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Each clan had its own resource territory and was "politically" independent; ties to other villages were maintained through economic, religious, and social networks in the immediate region.
The elite class (composed chiefly families, lineage heads, and other ceremonial specialists), a middle class (established and successful families), and people of disconnected or wandering families and captives of war comprised the three hierarchical social classes.
Prior to the arrival of the missionaries, some 550 indigenous Acjachemen peoples lived in this area of their homeland.
By 1790, the number of Indian reductions had grown to 700 Mission Indians, and just six years later nearly 1,000 "neophytes" (recent converts) lived in or around the Mission compound.
Known alternately as "Serra's Chapel" and "Father Serra's Church," it is the only extant structure where it has been documented that Junipero Serra celebrated Mass.
One of the best known missions in Alta California, and one of the few missions to have actually been founded twice—others being Mission San Gabriel Arcángel and Mission La Purísima Concepción.
Today, the mission compound serves as a museum, with the Serra Chapel within the compound serving as a chapel for the mission parish.
Pre-contact Acjachemen built cone-shaped huts made of willow branches covered with brush or mats made of tule leaves.
Known as Kiichas (or wikiups), the temporary shelters were utilized for sleeping or as refuge in cases of inclement weather.
While the placement of residential huts in a village was not regulated, the ceremonial enclosure (Vanquech) and the chief's home were most often centrally located.
Relatively much is known about the native inhabitants in recent centuries, thanks in part to the efforts of the Spanish explorer Juan Rodríguez Cabrillo, who documented his observations of life in the coastal villages he encountered along the Southern California coast in October 1542.The mission was founded in 1776, by Spanish Catholics of the Franciscan Order.