Though the Office of Indian Affairs (OIA) tried mightily, in the late nineteenth century Southern California’s indigenous people defied easy categorization. The arbitrary boundaries the OIA and other federal agencies created to administer the affairs of Indians of the region flattened cultural diversity and ignored relationships Native peoples had with each other and the land. Scholars working in the records those agencies produced have had to look past administrative boundaries in order to follow the stories of native Californians. In this study of the Mission Indian Agency and the seven agents who oversaw it between its creation in 1878, and its dissolution in 1903, Valerie Sherer Mathes and Phil Brigandi let the administrative boundaries determine their scope. They argue that, given the distance from Washington, the interminable delay in communication, a chronically under-funded Indian Office, and the constant pressure of local conditions,...

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