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Cemetery and Rose Garden History

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Sanborn Fire Insurance Map of Santa Clara University

no marking for cemetery


Side view of Mission Santa Clara

During the mission period of the late 1700s to early 1800s, Mission Santa Clara housed many native Californians and Franciscan missionaries. Over the 60 years the mission was in operation, an estimated 7,000 native Californians were buried at the mission. Many of these native Californians were buried in the cemetery, which is now located in the central part of campus, directly north of the reconstructed Mission church. During the mission period, this area was the working, active center of the mission. Many native Californians worked as blacksmiths, in the granary, or weaving, which were all centrally located to the cemetery. This cemetery was estimated to be in use from about 1820-1850. The burials were conducted by Franciscan priests and did not incorporate traditional native burial rituals or practices. However, archeological evidence on campus has uncovered traditional native artifacts, such as shell beads, at cemetery sites, suggesting native Californians managed to preserve parts of their culture in the burial process. The cemetery was controlled by the church. As the mission church moved sites over the years, and eventually settled in its current location, there has remained no marking or signage of the native burials. This specific site is relevant today for its glorified beauty, however there are countless unmarked burial sites and cemeteries on campus. This site was never marked on past maps as a cemetery. A majority of the bodies buried were native Californians, in addition to other settlers and those who passed through the area, and the site has remained under control of the dominant powers. Over time as the Mission site transitioned into a college campus, Catholic European powers remained in control over the site.