Tag Archives: California

TWH: California Wildfires


My latest article at The Wild Hunt is up, it is about the California wildfires.

Mount Diablo and Runaway Indians

Mount Diablo is a 3,849 foot tall mountain in the East San Francisco Bay Area. According to the Mount Diablo Interpretive Association, the name comes from a successful act of resistance by “runaway” mission Indians:

The reference to “diablo” or “devil”, can be traced back to 1804 or 1805, when a Spanish military expedition visited the area in search of runaway mission Indians. At a willow thicket near present-day Buchanan Field, the soldiers encountered a Village of Chupcan people and surrounded it. But night came, and evidently all the Indians escaped, unseen. Angry and confused, the Spanish called the site “Monte del Diablo”, or “Thicket of the Devil”.

Later, English-speaking newcomers mistakenly assumed the word “monte” to mean “mountain”, and applied the title to this prominent east bay peak. A linguistic accident thus gave California its Devil Mountain.

The Mount Diablo Interpretive Association also lists several earlier names for the mountain:

Although we know this place as Mt. Diablo today, the mountain has had many Indian names. They include: Tuyshtak (Ohlone/Costanoan), ‘Oj-ompil-e (Northern Miwok), Supemenenu (Southern Miwok), and Sukku Jaman (Nisenan).

An early Spanish name for the peak was “Cerro Alto de los Bolbones”, or “High Point of the Volvon Indians”. At one time, most of the mountain lay within the homeland of the Volvon, a Bay Miwok group.

The label “runaway” refers to the fact that once a native was baptized at a mission, they were not allowed to leave. In “Indian Labor at the California Missions: Slavery or Salvation?” Robert Archibald wrote:

Before baptism, neophytes were warned that once they had become Christians their lives would be restricted to the mission compound. […] Absence, equated with apostasy, was punished swiftly and certainly. Either soldiers from the escolta, or mission guard, or soldiers from a presidial company were assigned the task of tracking and capturing runaways. The result was a whipping administered by a soldier or mission Indian, sometimes to the point of death.

A large number of natives ran away from the missions despite these risks:

Desertion was not an occasional occurrence but rather a persistent problem. Records enumerating apostates were not kept. Consequently only an approximation can be arrived at by comparing population increase with the difference between baptisms and deaths for a stated period. The result is a figure varying somewhere between 5 and 10 percent. This number includes only those fugitives who were able to successfully elude constant pursuit. A much greater percentage made aborted attempts at escape.

Absent Indians were hunted down by other mission Indians, soldiers, or a combination of both. Escapees in concert with non-mission natives frequently made violent and sometimes successful resistance to recapture. Truancy became so common that it was customary to send presidial soldiers after the fugitives at stated intervals and round up as many as possible at one time to be sent back to their respective missions. Disaster was sometimes the result of these expeditions.

The Walk for the Ancestors report “They tell on themselves: Stories of runaways and soldiers at Mission San Miguel” shares more stories of repression and resistance.

For example, “In 1798, Father Antonio De la Concepcion Horra, one of the first padres assigned to San Miguel, authored a letter to the viceroy [ruler of New Spain] reporting on the conditions of the California missions,” in which he wrote:

I would like to inform you of the many abuses that are commonplace…The manner in which the Indians are treated is by far more cruel than anything I have ever read about. For any reason, however insignificant it may be, they are severely and cruelly whipped, placed in shackles, or put in stocks for days on end without even a drop of water. (Quoted in Converting California: Indians and Franciscans in the Missions by James A. Sandos, pg. 272)

Fermín Lasuén, Junipero Serra’s successor as head of the California mission system, protested a proposal to withdraw Spanish soldiers from Alta California in 1797 on the grounds that soldiers were required to keep converts from running away:

The majority of our neophytes have not acquired much love for our way of life; and they see and meet their pagan relatives in the forest, fat and robust and enjoying complete liberty. They will go with them, then, when they no longer have any fear and respect for the force, such as it is, which restrains them. (Quoted in American Colonies by Alan Taylor, pg. 463)

And with the destruction of their original home villages by disease and conversion and raids by Spanish soldiers, many runaways formed new communities:

