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Santos Juncos
Last Original San Gabriel Mission Indian

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SANTOS JUNCOS

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Portrait

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Funeral (Watson)

Santos Juncos. 4x5-inch negative from the Watson Archive, which identifies the photographer as George Watson and dates the image to 1921 — the year of Santos Juncos' death. George Watson photographed the funeral service for the Los Angeles Times. This image appears to be a photograph of a cabinet card, suggesting Watson might have photographed an earlier Edward Curtis print. Watson's cutline reads: "Portrait of 106-year-old Santo Juncio, last living member of his tribe, at San Gabriel Mission."


JOSÉ DE LOS SANTOS JUNCOS was heralded as the "last of his race" when he died in 1921 at a reported age of 106. The reportage (see below) was consistent with the popular mythos of the "vanishing Indian" as the hallmark of a gloriously romantic past teeming with friendly priests and unicorns, when in fact the only people who vanished were the individual "mission" Indians who had known Spanish subjection a full century earlier. Ironically, the same reporters note that Santos Juncos' pallbearers were "lineal descendants" of San Gabriel Mission-born Indians.

Santos Junco, aka Santo Juncio, saw tremendous changes in Southern California during a lifetime that spanned the periods of Spanish, Mexican and American rule. Luckily, in his final years he shared his experiences and knowledge of native words and phrases with ethnographer-linguist John Peabody Harrington.

Santos Juncos was probably born at or near the San Gabriel Mission, but he was actually Juaneño (Acjachemen). His mother, Maria Valediana, and his father, Jose Engenio Juncos, were born at Mission San Juan Capistrano and were of Juaneño descent1.

And they had medicine. Santos Juncos might have followed in his parents' footsteps had they not stunted his spiritual growth. (See below.)

Santos Juncos lived out his final 40 years at the San Gabriel Mission. He spoke Gabrielino and was more familiar with Gabrielino lifeways than with those of his southern neighbors2.

As for his birth year, the Los Angeles Times death notice gives the date of 1815 as "authenticated by the mission records," although we haven't yet identified him in the ECPP database3. Harrington quotes another informant who says Santos Juncos was born in 1820 4. Elsewhere, Harrington suggests the late 1820s5.

As a younger man, Santos Juncos worked for and lived in the household of a Los Angeles attorney known as Col. Kewen. Later, Harrington would frequently refer to Santos Juncos as "Kewen" or the phonetic "Kuhn" (or simply "informant") in his field notes. This is not unusual; California Indians often took the surname of their post-mission-period Euro-American employers, with whom they typically lived. Santos Juncos also lived for a time with the family of Don Benito Wilson and sheared sheep at various Southland ranches, including on Santa Cruz Island6.

From 1914-1918 Santos Juncos, then at least approaching 100 years in age, shared his memories of language and culture with Harrington. Of local interest, he remembered there being Indians at Piru, Camulos and Tejon, and he came into contact with other Indians across a wide region from Santa Barbara to San Diego.

The following is a sampling from Harrington's field notes from his interviews with Santos Juncos7. Parentheses () are Harrington's; brackets [] are ours. For legibility, when Harrington wrote "Inf.," we have changed it to "Informant." Ditto with "Ind." for "Indian" and "mtn" for "mountain." Also, Harrington wrote "S." for "San" (as in San Fernando) and for "Santa" (as in Santa Barbara); and he usually wrote "G" for Gabrielino, "S.G." for San Gabriel, "F" for Fernandeño, "Cal." for California, and various abbreviations for Joaquin Murrieta. We have spelled them out.

