A chief of a rancheria, or village, not far distant from the Presidio of St. Diego, who had observed, with much attention, the manner and authority with which the "Comandante" governed his officers and soldiers, as well as the inhabitants of the place, had heard, also, that the King of Spain was their grand chief, to whom, they all owed allegiance, and in case of disobedience were liable to severe punishment, and even death.
Desirous of imitating the domination of his royal master, he commenced a tyrannical use of his power, which gained him many enemies. However, it was of short duration. In 1822, when D. Augustin Yturbide was proclaimed Emperor of Mexico, and when his government was recognized, in due form, at St. Diego, there were many Indians present, who listened attentively, to the declaration that Mexico no longer acknowledged the Spanish authority. The king (or viceroy) had been deposed, and another placed in his stead, with the new title of Emperor. A few months afterwards, a grand feast was observed in the Indian village, to which all the neighboring Indians were invited.
To commence the ceremonies, they burned their chief alive! and elected another. The feast continued eight days, when the Indians dispersed and returned to their several homes. Those who lived in the Presidio, were censured for such inhumanity, which produced the following remarks:-"Have you not done in Mexico the same with the
King of Spain?" (meaning the Viceroy). "You say he was not good, and you killed him! Well, our captain was not good, and we have burned him. Should the new one be bad, we will burn him also!"
How little is the faith of these Indians in the teachings of the Catholic truths! A missionary, of the mission of St. Luis Rey, who had baptized several adults, the youngest of whom had reached his fiftieth year, attempted to explain, after the ceremony was concluded, the sort of life which they were to observe for the future; and he told them what they were to do to avoid the influence of Satan. By invoking the sweet names of Jesus and Mary, be said, and by the sign of the holy cross, well performed, we destroy the power of the devil, and drive out all unholy thoughts. A satrap, or governor, of one of the rancherias, smilingly observed to the others, "See how this pádre cheats us! Who believes that the devil will leave us, by the sign of the cross? If it were to be done by dancing, as authorized by Chinigchinich, he would depart; but that he will do so, by the means which he says, I do not believe!" The others united with him in laughter, and appeared unimpressed with the efficacy of such ceremony.
About the middle of December, 1823, a comet appeared in the north, which was visible until the latter part of January, of the ensuing year; and in September, 1825, another was seen. The latter appeared in the south-east, with its direction to the north-west, and was visible, though faintly, till the first of November.
The Indians, who had observed them, believing they were their deceased chiefs, consulted together, as to the cause of their appearance, and were all of one opinion, that they denoted some important change in their destiny; but how, or in what manner, it would be, they were ignorant. Some thought that they would return to their primitive mode of life; that it was "Sirout," whom they had seen, he, who was the father of their grand captain Ouiot; and when he came, he ever brought good things, for their profit and happiness. Others said no! that it denoted that they were to live free, and do whatever they pleased, without being under subjection to any one; yet they would still remain occupants of the mission. The elder ones said, Sirout foretold, that another people
would come, who would treat them as slaves, and abuse them--that they would suffer much hunger and misery, and that the chief thus appeared, to call them away from the impending calamity. Others said, that the comet was "Tacu," the father of "Ouiamot" or "Chinigchinich," which was generally assented to. These ideas have, undoubtedly, arisen from the fact, that when the declaration of independence was proclaimed in Mexico, the Indians were made to believe, that they would no longer be subject to the regulations of the missions; that each family, or person, would live separate, as colonists. But the government, considering them unfit for such a condition, has not made any innovation, up to the present time of November, 1825.
An Indian "vaquero," of the mission of San Luis Obispo, who had been despatched on business, to some place not far distant, did not make his appearance until the day following, and then so pallid and trembling, that he could hardly speak. Upon inquiring as to what ailed him, he replied, "that being in a certain place, a phantom appeared before him, which prevented his progress; and his horse, though vigorous, remained immoveable at the sight. The phantom commanded him to tell his people not to travel in that direction, for if they did, he should molest them! Immediately, three of us, pádres, went out, with "vaqueros," and other Indians, and remained all that day about the same spot, but nothing was seen of the phantom.
In a certain "rancho," or farm, were several Pima Indians, and some Sagues, who were employed in erecting a building; he who directed them, was one of the razon, or native Spaniards. One day, whilst superintending the work, he discovered, concealed, in one of the apartments, a small wooden ball, which had around it, an unfinished crown of thorns. He enquired of a "Sagui," what it was for. "Ah! Sir," he replied, "you have really escaped; with this ball you would have been destroyed. You were to be killed for having chastised the Pima Indian, and only two days more were required; that is, until the completion of the crown of thorns around the ball; then, immediately, you would have been attacked with pains in the head and heart, and would have died.