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In Memory of Elias Castillo

1939 ~ 2020

The Morgan Hill Historical Society honors the passing of Elias Castillo, a passionate fellow advocate of truth in history. 

Elias was a three-time Pulitzer Prize nominated investigative reporter for the Associated Press and the San Jose Mercury News. He was acclaimed for his book, A Cross of Thorns (2015), which chronicles the enslavement of California’s indigenous peoples during the California Mission era. He was a guest speaker at Villa Mira Monte, and he was featured in Stories from the Past (2019), an historical documentary series produced for us by Selah Productions and 152 West Productions.  He met with the Morgan Hill Historical Society and the Amah Mutsun Tribal Band to explore ways to enhance representation of California’s indigenous ancestors in history education.

Our past president Bill Briggs wrote,  “I knew Elias from his journalism days, hired him as an adjunct faculty at San Jose State University, and served as his faculty advisor for his Master’s thesis in Environmental Journalism.  We traveled to Mexico and formed an association between SJSU and the University of Chihuahua.  He co-led the first National Geographic expedition into the Copper Canyon in Chihuahua, Mexico to study the environmental effects on the canyon and the native peoples living there.  His reporting from Mexico City after a devastating earthquake was nationally recognized.”

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“It was an honor to interview Elias for our most recent film,” said Robin Shepherd, Creative Director and Producer of Stories from the Past. “As an investigative reporter, he never shied away from tough issues. In 2004, his op-ed in the San Francisco Chronicle challenged the government to publicly recognize the enslavement of indigenous people during California’s Mission era. One Congressman was so moved that he read the op-ed into the U.S. Congressional Record. Elias devoted eight years of his life to researching and writing A Cross of Thorns because he saw an injustice and wanted the truth to prevail. He made countless guest appearances to increase public awareness of indigenous history. He partnered with UC Berkeley, UCLA, Stanford and other universities to have his book included in their curriculum; and he advocated for reform of California’s K-12 curriculum covering Mission era history. His work continues to be relevant today. His message needs to be heard.”


Adios, Don Elias. You will be missed but not forgotten.


Learn more about Elias Castillo at Watch Stories from the Past 2019 at

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