In June 1579 a small sailing vessel made its way cautiously along the California coast.  Francis Drake, destined to become one of the world's legendary sea captains, was looking for a place to careen his leaky vessel -- the Golden Hind.  He had come halfway around the world, and was to complete his voyage by sailing across the Pacific and to England, but he desperately needed a place to make repairs.

As he approached the shore of this land never before seen by European eyes (assuming it was northern California), Drake's crew was surprised to see several canoes venturing out from shore.  The descriptions of this event are sketchy, but it seems clear that the native in one canoe made a statement, perhaps a blessing, and then threw a black-feathered bundle onto the deck of Drake's ship.  From its description, the feathers were probably from the California condor.  Drake's reaction to this event is not recorded except that it's clear the Englishmen felt they were being worshiped as gods.  In fact, they may have been perceived as ghosts, coming from the land of the dead.  The first gift from native Californians was probably the feathers of a California condor, and a sign of mourning ritual.

This paper briefly summarizes how the California condor was incorporated into the cultures of the peoples of ancient California by considering archaeological remains, ceremonial activities and rock art depictions

 
 
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