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Shades of Sister Death: A New Look at Indian Mortality in the California Missions

Scholars have written a lot about the epidemic diseases that claimed so many Indian lives in the missions of California. But we know far less about the equally common diseases that killed Indians, and even less about the daily hazards of life in colonial California. Using the Early California Population Project database to study death records in the California missions, I'll talk about the relative frequency of death in the California missions as a result of common illnesses, occupational hazards, and natural disasters. While not the most cheery of subjects, this new look at death in the missions is an important corrective to views that Indians in the missions were worked to death or killed by smallpox or measles."

Steven Hackel, University of California, Riverside