at the Masonic Cemetery were removed and used for seawalls, landfill, and roads along the San Francisco Bay, and most of the bodies interred in the cemetery were hastily exhumed by the Masons and transported to the Woodlawn Cemetery in Colma. The removal crews missed many of the bodies, however, because the deceased had often been buried in inexpensive nineteenth-century wooden coffins that eventually deteriorated, and the canvas bags that had sometimes been used to wrap the deceased disintegrated over time, the bones mixing freely with the sandy soil. Additionally, bodies sometimes shifted from their original locations under marked tombstones in the wake of earthquakes and other land movements, and many other coffins and mausoleums had been buried under tons of dirt removed from the excavation site of the San Francisco College for Women on Lone Mountain and remained unnoticed by the removal crews. In later decades, therefore, when foundations were constructed for new buildings on campus, overlooked bones were frequently unearthed. In July 2011, when workers started to excavate the site for the new John Lo Schiavo, S.J. Center for Science and Innovation, they found human remains. Work was immediately halted, and the San Francisco Medical Examiner’s Office was contacted. A team of professional archaeologists was also called in to ensure that all human remains and coffins were excavated with care, that cultural material was preserved, and that no Native Americans were buried at the location. The archaeologists eventually uncovered fifty-five coffins, twenty-nine human skeletons, some additional skeletal remains, mortuary artifacts, grave markers, funeral hardware, and ornaments, but no evidence of Native American burials at the site.49 Malcolm Margolin, the author of The Ohlone Way, is reasonably confident that the Ohlone people did not have villages or burial sites in the area where the University of San Francisco is currently located, although the Ohlone people occupied much of the San Francisco Bay Area. The Ohlone people do have extensive sacred burial sites in many Bay Area locations, including at the West Berkeley Shellmound, Sogorea Te in present- day Vallejo, and in San Jose.50

There is no evidence that the Ohlone people ever used the Lone Mountain Campus of USF as a sacred burial site. The early Spanish explorers and settlers in the area called the 488-foot rise of land El Divisidero, or “lookout point.” Archbishop Joseph Alemany purchased Lone Mountain in 1860, and it soon became Calvary Cemetery for deceased Catholics. Gold miners, silver barons, wealthy businessmen, and politicians were all laid to rest on Lone Mountain until 1900, when the city outlawed any more internments at the location. In 1930, Archbishop Edward Hanna deeded Lone Mountain to the Religious of the Sacred Heart in exchange for a promise from the nuns to start a college for Catholic women. In 1932, they established the San Francisco College for Women, which thrived until the 1960s. In 1970, the name was changed to Lone Mountain College, but financial exigencies forced its sale to the University of San Francisco in 1977.51

At various points in its history, the University of San Francisco has offered programs at campuses in other parts of the state, including in Sacramento and Orange County. USF’s Sacramento Campus opened in 1975. Over the last 47 years, it has been administered by the Office of Continuing Education; the College of Professional Studies; and currently, by the Provost’s Office.52 During its history, the Sacramento campus has occupied several sites in the city, and it is now located on the Old Sacramento Waterfront, one of the first sites in the Sacramento area occupied by the Spanish when they colonized California in the 1770s. The Franciscans did not build a mission in Sacramento, and Native American tribes, such as the Nisenan, largely managed to avoid direct contact with the mission system. In the 1830s, however, Mexican and American settlers pushed the Nisenan out of their fifteen villages along the Sacramento and American Rivers and into the mountains. In 1833, a malaria epidemic swept through the Nisenan villages, killing approximately 75 percent of that Native American population. The disease was brought to Sacramento by traders from the Hudson Bay company who had been bitten by disease-carrying mosquitos. After the Mexican War for Independence in 1821, Sacramento was governed by Mexico, and in 1848, Sacramento was part of the vast territory ceded to the United States following the Mexican War. Sacramento grew dramatically during the Gold Rush era, and became the state capitol in 1854, four years after California statehood was attained. Waves of gold miners, settlers, and soldiers significantly reduced the Native American population of Sacramento in a wave of killings, though a substantial number of Nisenan have survived to this day.53

