The Enslavement of California's Indians by the Spanish Missions

California's Indians Want More than an Apology

California's missions were death camps for the thousands of native peoples who faced slavery and genocide within their walls. Today Elias Castillo joins descendants of those Indians fighting for recognition of this terrible history and the price it exacts even today.

Author Elias Castillo, left, at a book event

In the News

The Book and its Author are Noted in the World's Media

Deport Millions of Mexicans?:  Done That

Under a policy begun by President Herbert Hoover in 1928, two million Mexican residents of the U.S. - more than half of them either U.S. citizens or in the country legally - were "repatriated" to Mexico to allow their jobs to be filled by "real Americans." Read Castillo's essay in the San Jose Mercury News.

Busting the Myths of California's Missions Mission Local, San Francisco, Oct. 7, 2016 

Who was Junipero Serra and why is Pope Francis Canonizing Him in Washington DC?  From The Guardian UK, Sept. 22, 2015

The Pope Should Not Grant Sainthood To a Brutal Missionary by Rose Aguilar, The Guardian, Sept. 22, 2015

How Tarnished is Serra's Halo?​ by Vinnie Rotondaro, National Catholic Reporter, Sept. 15, 2015

The Enslavement of California's Indians by the Spanish Missions By Edd Doerr, Americans for Religious Liberty Journal, Sept. 7, 2015​​

Is America's New Saint More of a Sinner? Monica Campbell, PRI's The World, Sept. 8, 2015

​California's Saint, and a Church's Sins By Lawrence Downes, New York Times, Aug. 18, 2015

The Emerging Truth about Junipero Serra and the California Missions By Rev. Dr. Mattew Fox, Tikkun Daily, July 2015

"Cross of Thorns" details brutality of California's missions San Francisco Examiner, May 18, 2015

The Vatican’s Rhetorical Strategy: Serra Was a Man of His Time Indian Country Today, April 28, 2015​

Elias Castillo's "Cross of Thorns" presents a bleak picture of California history Santa Cruz Sentinel, March 16, 2015

Is going gangsta on natives any way to make a saint? If Pope Francis has his way, maybe. MetroAction, San Jose, CA., Feb. 11, 2015

Amah Mutsun Letter to Pope Francis Regarding the Canonization of Junipero Serra Letter from Tribal Chairman Valentine Lopez opposing canonization of Serra, sent February, 2015 to the Vatican. 

Sainthood for California Missionary Angers Native Americans,London Daily Mail, Feb. 19, 2015  (Agence France Presse story)

A New Book, A Cross of Thorns, Says Junipero Serra was No Saint  MetroActive, San Jose, CA., Feb. 11, 2015

Elias Castillo: ​Junipero Serra Sainthood Belies Cruel History San Jose Mercury News, Jan. 23, 2015

Serra Was No Saint ​Linking and Thinking on Education by Joanne Jacobs, Jan. 17, 2015

Pope Francis announces sainthood for California Mission founder  San Jose Mercury News, Jan. 16, 2015

Junipero Serra: Debunking the Mission Myth Washington Square, Alumni Magazine of San Jose State University, December, 2014

Misery at the Missions by Barney Brantingham Santa Barbara Independent, Nov. 27, 2014  

Chicano Journalist’s new book will shatter California’s missions image​   LaPrensa, SanDiego, CA., Oct. 10, 2014

New book attacks historical image of California's missions,San Jose Mercury News/Santa Cruz Sentinel, May 12, 2014 

History Lesson Not Very Accurate,The Acorn, Jan. 30, 2014 

Congressional Record, November, 2004 

The Dark, Terrible Secret of California's MissionsSan Francisco Chronicle, Nov. 8, 2004 

Listen or View Online

  • Oct. 5. 2016  19th Century California Indian Slavery and Genocide (at  (Listen to Audio 
  • Sept. 28, 2015 Sonoma State University (view on YouTube) 
  • Sept. 22, 2015  Revolution Books, Berkeley  (view on YouTube) 
  • Sept. 14, 2015  Your Call: The Dark History of California's Missions ,KALW Radio  (Listen to Audio) 
  • Sept. 2, 2015 Resultados de la Busqueda: Serra: un Santo? Radio Bilingue, (in Spanish) Listen to Audio 
  • July 23, 2015  KPFA Radio, Visionary Activist Program (Listen to Audio) 
  • June, 2015. Native Voice TV (View) 
  • May 30, 2015  Santa Barbara, Ca., California Indian Conference  (view on YouTube) 
  • Feb. 9, 2015  San Francisco Commonwealth Club  (Listen to Audio
  • Dec. 2014. Native Voice TV (View

The Speaker's Platform

University Audiences


Castillo has addressed classes at Oklahoma State, Stanford, UC Berkeley, UC Santa Cruz, and other academic institutions.

California Indian Leaders


The book has been welcomed by Indian leaders as a source to help describe their history in California

Book Readings


Readers praise the book for giving them an unvarnished view of what life was like during California's mission period.