“Like runaway slaves in the American South, many struck out for distant parts, then congregated in remote areas, and formed large fugitive communities. By the end of the mission era, hundreds of runaway neophytes from Santa Barbara, San Miguel, and San Luis Obispo missions had accumulated in a swampy area of the southern San Joaquin Valley, near what later became known as Buena Vista Lake. According to Padre Mariano Payeras, they reverted to their pagan state and fought off soldiers sent to fetch them back, forming what Payeras described as “a republic of hell and a diabolical union of apostates.” (Beasts of the Field: A Narrative History of California Farmworkers, 1769-1913 by Richard Street, pg. 70)

The Wild Hunt Article: California Indigenous Struggles

Statue of Junipero Serra, Presidio of Monterey, CA. Credit: Kevin Dayton.

Statue of Junipero Serra, Presidio of Monterey. Credit: Kevin Dayton.

My latest article for The Wild Hunt, “Indigenous Struggles in California’s Bay Area,” is up.

These are the last 3 days to contribute to The Wild Hunt Fall Funding Drive. We are now 88% funded. Help us reach 100%! All of our articles take time, research and money to produce. Donate today and be part of the team that helps keeps The Wild Hunt going for another year. Thank You.

Canonization of Junipero Serra

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.”

Drought and Religion, ACTION

I have a guest post at The Wild Hunt entitled “Drought and Religion” about the current ongoing drought in California, historical and contemporary polytheist perspectives on drought’s religious implications, and the history of drought-related to political and economic conflicts.

I also have an interview entitled “Ancestors, Ancient Culture, and Old Gods” in the Litha 2015 issue of ACTION, the newsletter of the Alternative Religions Education Network (AREN). Sadly, this is the last issue of ACTION, by mutual decision of Christopher Blackwell (Editor and Chief Reporter) and Bill Kilborn (Web Guy).


135th Annual Bok Kai Festival in Marysville, CA

Firing of the Bombs. Credit: Bok Kai Temple.

Firing of the Bombs. Credit: Bok Kai Temple.

This past Sunday, March 22nd, I had the opportunity to attend the second day of the Bok Kai Festival in Marysville, California (40 miles north of Sacramento) with a friend. We missed the Dragon and Lion Dancers who paraded through the town on Saturday the 21st, but we were able to witness “Bomb Day” on Sunday, which was quite impressive. From the Bok Kai Temple website:

Bomb Day, or in Chinese, Yee Yeut Yee, takes its name from the colorful firing of the bombs highlighting the celebration, which is in tribute to the Chinese Water God, The Bok Kai [AKA Xuan Tian Shang Di, Xuan Wu, Bei Di, Zhen Wu].

Each year on the second day of the second month of the Chinese lunar year, the Chinese Community of Marysville and the city of Marysville join in putting on the Bomb Day celebration, which marks The Bok Kai’s birthday. When the day falls on a weekday, the festivities will be held on the following weekend for two days.  The annual two-day event draws thousands from Marysville and its surrounding communities.

This year, the parade fell on the second day of the lunar month, and Bomb Day fell on the third.

Youths competing to grab the good fortune ring. Credit: Bok Kai Temple.

Youths competing to grab the good fortune ring. Credit: Bok Kai Temple.

After a long fuse of firecrackers and fireworks that stretched out over an entire city block were ignited, the Firing of the Bombs occurred:

The bombs are fired in a roped arena where young Chinese, and occasionally adults, scramble for “good fortune” rings, which are shot into the air from the bursting bombs, and traditionally bring luck throughout the year. The rings may be kept by those who retrieve them in the scramble, but are often sold to people who want to keep the lucky rings for the year. Those who purchase them in turn pay a fee at the temple to hold onto them.

In addition to the fun and excitement of the celebration, Bomb Day has another aspect: it enables the faithful to worship at the temple, which honors The Bok Kai, the deity responsible for banishing evil spirits and controlling the rains and floods of the spring in time for planting season. During the ritual of worship at the temple, each individual finds out what fortune the new year will bring.