  • Ọjí'almagre [red ocher] — Indian red paint. The ọ is o.k. Informant has heard that ọjí' is found in the hills or mountains back of Ventura. Informant also heard that it is found down by San Diego, the Dieguinos [sic] there taking a kind of mud and drying and preparing it. This [information] about Diegueno almagre was told to informant by informant's cuñado [brother-in-law] Pedro, who lived several years down there. Pedro was the sister [sic] of Maria Bernarda Quinto, informant's sister, whose father was a member of the Spanish California family of Quinto. That Pedro was a criminal and was at last sentenced to be shot in public at Los Angeles. Informant's mother was present at the execution and wept since Pedro was her yerno [son-in-law]. The criminals were seated on chairs and then shot with rifles. There were two Pedros shot at that execution. They caught them at the same time and with the remark that the other fellow was named Pedro too and must be guilty as the other one, they sentenced them both to death.

    Juan Antonio, a Gabrielino Indian, after a long record of thefts and imprisonments, was finally sentenced to be hung [sic] in Los Angeles, the earlier form of execution having been fusilar-ing [shooting].

  • Informant was a big boy — still went naked. Later he wore a shirt. When informant's mother first put pants on him, he cried.
  • Dr. Marei built a round (circular) adobe house here ["here" means the San Gabriel Mission throughout]. Indians made the adobes for it. He got $600.00 for removing worms from inside a man's head & with that money he made the house. Informant has opened sheep who had worms in their heads.
  • Knows the Rancho de los Aguagitos by mouth of Santa Clara river in Ventura county, near La Cuesta del Conejo. It was merely a foot trail there when informant was there. Knows El Osos Placo, a place in Santa Ynez region. Also knows El Montecito & the hotsprings there.

    The Badia family were dueños [owners] of the rancho de la Carpinteria, in Santa Barbara county.

  • The Indians of the various islands understood each other. The language of San Gabriel was mas grueso [thicker] & that of San Fernando was mas ladino [implies more formal or elegant].
  • When a person died his dolientes [mourners] paid the [tribal] captain to have a burning ceremony. The clothes and also monitos [effigies; see below], made of rags or anything like that, with eyes, etc., represented on them, were burned. There were old men who sang. Santos remembers song(s). At the close the old man who was the leader (təvɪt)* hit his two sticks which he held in his hands together again. The təvɪt was painted & with feathers on him. The old man had to be paid well. The monito was merely the image of the dead person, and had no special name. No word for "monito." It was a ceremony for the dolientes only. Other Indians sometimes took little interest. I got the impression that the ceremony was soon after the death of the person for whom it was held.

    * "Təvɪt" is an approximation. We cannot render Harrington's diacritical marks. He drew the word like this. Also, Herrington's entry about the timing of the ceremony is interesting. California Indians often waited a full year after death before conducting memorial rites.

  • There are "footprints" in the canyon above San Fernando and Temecula. In main, big canyon above San Fernando.
  • Santos knows no name for Mount Baldy. He never heard it called San Antonio*. He knows the name "Baldy" and would translate it "Sierra Pelona." He has heard Indians used to live on top of Baldy — as he mentioned twice in his conversation.

    * Harrington questioned his informants about each other's statements for validation. Here, Harrington asked Santos about something another informant said.

  • Kuhn [Santos] once wandered as far as Santa Barbara and worked as a sheepshearer on Santa Cruz Island. It was there that he came into contact with Chumashan Indians, so I understand him, and he was thinking of his [Santa Barbara] experiences evidently when he told K [Santos] that the Islanders talked a different language. [Harrington might be paraphrasing a Lugo family member here.]

    [Santos knows of painted cave above Santa Barbara.]

