To the Santa Barbara Trust for Historic Preservation:

Walking along Canon Perdido Street, I paused at the historical marker at the corner of Anacapa Street. I was interested to read that Chumash worked in the Presidio and the region’s missions.

Kind of like a marker in South Carolina recounting how West African immigrants worked in agriculture.

The Chumash were treated as and worked as slaves. Systematic rapes of women and children by both soldiers and padres, torture of both men and women, forced labor, forced starvation. A female slave “had run away many, many times, and had been recaptured and whipped till her buttocks crawled with maggots.”

Then, “The Presidio declined after […] 1821…” After the new Mexican Constitution banned slavery.

This is uncontroversial among historians. A new sign might be in order.

[Update, Aug. 7, 2:51 p.m.] After Kornell sent his letter to the S.B. Trust for Historic Preservation, Anne Peterson, the head of the Trust, called him:  We spoke for some time, Anne, a historian, said that they were aware of the problems with the signs, and perhaps the one I commented on wasn’t the worst. They’re planning a thorough revision, along with organizational changes so that the Trust better represents the whole of Santa Barbara and its history. Changes won’t be instant but they are coming soon. We also spoke briefly about the difficulty of finding words for the truth of what happened that don’t traumatize unsuspecting readers. This kind of correction is not an adversarial process, but rather a community one, for accuracy and for the honor of those who suffered.


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