No Somos Animales: Indigenous Diversity and Plurality in 19th Century Santa Cruz, California

Martin Rizzo
UC Santa Cruz

The racial category “Indian” is a fiction, shifting in meaning through the Spanish and Mexican eras into American statehood, all the while concealing ethnic and linguistic diversity within a socially differentiated community. Examining the heterogeneous social world of Indigenous Santa Cruz in the years spanning 1821 to 1870; a world characterized by diversity, degrees of citizenship, increased labor opportunities, limited land ownership, mobility, and increased legal and political freedoms complicates existing scholarship riddled by static notions of ethnicity. All of which have restricted the category of “Indian” into a narrow definition, erasing the complexity and diversity of  Indigenous society. The research illuminates a nuanced Indigenous social world, exposing what is hidden within the social category of Indian – a plurality of Indigenous identities and statuses, tribal and colonial, articulated by linguistic, cultural, historical and political differences, observable in the exercising and exclusion of political and legal rights.