The Orange County Campus of the University of San Francisco is located at the St. Joseph Center, on South Bativia Street, in the City of Orange. The Sisters of St. Joseph who administer the center, were founded in France in the seventeenth century with the help of the Society of Jesus. The St. Joseph Order came to California in 1912, and they built a hospital in the City of Orange in 1929. In 1983, USF first opened a regional campus at the St. Joseph Center adjacent to the hospital, through an agreement with the Sisters of St. Joseph. The College of Professional Studies originally administered the USF Orange County Campus, and it is now under the purview of the Provost’s Office.54 Much of the area now known as Los Angeles County and Orange County was originally inhabited by the Tongva and Acjachenen Native Americans. The Tongva people were forced by the Spanish to build the San Gabriel Mission in the present-day City of San Gabriel, and to build the San Fernando Mission in the San Fernando Valley, part of present-day Los Angeles. Both missions were controlled by the Franciscans until the missions were secularized by Mexico in 1833. Native American village sites were discovered at California State University, Long Beach; the Sheldon Reservoir in Pasadena; and in Los Encinos State Historical Park in Encino, a subdivision of Los Angeles. No Native American village or burial sites, however, have been found at St. Joseph’s Center in the City of Orange.55

In 2017, USF purchased Star Route Farm in Bolinas, Marin County, California. The 100-acre farm, about 29 miles north of San Francisco, was founded by Warren and Marion Weber in 1974, and it is the oldest continuously certified organic row crop farm in California. USF has continued the tradition of organic farming at the site, supplying produce to restaurants and markets in the Greater Bay Area, and most recently, helping to address food shortages in communities affected by the Covid-19 pandemic. The property consists of approximately 40 acres of organically farmed land and 60 acres of unfarmed coastal scrub and forest habitat, riparian habitat, and a small creek, Pine Gulch Creek, which drains into Bolinas Bay. Pine Gulch Creek is ecologically important for Steelhead Trout, and historically was a habitat for endangered Coho Salmon spawning.  In addition to organic farming, the university uses the farm for faculty and student research, fieldtrips, seminars, service activities, and courses related to environmental science and management, biology, ecology, hospitality management, and related subjects. USF also uses the site for faculty and staff retreats.56

For approximately 10,000 years, the area now known as Marin and Sonoma Counties was occupied by the Coast Miwok Native Americans. Their territory extended from the Golden Gate north to about 45 miles northwest of San Francisco into Sonoma County, and about 20 miles east to the current city of Santa Rosa. The Coast Miwok had a distinct language and culture, with a livelihood based on fishing, hunting, and gathering. They traveled and camped on the coast and along the bays in the region, especially during the fishing seasons. The Bolinas Bay region, where Star Route Farm is now located, was inhabited by the Guaulen tribe of the Coast Miwok Native Americans.57

In 1579, the Coast Miwok had their first contact with European colonizers when England’s Francis Drake and his sailors came ashore north of the San Francisco Bay, at a point now known as Drake’s Bay. Drake called the region “Albion” and claimed it for the English crown, a new conquest for the developing British Empire. The English did not follow-up with settlements, however, and Drake’s claims withered in the face of Russian and Spanish incursions into the area. By the 1770s, Spanish soldiers and Franciscan priests were moving into the land of the Coast Miwok, and in 1783, the Miwok people began to be moved by the Franciscans to Mission Delores in San Francisco. During the next 50 years, the Miwok people were also moved to Mission San Jose in Fremont, Mission San Rafael (Arcángel) in San Rafael, and to Mission San Francisco Solano in Sonoma. Approximately 2,800 Coast Miwok people were baptized at the Franciscan missions from 1783 through 1832. During this mission period, hundreds of Miwok people died of diseases. Following the secularization of the missions in 1833, the remaining Miwok people found periodic work on the farms that had been granted to Californios by the Mexican government. The Miwok people continued to decline in numbers after California was ceded to the United States in 1848. The horrible treatment of all Native Americans in California following the Gold Rush and California statehood was discussed earlier, and the Coast Miwok Native Americans suffered greatly from disease and violence during the 1850s. The Miwok population, estimated to be approximately 2,000 people at the time of the first Spanish colonization in 1770, declined to 80 individuals by 1880.58

