In March, I reposted the Amah Mutsun Tribal Band’s open letter to Pope Francis expressing their opposition to the canonization of Junipero Serra, the founder of the California mission system which led to the death of many tens of thousands of indigenous people and the suppression of their cultures. Today, the Pope disregarded the numerous objections of indigenous people and went ahead with the canonization.
Valentin Lopez, chairman of the Amah Mutsun Tribal Band, was quoted on CNN for his reaction:
“We’re stunned and we’re in disbelief,” said Valentin Lopez, 63, chairman of the Amah Mutsun Tribal Band located along Monterey Bay in California.
“We believe saints are supposed to be people who followed in the life of Jesus Christ and the words of Jesus Christ. There was no Jesus Christ lifestyle at the missions,” Lopez said, who has campaigned against sainthood for Serra.
Back in February, Valentin Lopez wrote about the implications that this canonization would have:
Speaking on behalf of the Amah Mutsun Tribal Band, we would like you to know that should you go forward with your announced intentions to canonize Serra, please know that we rescind the request we made in our letters to you for a mass of reconciliation.
The canonization of Serra will be a clear message to our Tribe that the church does not care about our true history or our historic trauma.
Furthermore, please know that if Fr. Serra is canonized, the Amah Mutsun reject the diverse apology offered by Pope John Paul to all indigenous people as our Tribe can only conclude that his apology, which was an apology ostensibly on behalf of the catholic church, was meaningless and insincere.
More of Valentin Lopez’s writings on this subject can be found at the Amah Mutsun’s “Opposition to Serra Sainthood” page.
CNN also interviewed Deborah Miranda of the Ohlone Costanoan Esselen Nation:
Fifty different tribes in California condemned the sainthood conferred on Serra, said Deborah Miranda, a literature professor at Washington and Lee University in Virginia and a member of the Ohlone Costanoan Esselen Nation of California. She wrote “Bad Indians: A Tribal Memoir,” a book about her ancestors’ experiences in the Spanish missions.
“My objection and the objection of many California Indians is that he is being honored for in fact dishonoring many of our California ancestors. The missions ended up killing about 90% of the California Indians present at the time of missionization, creating all kinds of cultural and emotional baggage that we still carry to this day,” Miranda said. “It’s not a question of attacking the Catholic Church or attacking Pope Francis. It’s about making sure that the truth is heard and that injustices are not continued on into the 21st century.“
But the Native American campaign to stop Serra’s canonization never gained an audience in Rome, Miranda said.
“We have gotten zero response from the Vatican, not a word. We do not exist, it seems, in Pope Francis’ world,” Miranda said. “They’re interested in his record and in how many people he managed to convert and in the fact that he at this point in time is a famous Spanish person when the church really needs some positive PR, so they are purposely overlooking the deaths and the cultural genocide of Native American people because it’s to their benefit.”