Miwok Native American chief Stanislaus (Estanislao, Cucunuchi)
Miwok Native American chief Stanislaus, (born as Cucunuchi but baptized at 28 as Estanislao, the Spanish name for the Polish saint, Stanislaus) led a rebellion against the Spanish and Mexicans – this story later led John C. Fremont to name the river “Stanislaus” in 1844, as he apparently heard the stories of the Native Chief Stanislaus, originally named Cucunuchi. But the full story starts Cucunuchi’s birth in 1793 near Ripon, at the confluence of the Stanislaus and San Joaquin rivers – he was of the Lakeesomne people. With the establishment in 1796 of the Mission San Jose near Ripon, Cucunuchi’s family and many others converted to Catholicism. Cucunuchi grew up and eventually become a leader, or “mayor” of the people at the mission. After Mexico took over California from the Spanish, tensions grew. in 1829, Cucunuchi fled the mission with a small band, threatening the mission system. This led the Mexican government to send troops to attack him, the first contact being somewhere near the current Knight’s Ferry. This ended badly for the Mexicans, who withdrew to form a new and larger expedition at the end of May, 1829, commanded by Lt. Mariano Vallejo. After intense fighting, and brutal execution of some prisoners, Vallejo withdrew, but had failed to capture Cucunuchi and others in his band. Cucunuchi then returned to Mission San Jose asking for asylum and a pardon for his group. Surprisingly, his request was granted and Cucunuchi lived the rest of his life at the mission, but alone, without his wife and children who were at a tribal village. He died in 1839, likely of smallpox. There is no indication in the records that his rebellion against the Mexicans and Spanish ever involved attacking others, just defending his freedom against the attacks aimed against him. A thorough history of the name Stanislaus/Estanislao is at the UC Berkeley Bancroft Library.
Date uploaded: Aug 28, 2018
Date last modified: Mar 14, 2023