Concluding Questions

The University of San Francisco currently acknowledges past injustices committed against Native Americans, including the Ramaytush Ohlone of San Francisco. The university’s newly adopted mission statement, for example, references the “native lands on which our campuses reside.” USF sponsored public events also begin by acknowledging that USF stands on land once occupied by the Ramaytush Ohlone.

There are several questions that can be asked regarding USF’s past, present, and future engagement with Native Americans:

  • During its long missionary history, the Society of Jesus often worked in tandem with European colonial powers; sometimes the Jesuits operated independently from European colonial powers; and for one forty-year period, the Jesuits were suppressed by the colonial powers and the pope. Given this uneven history, how responsible is the Society of Jesus for the harm done to the Native American people of North America?

  • The Jesuits developed the mission system used in parts of South America, Mexico, Arizona, and Baja California, but how responsible is the Society of Jesus for the decimation of the Native Americans of California, especially since the Jesuits were suppressed during the development of the Franciscan mission system in California?

  • The Franciscan priest, Junípero Serra, established and oversaw the Spanish missions in California which sought to bring Catholicism to the Native Americans of California. The mission system was also responsible, however, for the deaths of thousands of Native Americans, and the near destruction of their culture from 1769 to 1833. In 2015, Pope Francis, the first Jesuit Pope, finalized the process that made Junípero Serra a saint. How can this canonization of Serra by Pope Francis be justified to Native Americans and to others?

  • In North and South America, the mission systems implemented by the Jesuits, Franciscans, and other Catholic orders, were under the overall direction of the Catholic Church. Should the Catholic Church play a significant role in reconciliation efforts and reparations with the Native Americans of California?

  • Former California Governor Peter Burnett served on the first Board of Trustees of Santa Clara College, and for decades, was an active supporter of the Jesuits of St. Ignatius Church in San Francisco. Were the Jesuits who founded the University of San Francisco and Santa Clara University aware of the role played by Burnett in trying to exterminate the Native Americans of California? And if the Jesuits were aware of Burnett’s attitudes and policies, why did they give him important roles at their institutions?

  • During the 1850s, there is no evidence that the Jesuits of St. Ignatius Church and College acted to protect Native Americans who were being decimated by settlers, gold miners, soldiers, and vigilantes, with the support of the California State Government. Should the University of San Francisco be obligated to acknowledge and make amends for this apparent silence by the founders of its church and school in the face of injustice?

  • In addition to acknowledging that USF occupies land that was once part of Ramaytush Ohlone territory, are there other steps that USF can take, including reparations, to seek reconciliation with the Ramaytush Ohlone or other Native Americans?

  • In June 2019, California Governor Gavin Newsom issued an executive order apologizing to “all California Native Americans on behalf of the state’s citizens for the “many instances of violence, maltreatment and neglect California inflicted on tribes” during “a century of depredations and prejudicial policies against Native Americans.”59 Governor Newsom established a Truth and Healing Council to consider the role the State of California should play in reconciliation and reparations for Native Americans? The Council will issue a final report in 2025. How should USF support this effort?