  • The sheriffs left Los Angeles to hunt the malos [bad guys] from San Juan. They caught some at Los Cherifes & others at Los Tomates. Don Andres Pico of San Fernando killed them there.
  • Early Californians [meaning Spaniards] did not have many sheep. Later French, etc., started big herds and finer breeds. $1.00 a pound.
  • Informant knew Vitoria, an Indian woman married to Don Hugo (donúgo). Don Hugo died. The wife had all property left to her. She sold to Don Benito Wilson. Vitoria never was married again. The Olvera family (Cal. family) robbed her of all her property later & Vitoria died of old age & poor. The house of Don Hugo was a little coastward of the house of Don Benito Wilson.
  • The [Channel] island Indians were different people and talked a different language, which the Gabrielino did not understand. The island Indians were powerful witches. They used to pass to and from the islands on balsas [canoes] of tule. If in danger of shipwreck when out in the channel they knew how to talk and thus to avert catastrophe. One time the Island Indians by their witcheries down by the coast made it rain up here. Informant supposes that it rained several months and the Indians here were unable to leave their houses to get any wood and were starving and dying. The sabios [wise ones, or shamans] among the local Indians determined to try their power to offset the witchery of the island Indians and after going to qārvut to make magic consultation of the place there such as only those brujos [witches] made, they went to a place by the point of hill on the east side of the San Gabriel river upstr[eam] from Whittier and downstr[eam] from qārvut and there performed a witchery ceremony for the purpose of creating a strong wind so as to blow the rain away. They met together there and talked and sang and then danced a little (sic verbatim) and a terrific wind arose. The houses of the Indians down by the shore were blown away and the rain was entirely blown away by the wind. Ramon Valencia was one of the brujos who was present at the wind-making ceremony there, informant [validated].
  • Once at the locality of the house of Ramon Valencia (said locality was near the schoolhouse which is sierra ward of San Gabriel town) a ceremony was performed in the nighttime. Ramon Valencia was a man who had great power as a witch. Witches used formerly to be able to turn themselves into bears in the night time and go where they pleased and kill a beef and thus supply themselves with fresh meat. Ramon Valencia wanted to show the people his power to rise from the grave. Near his house the had them dig a very deep pit in the ground and in that pit they buried him alive, covering him up deep with the earth. There was an old Indian standing by the fire (an out-of-door fire near where they had buried Ramon Valencia) and that old Indian after talking slap-yelled one cry and the people saw the earth on the grave move. He slap-yelled again and the earth moved more violently. He slap-yelled a third time and the earth of the grave cracked and gaped and Ramon Valencia came out. All the people saw this and although informant was not present himself. He heard them tell about it. [Harrington then documents his trip with Santos to the location of Ramon Valencia's house.]
  • Ramon Sotelo was a Fernandeño Indian. He was brought up by Rogerio of San Fernando. Ramon Sotelo married Martina, daughter of Celedonia. Celedonia was daughter of Fernando, Gabrielino Indian. There were more Fernandeños than Gabrielinos, but the Fernandeño became extinct even quicker than the Gabrielino*.

    * Harrington is referring to speakers of the language(s).

  • Kuhn's [Santos'] mother was about 4 ft high when the great earthquake occurred. The people were at mass on Sunday* at S.L.R.* and priest was at base of tower, calling his "sons" to come to him and not be afraid. The tower fell. The priest was not killed, and one Indian on three sides of whom great rocks fell was not killed. He called afterwards and they pulled him out. But all the other Indians at mass were killed. Some say earthquakes are caused by Jesus in heaven who throws a great stone into the sea, Americans say. Jesus has day in which everyone must die in the book. It is the bible. [Santos] does not care if they throw him in a barranco [ravine] when he dies. It costs $20.00 for a funeral now. They are robbing people $5.00 (evidently used to cost but $15.00).

    * There are problems with the date and location. "S.L.R." would be Mission San Luis Rey in Oceanside, but the incident that is being reported occurred at Mission San Juan Capistrano (the home mission of Santos' parents, so perhaps the error was Harrington's). It is correct that 40 people, all Indians, were killed when a bell tower collapsed during the earthquake of Dec. 8, 1812 — but it was a Tuesday, not a Sunday. Curiously, Guinn's 1915 "History of California" also erroneously says Dec. 8, 1812, was a Sunday.

