I am an immigrant. My birth country is Wales. At the age of 24, I emigrated to the United States, my adopted country, intent of completing higher degrees (MA/PhD) at the University of California, Santa Barbara. I subsequently taught in the English Department (six years as Chair of English) at California State University, Chico. Throughout, I have continued to write plays, novels, and screenplays.
Being an immigrant, particularly in my 20s, I came with some preconceived ways of seeing. This hit home when taking a class on the history of my adopted country. European history is filled with plots, domination, power grabs, the “story” being written by the victors. Yet, in my American history class there was little of this. It consisted primarily of white men, landowners, and the Constitution. Women, slaves, indigenous peoples? There was little mention of these.
I set myself a task: name one indigenous California tribe. Two, five. I failed. And yet before “first contact,” there were 500 distinct sub-tribes in California speaking 300 dialects of approximately 100 distinct languages.
What had happened? Where was the beginning of the demise for the indigenous California peoples?
And so, I returned to the Mission Period in California, the first sustained contact between the indigenouis population and Europeans.
So how did an immigrant from Wales write a screenplay, ALTA CALIFORNIA,
about the first contact between European missionaries and the indigenous peoples of California.
Vimeo of ALTA CALIFORNIA, SHORT
California Assembly Bill 338 9/27/2021 authorizes the removal of a statue of Padre Juniper Serra in the Capitol Grounds
To be replaced by an homage to the indigenous peoples of California.
You can read more about my other works at my website - https://lynnelliott47.com
In the foreground of ALTA CALIFORNIA is the fictional account of a young mixed-blood male, Paco Palido, seeking a home, an identity amidst the horrors of a dominating, foreign power.
When Paco Palido's mother is slaughtered and his tribe wiped out, the half-breed boy is “saved” by a Franciscan priest. His years in the mission school and attempts to Christianize him are unsuccessful. The necklace his mother gave him is more powerful than any Christian symbol. Throughout Paco has a choice: rediscover the life and religion of his indigenous mother, or accept the enforced religion and lifestyle of the European, Catholic conquerors whose religion condemns his mother to Hell.
Now a mission guard, Paco denies continued to reject any attempts to convert him. Witnessing repeated whippings, treatment of “neophytes” (baptized heathens) as animals, the haunting words of a local chief, and the recurrent ghostly visions of his mother "now in Christian Hell"—all reinforce Paco’s inner struggle: “civilized” versus “heathen.”
Throughout Paco tries to find his people, those with whom he belongs. Eventually, after being captured by the “wild” Chumash of the Santa Barbara area, Paco is saved from death by a traditional necklace given him by his mother. In a powerful scene during a “Big Meeting Celebration,” Paco talks with the ghost of his mother. He has finally found her, among his people. He also finds a new love interest, Ifapi, a “wild” native, so different from the passive “neophytes” (baptized natives) of the missions.
Woven into Paco's story as setting and background is historical truth:
We live in challenging times. Political, economic, religious, historical, and scientific questions abound in our changing world. Amidst these demands, we all seek a home, a place we belong.
"The greatest mystery is not that we have been flung at random between the
profusion of matter and the stars, but that within this prison we can
draw from ourselves images powerful enough to deny our nothingness."