  • In July 2022, Pope Francis traveled to Canada to apologize to the Indigenous People of that country for decades of abuse by Catholic missionaries at residential schools. From the nineteenth century to the 1990s, approximately 150,000 Indigenous children were taken from their families and forced to attend residential schools, mostly managed by Catholic or other Christian groups, isolating the children from the influence of their families, languages, and cultures, and forcing then to assimilate into Canada’s Christian society. At 53 of these boarding schools, burial sites were found for Indigenous children, and an estimated 3,200 children died at the boarding schools because of terrible health conditions. Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission called for a papal apology to be delivered on Canadian soil. While visiting the sites of many of these residential schools, Pope Francis apologized for the “deplorable evil” of Canada’s residential schools and for the injustices and abuses suffered by generations of Indigenous People. The Pope said that Catholic participation in the residential schools was a “disastrous error, incompatible with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.” The schools, he said, were the “fruit of colonial mentality,” and that he was committed to reconciliation. Aboard the papal plane on his way home from Canada, Pope Francis referred to the devastation of generations of Indigenous People by European colonists as “genocide.” 60 How do the Pope’s comments in 2022 about Catholic residential schools in Canada square with the Pope’s canonization of Junípero Serra seven years earlier? In many regards, the Franciscans who ran California’s Missions treated Indigenous People similarly to the Catholics who ran Canada’s residential schools.

There are several crucial aspects to any reconciliation efforts with Native Americans. First, there must be an accepted narrative of the history of engagement with Native Americans by the state and nation, the Catholic Church, and the Society of Jesus. Second, narratives should be disseminated through education. It is our hope that a final version of this paper will be shared with USF students, faculty, staff, and others beyond the university community. Third, Native Americans, such as the Ramaytush Ohlone, should be honored, and formal apologies should be made. Fourth, reconciliation efforts, possibly including reparations, should be considered.

The University of San Francisco should reflect on its current position as a moral leader with a long history in the city, state, and nation. An institution’s obligations to make amends for historical wrongs reflect a commitment to a moral good.61 The dignity of human beings is inviolable, and educational institutions, such as the University of San Francisco, should take the lead in reconciliation efforts with Native Americans. Institutions must honestly engage in their history to truthfully live in the present and build guideposts to the future.


  1. George E. Ganns, translator and editor, The Constitutions of the Society of Jesus (St. Louis, Mo.: Institute of Jesuit Sources), 1970, 69.

  2. The development of the Society of Jesus during its first decades is described by John O’Malley, S.J. in The First Jesuits (Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 1993), and its development in subsequent decades is traced by Thomas Lucas, S.J., in Landmarking: City, Church, & Jesuit Urban Strategy (Chicago: Loyola Press, 1997).

  3. O’Malley, The First Jesuits, 172.

  4. Nicholas P. Cushner, Why Have You Come Here? The Jesuits and the First Evangelization of Native

    America (New York: Oxford University Press, 2004), 31-48.

  5. Ibid., 50.

  6. Ibid., 52.

  7. Ibid., 61-69.

  8. Ibid., 79-99.

  9. Ibid., 101-127.

  10. Ibid., 149-170.

  11. Ibid.,171-190.

  12. Rose Marie Beebe and Robert M. Senkewicz, editors, Lands of Promise and Despair, Chronicles of Early

    California (Santa Clara and Berkeley, CA.: Santa Clara University and Heydey Books), 1974, 65-149;

    Kevin Starr, California: A History (New York: Random House, 2005), 31-31.

  13. Damon B. Atkins and William J. Bauer Jr. We Are the Land: A History of Native California (Oakland, CA.:

    University of California Press, 2021), 54-56; Kevin Starr, Continental Ambitions: Roman Catholics in

    North America (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2016), 179-198.

  14. California Native American Heritage Commission, “California Indian History,”

    (, 2022; National Park Service, “American Indian

    Heritage,” (, 2021.

  15. The definitive account of the Jesuit Rocky Mountain Mission is by Gerald McKevitt, S.J., and appears in

    Brokers of Culture: Italian Jesuits in the American West (Stanford, CA.: Stanford University Press, 2007),


  16. Ibid., 93.

  17. Ibid.,94.

  18. Gerald McKevitt, “Across the Rockies: Italian Jesuits in the American West.” Company, Vol. 18, No. 4 (Summer 2004), 17-21.

  19. The Catholic Transcript, Volume XXXVI, Number 24, 16, November 24, 1933.

  20. Malcolm Margolin, The Ohlone Way: Indian Life in the San Francisco—Monterey Bay Area (Berkeley,

    CA.: Heyday Books, 1978).