  • [Interview] Feb. 5, 1915 — Kuhn's [Santos'] sister went with Joaquin Murieta's [sic] party north from here. So she saw much of California. (There is a place beyond [canyon?] of Tejon called the four arroyos in Spanish). Some said Joaquin Murrieta wore a coat of mail, but [Santos] thinks he was bulletproofed by a reliquia (holy necklace) that he got from some friend. He killed Americans everywhere.

    At San Francisco Murrieta attended a dance, American dance. He danced with the prettiest American girl and then shot up the whole crowd. All fled. They were afraid to shoot him for he kept the girl beside him & told her not to be afraid. He then escorted her home & said good night politely, & told her that he was Joaquin Murrieta. He got out of town safely.

    After they killed Murrieta they exhibited his head. People paid 2 bits to see it.

    Where Murrieta had his headquarters one time in the mountains the band lived in a cave. They had their horses there. They entered by various routes so that the hoofprints would not be seen converging.

  • When [Santos] was a boy he used to have nightmares & it was said he would be big person. He would have, if his parents had not pierced his ears. His father was a hechicero [shaman, medicine man] & his mother was a little bit hechicero. They took a big batea [tray] such as they toss wheat on and they medically treated him & extracted from his heart (he holds both hands pointing at his heart from the sides) things like pins (alfileres). Nothing had been the matter with him except that he had nightmares. He had in him the espuma [foam] of the [here, Harrington transliterates the word for a powerful witch].

Many more Santos stories await discovery in Harrington's field notes. One important story not reproduced here, due to its sheer length and Harrington's keyboard-breaking transliterations, is a tale explaining the arrival of a horrible disease (probably smallpox) that decimated the Indian popoulation at the missions. In short, one day the Indian capitan hired shamans from the Channel Islands — and paid them in abalones — to use magic to kill his enemies (certain other Indians). He admonished them to be careful not to kill his own family members in the process. The plan backfired.

— Leon Worden 2017


1. McCawley 1996:15.

2. Ibid.:16.

3. Early California Population Project, The Huntington Library (Huntington.org).

4. The Papers of John P. Harrington in the Smithsonian Institution 1907-1957, Volume 3, Microfilm: "A Guide to the Field Notes: Native American History, Language and Culture of Southern California/Basin." Reel 104 (Gabrielino), Pg. 29.

5. McCawley: ibid.

6. Ibid.; and Harrington Papers, op. cit., Reels 104 and 105.

7. Harrington Papers: ibid.



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Race Vanishes As Juncio Dies.

San Gabriel Mission Indian Had Reached 106th Year.

The death of Santo Juncio at the San Gabriel Mission yesterday afternoon marked the passing of the last of a vanished race. With him died the last vestige of personal remembrance of the golden age of the California missions — Juncio, who had reached the age of 106 years, authenticated by the mission records, takes with him to the happy hunting ground the last voice which told at first hand the story of the State's most romantic period.

He was born at the old mission in 1815, spent his youth and young manhood there when the institution was prospering, and engaged in many of the activities which the fathers taught the red men and which made of the mission Indians a superior specimen of their race. After the Mexican War when California became a part of the United States, Juncio left the mission and for years made his home in the then little town of Los Angeles.

Near Family Bones.

He applied himself to several of the arts he had learned in the mission days, and finally became part of the household of Col. Kuehn, where he lived for some time until he went to reside with the [Benito] Wilson family, where he stayed until it was thought his days of usefulness were over, when he again returned to the old mission, to be, as he expressed it, "near the bones of my forefathers," the last years of his life. His days were in no manner drawing to a close, however, as his return to San Gabriel was forty years ago.

After his return, he did little but dream of the days of the past and was one of the attractions of the mission town, being able at times to relate hitherto forgotten tales and bring to light what might have been forgotten history.

