Wednesday, November 25, 2015

St. Thomas Indian Mission, 11/24/2015

When we were hiking at the Yuma East Wetlands today, we spotted the St. Thomas mission on a hill across the Colorado River. I had read about the mission and was interested in seeing it up close. 

After we hiked the 3-mile nature trail at East Wetlands, we drove across the Ocean-to-Ocean Bridge (it only accommodates one-way, single-lane, traffic) to reach the mission in Winterhaven, CA. We pulled into a parking lot across the street from the church. This is an active parish of the Catholic Church/Diocese of San Diego that serves the Quechan (Yuma) Indian Nation. It is also a California Registered Historic Landmark.

The current structure was built in 1922 and is a replica of the original design of the La Purisima Concepcion Mission built in 1780 but Spanish explorers led by Father Francisco Garces. 

Within the year, the mission was destroyed by the Quechan Indians and their allies. Colonists had ignored the rights of the Native Americans (usurping their land and destroying their crops) that resulted in the revolt. All European males (about 100) and both priests were killed. Nothing remains of the original structure. 

Today, there is a large statue in front of the mission to honor Father Francisco Garces. He was reportedly an unfailing supporter of the Native Americans even though he, too, was killed during the revolt.

The mission is only open for mass Saturday afternoons and Sunday mornings. We were not able to see the interior when we visited. I found the exterior to be quite beautiful.

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