  21. Estimates of the population of the Indigenous People of California and the San Francisco Bay Area in 1769

    are probably too low, as deadly European diseases carried by explorers, soldiers, and sailors, likely reached the Native Americans prior to 1769. Nevertheless, the best estimates to date are found in Sherburne F. Cook, The Population of the California Indians, 1769-1971. (Berkeley, CA.: University of California Press,

  22. 1976); California Native American Heritage Commission (

    history/), 2022; and National Park Service, “American Indian Heritage,” ( 2021.

  23. Atkins and Bauer Jr. We Are the Land: A History of Native California, 301-302.

  24. U.S. Census Bureau, 2020. (

  25. Atkins and Bauer Jr. We Are the Land: A History of Native California, 302.

  26. McKevitt, Brokers of Culture, 94-96.

  27. The life and times of Michael Accolti are described by Joseph Riordan, S.J., in The First Half Century: St.

    Ignatius Church and College (San Francisco: H.S. Crocker Company, 1905), 22–28, and by John McGloin, S.J., in Jesuits by the Golden Gate: The Society of Jesus in San Francisco, 1849–1969 (San Francisco: University of San Francisco, 1972), 1–3, 12–20, 175–177.

  28. McGloin, Jesuits by the Golden Gate: The Society of Jesus in San Francisco, 1.

  29. Riordan, The First Half Century: St. Ignatius Church and College, 20.

  30. McGloin, Jesuits by the Golden Gate: The Society of Jesus in San Francisco, 4.

  31. Alan Ziajka, Legacy and Promise: 150 Years of Jesuit Education at the University of San Francisco (New

    York: Association of Jesuit University Presses, 2005), 8-9.

  32. McKevitt, Brokers of Culture, 230.

  33. The definitive book on the history of the University of Santa Clara is by Gerald McKevitt, S.J., The

    University of Santa Clara: A History 1851-1977 (Stanford, CA.: Stanford University Press, 1979).

  34. Ibid.,8-12.

  35. Ibid.,25-36.

  36. Guire Cleary, “Mission Delores Links San Francisco with its 18th Century Roots,” Catholic San Francisco,

    January 31, 2003.

  37. Paul Totah, Spiritus ‘Magis’: 150 Years of St. Ignatius College Preparatory (San Francisco: St. Ignatius

    College Preparatory, 2005), 7.

  38. Ziajka, Legacy and Promise: 150 Years of Jesuit Education at the University of San Francisco, 10-11.

  39. McKevitt, The University of Santa Clara, 329; Ziajka, Legacy and Promise: 150 Years of Jesuit Education

    at the University of San Francisco, 23-24, 399.

  40. McKevitt, The University of Santa Clara, 19, 40, 60, 110.

  41. McGloin, Jesuits by the Golden Gate: The Society of Jesus in San Francisco, 40.

  42. David E. Stannard, American Holocaust: Columbus and the Conquest of the New World (New York:

    Oxford University Press, 1992), 144-145; John Briscoe, “How California Became a Slave State and Stayed

    One for Decades After the Civil War,” San Francisco Chronicle, November 27, 2021.

  43. Briscoe, “How California Became a Slave State and Stayed One for Decades After the Civil War,” San

    Francisco Chronicle, November 27, 2021.

  44. See Riordan’s The First Half Century: St. Ignatius Church and College; McGloin’s Jesuits by the Golden

    Gate: The Society of Jesus in San Francisco; McKevitt’s The University of Santa Clara; and McKevitt’s

    Brokers of Culture.

  45. Letter of Nicholas Congiato, S.J., Superior of the California Mission, to the Father General of the Society of Jesus, Rome, January 18, 1887, Jesuit Archives and Record Center, St. Louis, Missouri, Record Group 1002.

  46. Riordan, The First Half Century: St. Ignatius Church and College, 378-386.

  47. John McGloin, S.J. Eloquent Indian: The Life of James Bouchard, California Jesuit (Stanford, CA.:

    Stanford University Press, 1949.