This was the 135th annual Bok Kai Festival, but its history probably goes back even further:

The Bok Kai parade’s rich history is believed to have started as far back as the 1850s. Always held on the weekend closest to the second day of the second month of the Lunar calendar it is the longest continually held parade in California. The parade honors Bok Eye, the Chinese Water God, who protects Marysville from flooding.

The Bok Kai temple stands at the Southwest corner of First and D Streets in Marysville, California. Originally built in the 1850s by Chinese immigrants the temple was destroyed by flooding and then rebuilt in the 1880s. Serving as a meeting hall, court, and a place of worship, the temple was built with its main altar facing toward the river. This was done so that Bok Eye could ward off any evil and protect the community of Marysville from flooding.

Bok Eye is considered the god of the North and is said the be the Chinese water god whose powers have successfully prevented Marysville from flooding since 1997. Bok Eye’s powers include overseeing waterways, water systems, irrigation and rain. This could be why it has never rained during the Bok Kai parade.

Amah Mutsun’s Open Letter to Pope Francis

Valentin Lopez, Chairman of the Amah Mutsun Tribal Band of Costanoan/Ohlone Indians, wrote a poignant letter to Pope Francis sharing a Native perspective on why Junipero Serra should not be named a Saint.

February 24, 2015

Re: Open Letter to Pope Francis,

Your Holiness, Pope Francis, My name is Valentin Lopez and I am the Chairman of the Amah Mutsun Tribal Band. Our historic and continuous Tribe is comprised of the documented descendants of the indigenous peoples taken to Missions San Juan Bautista and Santa Cruz in the state of California, United States of America. Our Amah Mutsun Tribe is not a federally recognized Tribe. The Federal Government of the Unites States does not acknowledge our Tribe nor does it provide assistance to our members. We are writing this letter to voice our disbelief and objection to your intent to canonize Franciscan Friar Junipero Serra.

When you were first selected Pope our Amah Mutsun Tribal Council discussed your selection on a number of occasions and we were very optimistic. We were hopeful that you would understand the plight of the indigenous descendant and how they have been ignored and marginalized by society. We applauded your words of peace, justice, truth, and dignity. We were also optimistic that you would understand how our people need to recover from generations of oppression and pain. Your decision to canonize Fr. Serra is a clear message that our reality of poverty, suicide, depression, substance abuse, and many other ills will continue to impact the lives of our members for many more years and perhaps many more generations.

Because we believed your papacy would be different we wrote you two letters dated August 29, 2013 and April 25, 2014. In these letters we introduced our Tribe and described our pre-contact history. We also described our ancestor’s experiences at the mission. I told you of how many of our female ancestors were tied together by their thumbs and forced to march to the missions. Once there they were considered the property of the mission. It’s estimated that life expectancy was less than two years at some missions. I also discussed how our current Tribal members continue to suffer from the impact of cumulative emotional and psychological wounding, which is otherwise known as historic trauma. This trauma resulted from the generations of physical and emotional brutality as well as the attempted cultural and spiritual genocide of all California native people. Our ancestors endured this brutality not only during mission times but this legacy continued during the Mexican and American periods. Historic trauma also results from the fact that from mission times to the present our legitimate past and our humanity as indigenous people have never been truly acknowledged by any governmental or religious organization.

The two letters we sent were accompanied by letters from Dr. Donna Schindler, psychiatrist, and Bishop Francis Quinn, Bishop Emeritus of Sacramento California. Dr. Schindler’s letters discussed historic trauma and explained how our members continue to suffer today because of our tragic history starting with the brutalities our ancestors suffered at the missions. Bishop Quinn’s letter, dated May 7, 2014, stated that although the “language of these letters is sometimes very intense, I support the basic message.” In both letters we requested that you offer a mass of reconciliation to the Indigenous people of California, as that would be an important step in our efforts to find healing from our historic trauma.

