A Time of Little Choice describes the independent Native American nations that lived in the Bay Area, their reaction to Spanish influence, and their choices when confronted with the mission system. Studies the circumstances under which tribal members joined missions, and recounts their subsequent experiences. Appendices offer an encyclopedia of tribal groups, information on mission populations and baptisms, and translations of 24 documents written by Spanish military and church officials.
"In 1770 the political landscape of the San Francisco Bay region was a mosaic of tiny tribal territories, each some eight to twelve miles in diameter, each containing a population of some two hundred to four hundred individuals. By the year 1810, only forty years later, the tribal territories in all but the most northerly reaches of the San Francisco Bay region were empty. The change began when Spanish colonial explorers passed through the region in the year 1769. Soon after, in 1776 and 1777, the Spanish invaders founded the missions of San Francisco de Asis and Santa Clara, respectively.
"Over the succeeding decades people from one local tribe after another left their villages and moved to the missions. The story of tribal disintegration in the Bay Area is a complex one. No two tribal groups were confronted by the choice to join the missions under exactly the same set of circumstances. There was, however, a common experiential thread over the forty years; each tribe left its homeland for the missions when a significant portion of its members came to believe that the move was the only reasonable alternative in a transformed world. They were not marched to the baptismal font by soldiers with guns (cf. Cook 1943:74).
"Although many tribal people came to view themselves as culturally inferior, not every tribal person was impressed by the Spanish invaders…. Most people held mixed feelings of hatred and admiration toward the missions. They struggled with those feelings in a terrible, internally destructive attempt to cope with changes that were beyond their control. Eventually even those people who clearly rejected the values of mission life capitulated, because of changes in their tribal lands, disease, depopulation, and the accompanying collapse of inter-group alliances….
"This book is about the independent nations that once lived in the Bay Area and their reaction to the Spanish influence. It is not a study of the Spaniards, or of their motives and plans as agents of western expansion into the San Francisco Bay Area. Spanish behaviors are discussed insofar as they redefined the universe of the native peoples and limited their options for action. Spanish military power thwarted every tribal attempt to drive the Spaniards out or to negotiate with them as equals. So native groups had little to say about the shape of the new order, the location of alien settlements, the distribution of new tools, techniques, and foodstuffs, or the appropriate integration of new customs and religious practices.
"Day in and day out, throughout the mission era, ambivalent native villagers along the mission-tribal frontier struggled with a choice—find a place in the new mission system, or resist its attractions. The decision to reject mission life could be made a thousand times, but the decision to join a mission could be made only once."
"The author Randall Milliken has done some excellent research to provide some answers to the question "Why did the San Francisco Bay Indians abandon their villages and join the missions?" Using the mission records along with historical diaries and reports, he documents the patterns of inter-marriage, languages, and histories of the tribes." John R. Novicki