Sebastián Tarabal

Indian Guide, Alias El Peregrino
By Phil Valdez, Jr.

Anza_Logo_SebastianSebastián Tarabal was, an American Indian, from the Cochimí tribe in the vicinity of Mission Santa Gertrudis in Baja California. Records show that he married Maria Dolores Kinajan at the Mission of Santa Gertrudis in 1764, where she bore him a child named Juana Maria on May 27, 1769. A baptismal record of December, 17 1769, shows that Maria Dolores stood as godmother to a newborn girl and states “wife of Sebastián Tarabal who is in Monterey” giving credence that Tarabal was on the Portolá Expedition when it had left Santa Gertrudis on the 26th of April 1769.

Several years later in 1773, Fray Francisco Palóu recruited Sebastián and Maria Dolores and took them to the newly found mission of San Gabriel de Arcángel in the Los Angeles area. Records there show that he served as a godfather on July 11 1773. After several months at the mission of San Gabriel he became disillusioned with the mission way of life and fled with his wife and another companion. Going east and towards the Colorado River they encountered the Colorado Desert where it is said that his wife and the companion perished. Finally Sebastián reached the Colorado River where he was given assistance by the Yuma Chief Salvador Palma and taken to the Spanish authorities in Altar and
ultimately Juan Bautista de Anza.

As Don Juan was in the process of linking the routes to Monterey and knowing that he would have to cross the same desert he recognized an opportunity, when he saw one, and quickly added Sebastián to his command.

Here, from my point of view, it appears that Salvador Palma could have thought of the idea himself, nurse Sebastián back to health, took him to Anza and suggested that the Gran Capitan could take advantage of Sebastián’s knowledge of the road. If this is so and future findings are discovered to this effect the relationship between Anza and Palma was far closer than what we have been led to believe.

While on the exploratory expedition on March 09, 1774, at camp near a dry arroyo, Fray Juan Díaz says “here we were assured by the Indian Sebastián Tarabal that on the next day he would lead us to a watering place at which he had stopped when he went out to Sonora”. The following day he guided the expedition to the spring and camp site which took the name “San Sebastián” in his honor. Ironically this is the same area that on December 14, 1775 the colonizing expedition held a fandango to celebrate the reunion with the third division, after a terrible snow storm, and where Feliciana Arballo sang and danced some songs which were not nice.

As mentioned above in 1775 Tarabal again guided Anza to the Colorado River and it was here that he joined Fray Francisco Garcés on his many southwest journeys which are another story in themselves. In one instance when their travels took them back through Mission San Gabriel, on April 7, 1776, Sebastián stood as testigo (witness) to the marriage of Juan Francisco Lopez and none other than Feliciana Arballo.

But as history would have it, it appears that some of Garcés’s guides were unwilling to guide him, and Sebastián had evidently had enough as well. For Sebastián was unwilling to follow “for all that I begged him to do so” says Garcés.

Garcés then ordered Sebastián to await him at the Jalchedunes and he continued on his journey. However, upon his return, at the Jamajab settlement, he was informed, that Sebastián had a bad heart that he had given away the shells and other things left by him in his care and by now Sebastián was nowhere to be found.

As you have probably gathered, el Peregrino had participated in the first entrada into Alta California with the Portolá Expedition of 1769, had been part of the Juan Bautista de Anza Exploratory Expedition of 1774, the Juan Bautista de Anza Colonizing Expedition of 1775/76 and had become Garcés companion on his many travels through out the southwest. But just as quick as he had gained fame and fortune he disappeared from the annals of history never to be heard from again.

In regards to giving away the shells and things, Bolton puts it this way, “with this charge against him, el Peregrino disappears into what Diedrich Knicherbrocker calls the voracious maw of history”.