The Enslavement of California's Indians by the Spanish Missions

Author Elias Castillo shatters the image of California's Missions as idyllic places where Franciscan friars and Indians lived in an environment of mutual respect.

Praise for the Book

Valentin Lopez, Chairman, Amah Mutsun Tribal Band of Costanoan/Ohlone Indians

"This is a very important book. It documents the cruel history of what happened in the missions where thousands of people died."


The New York Times

​"In that spirit, it is helpful to read a book like “A Cross of Thorns,” by Elias Castillo. 

Edd Doerr Americans for Religious Liberty Journal

"Elias Castillo's remarkable book starts with a concise history of Spain's brutal conquest/colonization of the Americas, followed by a detailed, well-researched, documented account of the chain of Franciscan missions in California... (when) numerous small tribes ("triblets") were induced or herded into 21 missions." read more

Ben Nighthorse Campbell U.S. Senator - Retired

​"When one gazes upon the beautiful, Spanish-style, red-tiled roofs of the missions of California, they are unaware, as I once was, of what can be found on the underside of those tiles. Many years ago, I saw the imprints from the skin of Indian slaves who bent and shaped those tiles over their own thighs in the hot California sun. Mr. Castillo tells a story of which far too many people are simply not aware, the enslavement of California Indians under the mission system. While many Americans know of the Trail of Tears and other Indian atrocities, most do not know of the atrocities perpetrated on Indian people in California. A Cross of Thorns sheds light on this period in history."

Jim Van Buskirk San Francisco Examiner

His heavily-footnoted text is fascinating in its detailed accessibility, and 14 pages of bibliographic sources, 8 pages of color plates, a 5-page index and various appendices solidify the documentation. read more