Among the notable events of his life was a day spent with John Burroughs during the visit of the naturalist to California last winter, when Mr. Burroughs remarked that it made him feel like a youth when, at the age of 82, he could meet and converse with a really old man. Mr. Burroughs had an engagement to repeat the visit today, but instead of meeting, his old friend will be one of the group who will hear the mission priests chant his funeral service.

Juncio, despite his advanced years, had been in good health all his life, and approached the end with no suffering or any noticeable ailment. He was around the city Tuesday as usual and remained abed yesterday morning, "because he was tired." The end came while he slept.

Funeral services will be conducted this morning at the old mission [sic; services were held Feb. 11], and the body will be laid to rest in the old cemetery, where his forefathers were buried in ground consecrated by the early mission fathers.



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Rare Honor to Last of Race.

Santo Juncio Borne to Grave with Pomp, Ceremony.

The bells of San Gabriel Mission which called together a faithful band of Indian converts more than a hundred years ago that they might witness the baptism of Santo Juncio, yesterday tolled the call which bade 2,000 residents of the valley gather at the same house of worship to add their presence as a last tribute at his funeral service.

Juncio was born in the mission 106 years ago. He passed his entire life within sight of the same mountains and within a radius of twenty miles of his birth [incorrect; see above — Ed.], and yesterday was accorded the funeral rites of the Catholic Church before the same altar from which his baptismal ceremony was read a century before. [The church's current (2017) published history says the altar is original — Ed.] His passing marked the severing of the last living tie between the romantic past and the present. He was the last of 16,000 of his race won from savagery to Christianity through the efforts of the mission fathers and the last who could tell from personal experiences the story of the California missions when they were in the their glory.

Braves Carry Coffin.

The death of Santo, as he was best known, was an event to those who have learned the story of the missions, and his funeral was attended with pomp and ceremony seldom, if ever, before accorded an Indian by members of the white race.

The coffin containing the remains was carried from the street into the narrow aisle of the historic old church by six young Indians, lineal descendants of the men who, like Santo, had been born within the mission walls. Part of the Catholic burial service, including prayers and the office for the dead, was read by Father Rafael Serrano, one of the priests at San Gabriel. The little house of worship was filled to overflowing and a crowd waited outside while the short ceremony was in progress.

At the conclusion of the services within the church the cortege moved down the wide walk leading to the mission burial ground where the ancestors of this man, the last of his race [sic; see preceding paragraph], are buried. Preceding the casket were altar boys and the officiating clergymen, and following them, as guard of honor, was Chief Youngturtle of the Chickasaw tribe [this is likely Chief Lux-Oshy, aka Young Turtle, who performed in the Mission Play — Ed.]. Six young braves as pallbearers walked beside the casket, and following closely was Chief Manitou of the Pueblos [stage name of Pedro Cesete, who entertained visitors at the Manitou Cliff Dwellings in Colorado — Ed.]. All the Indians were in native costume and gave a touch of picturesqueness to the scene.

Singers From the Play.

Added to the picture were 100 singers from the "Mission Play," who followed the Indian escort and who chanted the old hymns of the Alabadoes [parishioners], favorites of the mission Indians and almost forgotten airs. Yesterday was the first time in more than eighty years that these songs have been sung [sic; in church]. The procession slowly moved down the long walk and into the historic burial ground, then wound its way between the graves of many who have slept in this piece of consecrated ground since before the birth of the 100-year-old man who was being laid to rest.

At the grave a Catholic ceremony was read and the big chorus sang more of the mission hymns. Many of the spectators remained while the attendants covered the coffin with earth. A few, carrying out an old custom, pressed near and threw a handful of the dirt into the open grave.

"If old Santos [cq] knows the honor that is being paid him today, I'm sure he's very happy," said a wrinkled-faced old woman who had followed the coffin to the grave — it was a tribute well befitting the last of a romantic race.


LW3090a: 9600 dpi jpeg from original 4x5 negative (possibly a copy negative) purchased 2017 by Leon Worden from the Watson Archive.
SAN GABRIEL MISSION


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