When you announced recently that you would canonize Fr. Junipero Serra we were in absolute disbelief. It is incomprehensible for us to think that you would canonize a person who is ultimately responsible for the death of approximately 100,000 California Indians and the complete extermination of many Native tribes, cultures and languages. The brutality of Fr. Serra is well documented in his own writings. On July 31, 1775 Fr. Serra wrote a letter to Spanish Governor Fernando de Rivera y Moncado requesting that he punish four Indians for attempting to run away from San Carlos de Borromeo de Carmelo mission. Fr. Serra wrote, “I am sending them to you so that a period of exile, and two or three whippings which Your Lordship may order applied to them on different days may serve, for them and for all the rest, for a warning, may be of spiritual benefit to all; and this last is the prime motive for our work. If Your Lordship does not have shackles, with your permission they may be sent from here. I think that the punishment should last one month.” On July 7, 1780 Fr. Serra wrote a letter to Governor Felipe de Neve to explain his policy of whipping Indians, “That the spiritual fathers [priests] should punish their sons, the Indians, by blows appears to be as old as the conquest of these kingdoms.” This violence, intimidation and terror which was sponsored and ordered by Fr. Serra clearly set the policy and foundation for all future brutal acts at the missions. Obviously, Fr. Serra’s standard for violence against the Indians was the same standard as that used in the conquest of all of the Americas.

There were many horrendous and documented events during the mission period in California. For example, in 1809 a Commander of the Spanish military ordered Spanish soldiers to massacre 200 women and children who refused to continue to march to Mission San Juan Bautista. These women and children were cut into pieces with sabers while the commander ordered that their remains be scattered on the ground; this event is documented. After this atrocity “the priests swore all of the soldiers to secrecy.” While some will argue that Junipero Serra himself was not directly responsible for this massacre, there is no dispute that he is responsible for creating the system that allowed these types of inhumane and depraved events to occur. Furthermore, to remove him from the consequences of the missions would be the same as removing the leaders of terrorist groups, or military aggressors who acted in the name of religion of any era, including the terrorist groups of today, from the actions of their followers.

Following your announcement that you were going to canonize Serra, I reflected on what I believed to be the definition of a “Saint.” I have always thought that the Catholic Church considered someone a saint only when that person followed Jesus Christ and lived his/her life according to Christ’s teaching. Frankly, I see no similarities between Serra and Jesus Christ. The latter never used military enforcers or corporal punishment to get people to follow his teaching, nor did he use beatings and whippings. Jesus Christ never considered people to be property or turn them into slaves. Jesus Christ never considered anyone to be a heathen, a pagan, or a savage. At no time did Jesus Christ ever say that a man had no soul, nor did Jesus Christ ever teach that the end results justified the means.

We often hear that the times were much different when Fr. Serra first came to California and that we cannot use today’s standards to judge his actions. The Amah Mutsun completely agrees. The Catholic Church should not use today’s standards to judge Fr. Serra. Instead, the Catholic Church should judge Fr. Serra against the times and the words that Jesus Christ spoke when he was on earth; over 1,750 years before the time of Serra. Serra should have known that to follow Jesus Christ’s footsteps meant that he needed to have understanding and love for others and that no one could or should ever be forced to accept Jesus Christ. We read that Jesus came in peace and he was often attacked. Fr. Serra came in the name of Jesus, but yet he brought soldiers and was prepared to attack. How Fr. Serra is worthy of public veneration based upon actions most people would consider to be evil is unfathomable.

Many of Serra’s actions were acceptable to the Catholic Church based on the Diversas Bull of 1452 and other related bulls. These bulls, which promoted the conquest, colonization, and exploitation of non- Christian nations, specifically granted the Pope’s blessing “to capture, vanquish, and subdue the Saracens, pagans, and other enemies of Christ and put them into perpetual slavery and take all their possessions and their property.” In 1493 Pope Alexander VI issued a law granting Spain’s dominion over all lands that Columbus had located.

On October 23, 2013 the Religious Sisters of Charity wrote to you and asked you to publicly repudiate and rescind the Diversas Bull of 1452, the Caetera Bull of 1493, and other related bulls. To date, the Catholic Church has refused to do this. How could the Catholic Church remove the words and life of Jesus Christ to define sainthood and replace the definition of sainthood with papal bulls that sanctioned Christian enslavement, power and Spain’s dominion over all lands that Columbus had located? The Amah Mutsun have no doubt that Serra’s canonization is based on these papal bulls and not the words and actions of Jesus Christ. We join the Sisters of Charity in asking you, Holy Father, to repudiate and rescind the Bulls referenced above.

