In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries northwestern Mexico was the scene of ongoing conflict among three distinct social groups--Indians, religious orders of priests, and settlers. Priests hoped to pacify Indians, who in turn resisted the missionary clergy. Settlers, who often encountered opposition from priests, sought to dominate Indians, take over their land, and, when convenient, exploit them as servants and laborers. Indians struggled to maintain control of their traditional lands and their cultures and persevere in their ancient enmities with competing peoples, with whom they were often at war. The missionaries faced conflicts within their own orders, between orders, and between the orders and secular clergy. Some settlers championed Indian rights against the clergy, while others viewed Indians as ongoing impediments to economic development and viewed the priests as obstructionists.
In this study, Yetman, distinguished scholar of Sonoran history and culture, examines seven separate instances of such conflict, each of which reveals a different perspective on this complicated world. Based on extensive archival research, Yetman's account shows how the settlers, due to their persistence in these conflicts, emerged triumphant, with the Jesuits disappearing from the scene and Indians pushed into the background.
"Yetman has unearthed valuable archival materials that provide us with a new understanding of indigenous-Spanish relations during Sonora's overlooked early colonial period. His work offers valuable insights into the intersections of environmental degradation, resistance, and brutal competition to govern and control scarce resources on Mexico's northern periphery."--Laura Shelton, author of For Tranquility and Order: Family and Community on Mexico's Northern Frontier, 1800-1850
"David Yetman has written yet another book to enlighten his readers concerning the indigenous populations of Sonora, Mexico, and the impact on the lives of these people resulting from European intrusion in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. He has delved deeply into rich archival sources to allow this often tragic and maddening story to unfold through the words of Jesuit, Franciscan, military, and political participants as well as those of the few literate farmers and ranchers who ultimately appropriated Indian lands and other resources for their own. No one should be able to read this book without an outpouring of sympathy for the losers in the struggles, nor admiration for those very few who strove for a modicum of justice against overwhelming odds."--Bernard L. Fontana, author of Tarahumara: Where Night Is the Day of the Moon
"David Yetman's deep familiarity with the ethnobotany, culture and history of Sonora--especially the area that came to be known as the Opatería--serves him well as a storyteller. He offers imaginatively detailed and colloquial renderings of conflicts among colonizers of different stripes and indigenous groups."--Susan M. Deeds, author of Defiance and Deference in Mexico's Colonial North: Indians Under Spanish Rule in Nueva Vizcaya