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CHAPTER IV:
CHRISTIAN CONVERSION

F. 4. Prelude Theme: Spaniards Are Not Invincible

On the receiving end of Spanish slave raids, as recipients of Spanish summary judgement and savage reprisals for the abortive uprising in 1695, the northern Pimans gained a conception of Spanish military prowess as invincible. In general, the northern Pimans seem to have decided to cast their lot with these powerful Europeans between 1695 and 1751, and attempted to change themselves to coincide with the Spanish image as rapidly as possible. The effective leaders of northern Piman communities in particular set themselves to cooperate as much as seemed feasible with the Spaniards. They 108consolidated their settlements to form larger mission and visitation station populations at Spanish urging (Oacpicagigua, Mar. 24, 1752:189). They accepted the titles and roles of Spanish civil office as governors, captains, fiscales, temastianes, madores, etc. (Santos Angeles de Guebavi, Libros de Bautismos, Casamientos y Entierros). They provided willing auxiliary troops to campaign with Spanish forces fighting the vanguard of the southern Athapascan hordes, and celebrated the resulting successes with traditional victory ceremonies (Bolton 1948:I:169).

Then in the late 1740's the northern Piman image of Spanish invulnerability was shattered on the arid shores of the Gulf of California, after having been brought into doubt during the Apache campaign in November-December of 1748. The Sonoran Spaniards, faced with hostile Indian enemies on both flanks, turned serious attention to an attempt at neutralizing the Seris of the Gulf Coast in order to gain complete freedom to throw men and material into the struggle to stem the onrushing Athapascan barbarians. To mount the maximum possible force the Spaniards called upon their northern Piman admirers to provide a large scouting and fighting force to aid in the campaign against the Seris. The willing northern Pimans responded to the call with alacrity, furnishing 400 men to the Spaniards' seventy-five (Bancroft 1884:1:536). The political dynamo of Saric, Luís Oacpicagigua, had recruited these Piman warriors himself, and led them in person (Ewing 1945:268).

109The Seri campaign of 1749 terminated with the same result as every other Seri campaign during historic times, even though the Tiburon Island stronghold was breached. The ponderous attacking forces killed, wounded or captured only a few weaker or less alert Seris, and the bulk of that refugee amalgam dispersed. The Spaniards suffered from lack of water and fresh rations. Their Piman Indian allies, more accustomed to campaigning in semi-arid terrain and possessing more knowledge of existing water sources and willingness to drink unpalatable liquids, and with a cultural heritage of guerrilla warfare, actually proved more efficient than the vaunted Spaniards, taking most of the captives who were corralled (ibid.).

The northern Pimans, returning home laden with Spanish praise and rewards in the form of honorific titles and honorariums, carried the important knowledge that under certain geographic and climatic conditions they were better fighters than the Spaniards, man for man. The northern Piman notion of Spanish invincibility was shattered.

This lesson seems to have been learned by no northern Piman better than Luís Oacpicagigua of Saric who came out of the nearly futile campaign with the title of Captain-General of the Pima Nation, a baton of office, a new uniform, and the hard realization that Spaniards could be defeated in battle by Indians the northern Pimans could themselves defeat. Luís had learned that Spanish boot-licking was not the only course open to a stress-ridden northern Piman suffering the agonies of social and cultural adjustment to a tyrannical foreign elite: there was an alternative. Spanish blood ran red, too!

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