We must add that until these bulls are rescinded we can only conclude that the Catholic Church considers many of our ancestors, current members and future descendents to be the enemies of Christ. We do not believe Jesus Christ believes us to be his enemy; we’d like the church to explain this paradox.

On August 29, 2013, tribal leaders from four mission tribes, Rudy Ortega, Tribal Administrator and Tribal Spiritual Leader, Tataviam Tribe, Mel Vernon, Captain, Mission San Luis Rey Tribe, Ray Hernandez, Chumash, and our Amah Mutsun Tribe, and Dr. Schindler met with Bishop Gerald Wilkerson of San Fernando Pastoral Region and Bishop Edward Clark, Regional Bishop, Archdiocese of Los Angeles. At these meetings we told them of the need for the church to tell the truth regarding Fr. Serra and the Mission period. We also made them aware of the impact of historic trauma on our members. Following this meeting we sent the Bishops a letter, dated May 30, 2013, documenting the 12 points we discussed at our meeting. We offered specific recommendations on how the church could help our tribal members heal from our historic trauma. We also offered to help the church establish positive relationships with the descendants of the Indians taken to the mission. We ended the letter by saying we look forward to working with the Bishops. No response to this letter was ever received.

On December 20, 2013, we met with Mr. Ned Dolejsi, Executive Director, California Catholic Conference. At our meeting we shared with him our letter to Bishops Wilkerson and Clark. We also requested that Dr. Schindler and I be allowed to speak at the next quarterly all Bishops Conference to inform the attendees that there are surviving tribes from the mission period and that the truth needs to be told regarding the history of the California missions. Shortly after our meeting Mr. Dolejsi notified Dr. Schindler that our request was denied. This denial reinforced what we’ve believed for generations, the Catholic Church does not acknowledge our Tribes or our humanity.

On December 11, 2012, Bishop Garcia of the Monterey Diocese held a mass of reconciliation for the indigenous peoples and their descendents taken to Mission San Juan Bautista. At this mass Bishop Garcia apologized for events of the past that were hurtful and expressed “a desire for a new relationship that promotes common spiritual growth, honesty, mutual respect and a desire to forgive and be forgiven for past wrongs.” Prior to this mass our Tribal Council decided that we should “acknowledge” this apology versus to “accept” the apology. We felt that for the apology to be sincere it had to be followed up by specific actions that demonstrated the church’s sincerity. When you announced that you were going to canonize Serra we realized that although Bishop Garcia apologized, the church does not understand our history, nor does it understand the great pain and suffering it has caused.

On September 14, 1987, Pope John Paul stated in a speech that was directed to indigenous peoples that “The early encounter between your traditional cultures and the European way of life was an event of such significance and change that it profoundly influences your collective life even today. That encounter was a harsh and painful reality for your peoples.” He then added “At the same time, in order to be objective, history must record the deeply positive aspects of your people’s encounter with the culture that came from Europe. Among these positive aspects, I wish to recall the work of the many missionaries who strenuously defended the rights of the original inhabitants of this land. They established missions throughout this southwestern part of the United States.”

As the Chairman of the Amah Mutsun I can honestly say we fail to recognize any “positive aspects” of our cultural oppression, physical decimation and destruction of our traditional societies. We do not believe that the missions worked to improve our living conditions. Instead we were enslaved, beaten, raped, and in many cases had life expectancies of less than two years? Do the positive aspects of the mission system include its long term legacy: tribal poverty, suicide, physical abuse, substance abuse, identity issues, not to mention the church’s denial of our humanity, our culture and our spirituality? Do the positive aspects of the mission system include the church continuing to hold land that was traditionally the land of our ancestors while most current day descendants of those taken to the missions have no tribal land?

In the year 2000, Pope John Paul II issued a diverse apology on behalf of the Catholic Church. In his apology Pope John Paul said, “Whenever the truth has been suppressed by governments and their agencies or even by Christian communities, the wrongs done to the indigenous peoples need to be honestly acknowledged…The Church expresses deep regret and asks forgiveness where her children have been or still are party to these wrongs…The past cannot be undone, but honest recognition of past injustices can lead to measures and attitudes that will help to rectify the damaging effects for both the indigenous community and the wider society.”

