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1776 in Las Californias: Mission San Juan Capistrano

At the same time Thomas Jefferson was declaring all men equal in Philadelphia, a bunch of Spaniards were declaring Juaneno Indians Catholic in California. So basically Orange County and Philadelphia are the same place.IMG_6604Looking back with almost 250 years of hindsight, the biggest difference between the two might be the separation of church and state. In 1776 the English colonists were claiming local rights with documents penned in state houses, but the Spaniards were declaring jurisdiction via baptismal records written in churches.IMG_6427

Oddly enough, both types of buildings had bells, and both were in large part built by slaves.IMG_6454

The bells at Mission San Juan Capistrano had to be buried in the ground and temporarily abandoned as the Spanish had to go fight at Valley Forge- er… San Diego, since the native born rebels were trying to liberate themselves from Spain down there.

But unlike Valley Forge, the Americans lost the war on the West Coast, and the Europeans returned to San Juan Capistrano, unearthed the bells, and started making wine.IMG_6400

Turns out the first grapes grown in California were in Orange County. What a misnomer. So on one coast you have political secularists growing tobacco and cotton, while on the other you have Franciscans with muskets making wine.IMG_6385Maybe religion wasn’t the only difference. Having mentioned Valley Forge I should probably also mention weather.

If you visit Valley Forge today you may find grassy fields, or snow covered cabins, depending on the calendar. If you visit Mission San Juan Capistrano, no matter the month, you will find North America’s best Petra imitation.IMG_6586

At Independence Hall you will wait in line for a National Parks guard to let you in through a gate where you might be led on a tour by someone wearing a tri-corner hat.

At San Juan Capistrano you can receive communion from a catholic priest during mass.IMG_6426

Both are America.

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Nez Perce, the Corps of Discovery, and Me: Kamiah

The Nez Perce Tribe of American Indians tell a story about a great monster that devoured all of humanity and then began eating all of the Earth’s animals. Coyote got himself intentionally eaten and once inside the belly of the beast, he produced a set of smuggled knives and cut his way out, thereby killing the creature and freeing the previously consumed animals. Coyote then scattered the monster carcass across the land and the bits of it grew into humans.

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The heart of the monster is in Kamiah Idaho, where it gave birth to the Niimiipu people, whom Lewis and Clark’s translator mistakenly called “Nez Perce”. The translator was mistaken because the Niimiipu did not in fact pierce their noses like the Chinook over towards Oregon, but since that misassociation in 1805, the name has stuck.

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Lewis and Clark camped on the Clearwater River nearby the heart of the monster for a couple of months on their way back east. They called it the long camp in their journals and after last week my wife’s journal would record a similar entry. For her, spending a week nine miles outside Kamiah, a town of 1,200 people, 3 hours from the nearest airport (Spokane), at my parent’s home with all of my siblings, was surely a long camp… despite the fact that we were at a house and not actually camping.

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It is a nice place. Quiet. Small. Picturesque. The town has a main street, a cafe, couple bars, a hardware store, grocery store, a gas station but no stoplights. It once had a thriving lumber mill, which closed, then reopened on a reduced scale. As far as industry or commerce goes, that’s about it.

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The fish and game are abundant and the scenery unspoiled which would make Kamiah a great outdoor tourism destination, were it just a little more accessible. No, were it a LOT more accessible people would likely flock there for hunting trips and other sorts of outdoor recreation.

But for the most part people don’t.grocerystore

Living in Kamiah is a little bit like living in an episode of that old TV show Northern Exposure, just in Idaho not Alaska.

I liked that show.

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