This historical novel tells the story of a twelve-year-old Chumash boy and his family who become captives in a California Spanish mission sometime more than 200 years ago. This is historical fiction based entirely on historical fact that reveals the devastating impact the missions had on California Native peoples. Written for fourth, fifth and sixth graders, the story ends on a hopeful note as a small group of Native children are able to escape their captors and begin a journey to join other Native escapees in a remote mountain village. As mandated by the California Department of Education, every 4th grader is taught the "Mission Unit," which perpetuates the "idyllic mission myth" that glorifies the priests, denigrates California Indians and fails to mention that Indians were actually treated as slaves held captive by a Spanish colonial institution. The manuscript has been reviewed and approved by the Director of the Santa Ynez Chumash Culture Department and a member of the California American Indian Education Oversight Committee. It has the endorsement of a fourth grade teacher in California who has shared the story with her class and a local librarian who is excited about sharing the story with elementary age children through the library. It has also been endorsed by the local library branch manager and a former professor of Anthropology within the University of California system.
My students described Lands of our Ancestors as adventurous and exciting and hope the author will consider a sequel or series. Mr. Robinson succeeded in hooking them, and they are dying to know whether Kilik, Tuhuy, and the children made it to Sacred Mountain and if their parents survived. Students said they appreciated a story from a Native perspective and now they understand why Native people attacked the missions. One student described it as the best "mission story" he'd heard and another as the best "Native" book he'd read. --Dessa Drake, 4th Grade Teacher, Templeton, CA Lands of Our Ancestors is an accessible, first-hand account of what life among the Chumash at the time of the Spanish invasion may have been like. Through the eyes of a native boy, Kilik, this book provides an inside look at colonialism and the drastic changes imposed upon the native peoples of California. Rather than building a mission in fourth grade, students should read this book to gain a better understanding of the violence and upheaval caused by the Spaniard's "civilizing" mission. Highly recommended. --Paul H. Gelles, Ph.D.; Former Professor of Anthropology, University of California. Lands of Our Ancestors addresses a difficult and extremely important subject in an engaging and readable children's historical novel, perfect for inclusion into 4th grade California history curriculum. The story of how native peoples experienced enslavement by the Spanish Catholic founders of the Mission system in California is told from the perspective of a young Chumash boy, Kilik. There is much to appreciate as Gary Robinson's light but sure touch involves us in Kilik's world, grounded in a sense of place and knit together with close family ties and cultural traditions. When his world changes in ways he could never have foreseen, he struggles to understand, and to decide how to act. The book ends as Kilik makes a decision--leaving readers to imagine what might have happened, and to ponder this too often ignored portion of history. I loved reading this-- was drawn in by the immediacy of the boy, his playfulness, need for recognition from his father and other male figures, his relationships with his smart and pesky sister and his patient mother. (The characters speak with some modern idiosyncrasies, but not enough to take us out of the world of the book). Kilik's journey from child to young person of responsibility, through/during great shifting of his world, is what drives our interest throughout the book and what makes it work. --Carey McKinnon, Branch Supervisor, Santa Barbara Library System