  48. U.S. Census Bureau, 1880. (

  49. Alan Ziajka, Lighting the City, Changing the World: A History of the Sciences at the University of San

    Francisco (San Francisco: University of San Francisco, 2014), 65-67.

  50. Ibid.

  51. Atkins and Bauer Jr. We Are the Land: A History of Native California, 1-2.

  52. Ziajka, Legacy and Promise: 150 Years of Jesuit Education at the University of San Francisco, 321-323.

  53. Alan Ziajka, “USF Sacramento Campus History: Some Highlights,” Unpublished paper on file at the USF Office of the Provost, September 14, 2018.

  54. Atkins and Bauer Jr. We Are the Land: A History of Native California, 97-147.

  55. Alan Ziajka, “Some Historical Points Regarding USF in Orange, California,” Unpublished paper on file at

    the USF Office of the Provost, January 23, 2017.

  56. Atkins and Bauer Jr. We Are the Land: A History of Native California, 44, 263-268.

  57. Mary McInerney, “Putting Down Roots,” USF Magazine, December 2019, Vol. 28, No.1, 18-23; Star

    Route Farms. “Growing Organic Produce in Marin and Riverside Counties.

    ( 2022.

  58. Randall Milliken, “Ethnohistory and Ethnogeography of the Coast Miwok and Their Neighbors, 1783-

    1840,” Technical paper presented to the National Park Service, Golden Gate NRA, San Francisco, June


  59. Ibid.

  60. Jill Cowan, “It’s Called Genocide: Newsom Apologizes to the State’s Native Americans,” New York Times, June 19, 2019.

  61. The complete text of Pope Francis’s remarks about the Catholic Church’s treatment of Indigenous People in Canada is in the Jesuit America Magazine, July 7, 2022 ( › faith › 2022/07/25). Details about the pope’s visit to Canada are also found in The New York Times, July 24, 2022, page 3; the San Francisco Chronicle, August 25, 2022, page A13; and The Wall Street Journal, July 25, 2022, page A9.

  62. Susan Neiman provides a thoughtful and detailed analysis of the moral obligations of a nation to individuals who have suffered historical injustices in Learning from the Germans: Race and the Memory of Evil (New York: Farrar, Strauss, and Giroux, 2019).


Atkins, Damon B., and Bauer, William J. We Are the Land: A History of Native California. Oakland, CA.: University of California Press, 2021.

Beebe, Rose Marie, and Senkewicz, Robert M., editors. Lands of Promise and Despair, Chronicles of Early California. Santa Clara and Berkeley, CA.: Santa Clara University and Heydey Books, 1974.

Briscoe, John. “How California Became a Slave State and Stayed One for Decades After the Civil War,” San Francisco Chronicle, November 27, 2021.

California Native American Heritage Commission. “California Indian History.” ( State of California, 2022.

The Catholic Transcript, Volume XXXVI, Number 24, 16, November 24, 1933.
Cleary, Guire. “Mission Delores Links San Francisco with its 18th Century Roots,” Catholic San

Francisco, January 31, 2003.

Cook, Sherburne F. The Population of the California Indians, 1769-1971. Berkeley, CA.: University of California Press, 1976.

Cowan, Jill. “It’s Called Genocide: Newsom Apologizes to the State’s Native Americans.” New York Times, June 19, 2019.

Cushner, Nicholas P. Why Have You Come Here? The Jesuits and the First Evangelization of Native America. New York: Oxford University Press, 2004.

Ganns, George E., translator and editor. The Constitutions of the Society of Jesus. St. Louis, Missouri: Institute of Jesuit Sources. 1970.

Lucas, Thomas M., S.J. Landmarking: City, Church, & Jesuit Urban Strategy. Chicago: Loyola Press, 1997.

Margolin, Malcolm. The Ohlone Way: Indian Life in the San Francisco—Monterey Bay Area. Berkeley, CA.: Heyday Books, 1978.

McGloin, John B., S.J. Jesuits by the Golden Gate: The Society of Jesus in San Francisco, 1849– 1969. San Francisco: University of San Francisco, 1972.

