Pablo Tac Biography

Pablo Tac, a Luiseno Indian scholar and historian, was born at Mission San Luis Rey in the village of Quechla back in 1820. In the American culture and history, Tac is famous for having created the writing system for his tribe and for having left numerous accounts of the colonial Californian history from the viewpoint of a Native Indian. Also, Tac was an author of works about lifestyle and customs of his people.

Both parents of Pablo Tac were Luiseno, they belonged to the first families who formed the basis of the Mission when it had been established more than twenty years before Pablo's birth; they sent Pablo to the Mission school. When he grew older, Pablo was selected along with one more boy, Amamix, to visit first Mexico City and then Italy accompanying the priest Antonio Peyri. Peyri took boys with himself when he left California back in 1932. Two years later , Pablo entered the College of Propaganda in Rome, where he first studied Latin grammar and later philosophy (1840), rhetoric (1838-1839), and humanities (1839-1840). He was preparing for work as a missionary, and even made several first vows as a priest. However, he died of smallpox in December 1841, without revisiting his motherland.


During his life, Pablo Tac produced a unique body of writings that deal with his people's culture, language, and history. When he was studying in Rome, Pablo created Luiseno grammar as well as dictionary. The way of writing created by Pablo Tac relied on both Latin and Spanish. Also, Tac was an author of an essay entitled Conversion of the San Luisenos of Alta California, as well as the book Indian Life and Customs at Mission San Luis Rey: A Record of California Mission Life by Pablo Tac, An Indian Neophyte. In the first, Tac described his tribe's customs, for example games and dances, and focused on how the Mission was founded. He also attached two drawings that depicted the Native people. The second book is an account of how life went in the Mission based on his understanding of the events. Specifically, it is in this book that Tac laments his tribe's quick decline, attitude to the colonizers, and the position of a priest. Tac's unique approach to recording the history and customs of his people was based on his belief in the equality of the Luiseno people with Spaniards regardless of the fact that the latter defeated the Natives.

Step 2. "Pablo Tac Approves of His Tribe's Conversion, 1835" : Summary

While the document is a description of how the Roman Catholic religion was accepted and the missionary organized in Pablo Tac's own village, the overall message is his positive assessment of the mission establishment and his tribe's conversion to Christianity, namely Roman Catholicism, brought by Spaniards who colonized the Mexican lands. Pablo, whose family was among the first who converted to the new religion, extols the foundation of the Mission and its focus on indigenous people conversion. His writing allows penetrating into the Indian spirituality and how it fitted into the Catholic spirituality brought by the Spanish colonizers. While the first reaction of the indigenous peoples was not to allow the colonizers enter their lands, they had to put up with the newcomers. Yet, despite the fast decline of his own tribe, Tac positively assessed their conversion to the Christian religion. At the same time, we get to know how the indigenous people converted and what it brought to them.

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