Tuesday, January 15

We Were There with the California Rancheros

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Before 1848, California wasn't even part of the United States, it belonged to Mexico. And the people who lived there were the Californios.  A Californio was a Spanish speaking, Catholic person of Latin American descent born in Alta California between 1769 and 1848.

Before the 18th century, few Europeans had visited the area we know as California.  It belonged to Indian tribes who had lived along the Pacific coast for thousands of years.  Both Spain and England had explorers claim the bay areas in the 16th century, but it was nearly 200 years before any other visitors came to the area.  In the mid-1700s, Spain decided to build missions in northern California, to bring Catholicism to the area.  Twenty-one missions were built between 1769 and 1823, bringing major change to the area.

Mexico won independence from Spain in 1821, and took control of California.  They disbanded the missions and redistributed the lands to be used for ranchos (ranches).  The years of 1833 to 1846 are known as the “golden days of the rancho period,” and are characterized by hard work on the ranchos, great wealth, and leisure time for fiestas.  By the end of this period, there were over 10 million acres of ranchos!

Spain’s original plan for the mission lands (which were now being used as ranchos) was to give that land back to the Indian tribes.  Unfortunately, this rarely happened; when it did, they often traded their land to Mexican ranch owners in exchange for food, liquor, or other goods.

The ranchos, however, had vague boundaries – fences to keep cattle and sheep in were considered more important than a line on a survey map at the time.  After California became a US territory, in 1848, those boundaries became very important!  The end of the Mexican-American War brought new interest in opening up land in California for settlers.  Rancheros suddenly needed to provide a legal survey showing their ownership and boundaries.  Many rancheros lost their land in these legal battles.

Our spine novel for this unit is We Were There with the California Rancheros

Access the complete unit in the 'We Were There' Novel Studies Bundle!

Includes THIRTY-SIX unit studies covering World & American History. Each unit addresses a new topic, spanning the the ancient world through post-WW2.  Each unit has introductory text, which will give the student basic background information about the topic at hand.

  • There are photographs and illustrations, and we have also included primary documents when available.
  • After this text, there are featured videos, which augment the background information and help make the topic more accessible for more visual students.
  • You will also find a short list of reading books, including a featured novel that the unit builds upon.
  • There are vocabulary words, places, and people to identify.
  • Reading comprehension, critical thinking questions, and writing assignments are included.
  • We add fun with hands-on activities and extra videos to watch that will bring the era to life.

These studies are directed toward upper grades students, but some have resources for younger students so that the whole family can work together. Our family has used unit studies as curriculum for many years, and we hope that your family will enjoy these, too!

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  1. oh, that would have been hard for them. to lose their land over what they would have seen as unimportant

  2. My son would be interested in this - he has been playing Red Dead Redemption II and it has ties to this area.


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