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The bulk of the population occupied the outlets of two large creeks, San Juan Creek (and its major tributary, Trabuco Creek) and San Mateo Creek (combined with Arroyo San Onofre, which drained into the ocean at the same point).The highest concentration of villages was along the lower San Juan, where Mission San Juan Capistrano was ultimately situated and is preserved today.Each clan had its own resource territory and was "politically" independent; ties to other villages were maintained through economic, religious, and social networks in the immediate region.The elite class (composed chiefly families, lineage heads, and other ceremonial specialists), a middle class (established and successful families), and people of disconnected or wandering families and captives of war comprised the three hierarchical social classes.Native leadership consisted of the Nota, or clan chief, who conducted community rites and regulated ceremonial life in conjunction with the council of elders (Puuplem), which was made up of lineage heads and ceremonial specialists in their own right.This body decided upon matters of the community, which were then carried out by the Nota and his underlings.Fray Gerónimo Boscana, a Franciscan scholar who was stationed at San Juan Capistrano for more than a decade beginning in 1812, compiled what is widely considered to be the most comprehensive study of prehistoric religious practices in the San Juan Capistrano valley.
Over 500,000 visitors, including 80,000 school children, come to the Mission each year.
Known alternately as "Serra's Chapel" and "Father Serra's Church," it is the only extant structure where it has been documented that Junipero Serra celebrated Mass.
One of the best known missions in Alta California, and one of the few missions to have actually been founded twice—others being Mission San Gabriel Arcángel and Mission La Purísima Concepción.
Pre-contact Acjachemen built cone-shaped huts made of willow branches covered with brush or mats made of tule leaves.
Known as Kiichas (or wikiups), the temporary shelters were utilized for sleeping or as refuge in cases of inclement weather.