McGloin, John B., S.J. Eloquent Indian: The Life of James Bouchard, California Jesuit. Stanford, CA.: Stanford University Press, 1949.

McInerney, Mary. “Putting Down Roots,” USF Magazine, December 2019, Vol. 28, No.1, 18- 23.

McKevitt, Gerald, S.J., Brokers of Culture: Italian Jesuits in the American West. Stanford, CA.: Stanford University Press, 2007.

McKevitt, Gerald, S.J., The University of Santa Clara: A History 1851-1977. Stanford, CA.: Stanford University Press, 1979.

McKevitt, Gerald, S.J. “Across the Rockies: Italian Jesuits in the American West.” Company, Vol. 18, No. 4 (Summer 2004), 17-21.

Milliken, Randall. “Ethnohistory and Ethnogeography of the Coast Miwok and Their Neighbors, 1783-1840,” Technical paper for the National Park Service, Golden Gate NRA, San Francisco, June 2009.

National Park Service. “American Indian Heritage.” ( 2021.
Neiman, Susan. Learning from the Germans: Race and the Memory of Evil. New York: Farrar,

Strauss, and Giroux, 2019.

O’Malley, John, S.J. The First Jesuits. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 1993.

Riordan, Joseph W., S.J. The First Half Century of St. Ignatius Church and College. San Francisco: H.S. Crocker Company, 1905.

Stannard, David E. American Holocaust: Columbus and the Conquest of the New World. New York: Oxford University Press, 1992.

Starr, Kevin. Continental Ambitions: Roman Catholics in North America. San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2016.

Starr, Kevin. California: A History. New York: Random House, 2005.
Star Route Farms. “Growing Organic Produce in Marin and Riverside Counties.”

( 2022.
Totah, Paul. Spiritus ‘Magis’: 150 Years of St. Ignatius College Preparatory. San Francisco: St.

Ignatius College Preparatory, 2005.
United States Census Bureau, 1880 Census, United States Census Bureau, 2020 Census,

Ziajka, Alan. Lighting the City, Changing the World: History of the Sciences at the University of

San Francisco. San Francisco: University of San Francisco, 2014.

Ziajka, Alan. Legacy and Promise: 150 Years of Jesuit Education at the University of San

Francisco. San Francisco and New York: University of San Francisco and Association of Jesuit

University Presses, 2005.

About the Author

Alan Ziajka is Historian Emeritus of the University of San Francisco, where he held several administrative positions during a 36-year career, including Associate Vice Provost for Academic Affairs and University Historian. He has taught courses on the history of the University of San Francisco for the Fromm Institute for Lifelong Learning at USF. Ziajka holds a Ph.D. from Claremont Graduate University, and he is the author of five books and numerous articles on history, education, and human development. His most recent books are Legacy and Promise: 150 Years of Jesuit Education at the University of San Francisco; The University of San Francisco School of Law Century—100 Years of Educating for Justice; Lighting the City, Changing the World—A History of the Sciences at the University of San Francisco; and University of San Francisco, co-authored with USF professor Robert Elias. A redacted version of this paper, “The Jesuits and Native Communities,” was published in the journal Pierless Bridges, Vol. 3, 2022, 28-33. The journal is published by the Joan and Ralph Lane Center for Catholic Social Thought and the Ignatian Tradition at the University of San Francisco.


The author gratefully acknowledges Erin Brigham, Executive Director, Joan and Ralph Lane Center for Catholic Social Thought and the Ignatian Tradition, and Chief Mission Officer of the University of San Francisco, whose office sponsored this project. The author also acknowledges the outstanding resources provided by the USF Gleeson Library/Geschke Center and its archives. The superb work of Dean Tyrone Cannon; Dean Shawn Calhoun; and archivists Michael Kotlanger, S.J., Deborah Malone, and Annie Reid, spanning many decades, made this project and my other works possible. Annie Reid was especially valuable for this project. The USF library staff has built and sustains an outstanding library and archives for students and scholars.