Diary of Francisco Garcés

Title page of the UA Garcés diary (AZ 416 Special Collections).


On July 4, 1776, Spanish explorer Fray Francisco Garcés was ousted from the Hopi village of Orayvi because he represented a threat to their independence. The diary of his journey from San Xavier del Bac to Hopi, via southern Arizona, southern California, and up the Colorado River, contains invaluable information about Native societies living in these regions at the time. However, a 1900 translation of Garcés’s 1775-1776 diary by Elliot Coues, the only source used by most Anglophone scholars, contains many errors of ethnographic interpretation. These include a mistranscription of the word "Napac," which he rendered as "Napao," leading Coues to distort the record of Native Southwestern human geography. Coues argued that Napao referred to the Navajo people, who, he claimed, were living much further west in 1776 than any credible record indicates. Coues’s misinterpretation launched an inquiry into exactly who the Napac were, if not the Navajo, and further aspects of Garcés’s original manuscript diary.

Using seven different manuscript versions of Garcés’s diary, Whiteley compared texts and letter sequences to group the versions into categories that allow the diary variants to be identified chronologically. Again, with Wheeler’s assistance via POY, a "tree" of manuscripts has been developed. To test the plausibility of chronological inferences, Whiteley has further been studying watermarks on the pages of each diary (see the scans below) to try to determine the approximate date each manuscript was written.

Genoese coat-of-arms watermarks for three Garcés diary manuscripts: (L to R) UA, Olea, Huntington. Countermark (not shown) for each reads FIORETTO.


Picador and bull watermark on Beinecke Garcés diary manuscript, taken from a single full sheet. Distance between bull and picador is shortened in the main image; actual distance shown in inset.


Dr. Whiteley has confirmed that the only version that contains any reference to the "Napao" is the erroneous 1900 Coues translation. In turn, and correlated to the Havasupai language of Garcés's companions at the time, this suggests that Napac does not, in fact, refer to the Navajo, but a band of Yavapai people who inhabited the flanks of the San Francisco Peaks, Awik ha napac in the Havasupai language.

Principal Southwestern peoples and places mentioned, also showing Garces' route, Colorado River - Second Mesa, 1776. Tribal boundaries are based on the Handbook of North American Indians, with some emendations based on matters discussed in the text. No boundaries are included for several groups on the map margins; for Navajo specifically, this owes to historical changes discussed. Map drawn by Jennifer Steffey.


Diario del Padre fray Francisco Garces (sic). Ms. 1680. National Anthropological Archives, Smithsonian Institution, Suitland, MD. (Formerly B.A.E. Library no. 7415 (1897); later B.A.E. Ms. Cat. no. 1680.) [Olea version]


Bottom part of page 126, Olea version of Garces' 1775-1776 diary (Garces n.d.a). National Anthropological Archives, Smithsonian Institution MS. 1680.


Diary of Explorations in 1775-177 6 of Arizona and California, 1777. Western Americana Collection, Beinecke I*are Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University. (Gift of Frederick W. Beinecke.) [Beinecke version]