Eastern Mojave Vegetation Interpretive sign at Ulistac Natural Area.  


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  California, Santa Clara County, Ulistac Natural Area
Photographed 20 October 2013.

Rancho Ulistac
Changing Lands, Changing Hands

The Spanish established nearby Mission Santa Clara in 1777. They used the surrounding land as pastures for cattle and sheep, a move that had profound ecological effects. Native grasslands were soon overgrazed, so ranchers seeded the pastures with fast-growing exotic (non-native) grasses. Native grasses soon disappeared from the landscape.

With their lands and lifestyles disrupted by the mission, many native people left the area. Others who remained were lured into the mission system and were forced into hard labor and a complete cultural change. Disease, unknown to the Indians before European arrival, ravaged the dwindling local population.

California passed from Spanish to Mexican to American rule between 1822 and 1846. Likewise, ownership of Rancho Ulistac passed from the church to Native American and then to European American hands. Farming and grazing continued here during that time.
The Guadalupe River was used to transport goods to market until the mid-1800s, when Alviso, at the mouth of the river, was made into a seaport. Native people were believed to have been involved in this commerce both during and after the mission period.
This 1845 map of Rancho Ulistac identifies several Indian dwellings and a garden along the Guadalupe. The Native American owners, Marcello, Pio, and Cristobal, stayed in the area after the mission system was abolished and built three houses and a sweat lodge. Their garden produced corn, beans, and wheat.

(Note that the map orientation is upside down. North is to the bottom right of the map.)

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Date and time this page was prepared: 7/13/2024 8:17:32 AM