The story of the missions is a compelling human drama that is a vital piece not only of California history, but also of American history. Indeed, many keys to California's past lie in the stories of the 21 missions that stretch along the state's west coast from San Diego to San Francisco. They are the physical and cultural building blocks on which modern-day California communities and identities are built. However, there are also broader historical lessons to be learned by reading about the mission settlements. As with other pivotal periods in American and human history, the mission era was a time in which different cultures and world views came into contact and conflict. The missions were founded in the 1700s and 1800s by Spanish friars, who had followed explorers to the New World. The friars were missionaries who wanted to bring the Christian religion to the indigenous peoples of the New World. This vital series is compatible with the mission-based curriculum used in fourth-grade California classrooms. It resonates equally with all social studies programs that explore the defunct notion of colonialism and its controversial role in the history of the United States, and with curricula that seek to explore the interaction of different cultures and the rights and voices of indigenous peoples.