Danville: Museum to highlight 'Native Californians and the Anza Expedition'

Fall exhibit explores lives of Native Americans and Spanish settlers

Officials from the Museum of the San Ramon Valley have announced that their fall exhibit “Native Californians and the Anza Expedition" will feature displays on the Indigenous people native to California, as well as the colonization efforts of the Spanish Empire in the Bay Area.

Now open, the Anza Expedition display tells the story of the journey taken by Spanish colonials from Culiacan, Mexico to San Francisco -- a distance of approximately 1,800 miles. In 1776 approximately 240 settlers, many of them children, and 1,000 livestock took the journey by foot and covered wagon, through the untamed west.

Using existing trade trails the settlers traveled through at least 23 identified Native American territories, interacting and trading with the peoples along the way. These interactions would have unintended consequences as these meetings ultimately meant diseases would decimate the native peoples and the region would change forever as more and more colonists settle the area, according to museum officials.

Museum staff say the expedition -- the first major overland Spanish colonizing effort of its kind -- was a pivotal achievement in the European settlement of early California and spelled disaster for the native population.

Today the National Park Service manages the Juan Bautista de Anza National Historic Trail, recognizing it from Nogales, Ariz., to the San Francisco Bay.

A map provided by the National Park Service, will show this route as well as the tribes the expedition encountered along the way. Attendees will also have the opportunity to identify the Native Americans who populated the East Bay, with material provided by the East Bay Regional Park District.

Various displays date back over 5,000 years and showcase the diverse lives and cultures that developed among North America’s native peoples, in addition to the cultural similarities that came about through trade and periodic gatherings. The exhibit also includes realistic replicas of tools and weapons made from stone, shell and fiber as well as the foods, games, hunting and gathering practices that were common for the time.

Additionally, Sacramento’s California Indian Heritage Center Foundation has loaned four original paintings by artists of Native American descent, which visitors will be able to see hung prominently in the museums waiting room.

The exhibit is replacing the museum's previous display “Totally Trains,” which featured a large selection of model trains from the early to mid-1900s to today.

Native Californians and the Anza Expedition opened Tuesday, and while it closes Oct. 28, exhibits detailing the lives of Indigenous Americans will be open until Nov. 11. The museum is located in the restored Southern Pacific depot, 205 Railroad Ave. in Danville, hours are Tuesdays through Fridays 1 to 4 p.m. and Sundays noon to 3 p.m.

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