The Amah Mutsun assert that the truth of Fr. Serra’s destruction of our Tribal culture, spirituality, and lives continues to be intentionally suppressed and never honestly acknowledged by the Catholic Church. Interestingly, Pope John Paul also said, “An excuse is worse and more terrible than a lie, for an excuse is a lie [that is] guarded.” The Amah Mutsun believe that for Fr. Junipero Serra to be canonized, the Catholic Church must create an excuse for his brutal actions and for the devastating mission system that he created.

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.

A book titled A Cross of Thorns, The Enslavement of California’s Indians by the Spanish Missions, by author Elias Castillo, will be released soon. The book is the result of more than six years of research and study of original documents including eyewitness accounts by early travelers, records kept by the friars, and historic letters by church and government authorities in Alta California and Mexico. A Cross of Thorns describes the brutality of Serra and the dark and violent reality of mission life. Castillo wrote, “Even a fellow Franciscan, Fr. Antonio de la Conception Herra, wrote in 1799 that The treatment of the Indians is the most cruel I have ever read in history. For the slightest things they receive heavy floggings, are shackled, and put in the stocks, and treated with so much cruelty that they are kept whole days without a drink of water.” In 1820, the last Spanish Padre Presidente of the missions, Father Mariano Payeras, worriedly wrote his superior in Mexico City that they, “had to come up with an alibi when people started asking where all the Indians had gone. Unless they had an excuse, the Franciscans would be subjected to scorn and scandal. Wrote Payeras: All we have done to the Indians is consecrate them, baptize them and bury them.” It is also our belief that in addition to canonizing Serra based on Bulls, you are also basing his canonization on the alibi created by the Franciscans and not the reality of his actions. The publisher of this book, Linden Publishing Inc., provided the enclosed copy of A Cross of Thorns; we hope that by reading this book you will have a new understanding of Fr. Serra and the California Missions.

It’s important for you to know that our Amah Mutsun Creation story tells us that Creator very specifically selected our people to live on the lands of our traditional tribal territory that we know as Popouloutchum. Creator unambiguously gave our Tribe the responsibility of taking care of Mother Earth and all living things. This is true for all Native American tribes. Our people worked hard to please Creator and to fulfill our obligations. At first contact with Europeans our Tribe, as all other tribes of California, were already civilized; we actively managed the landscape, we were subject to authority, and we had laws. We had a well-developed and sophisticated culture and we were very spiritual. All of our songs were prayer songs and all of our dances were prayer dances. Our people continually prayed so that they lived their life with their heart, mind, body and soul. They prayed for balance in their life, their family and their world. They prayed for their relationship with Mother Earth, with other human beings and with Creator.

Father Boscana, a Franciscan Scholar, and mission priest, who wrote of the Indians near San Juan Capistrano stated that “the Indians of California may be compared to a species of monkeys.” He was incorrect. Our ancestors were not monkeys, they were not pagan, they were not heathens, and they were not savages. Our members believe that Creator will harshly judge those responsible for the events at the missions that led to the death of so many of our ancestors and the destruction of our culture.This particularly includes Fr. Serra, who you now intend to canonize.The Amah Mutsun again ask, Holy Father, that if you choose to go forward with the naming of Junipero Serra as a Saint, that before doing so you rescind Pope John Paul’s apology to Native Americans. At the very least, please rescind his apology to the Amah Mutsun. In addition, should you go forward with your plans to canonize Junipero Serra we rescind our request that you offer a mass of reconciliation to the descendants of those taken to the California missions. The Amah Mutsun would consider that apology as being the same as knocking someone down and then apologizing by saying, “I’m sorry I knocked you down, now let me kick you.” To this we must say, “No thank you.”

In this letter, we have talked about the need for healing. We are well aware, however, that it is important not only for our Tribe to heal, it is important for all perpetrators to heal. This includes the Catholic Church, and other governments and individuals who have caused harm and loss to the California Indians. There can be no doubt that our efforts to begin to work on this healing were clearly rejected by the Catholic Church.

The Amah Mutsun Tribal Band sends this letter with our hope and prayers that you will reevaluate your decision to canonize Junipero Serra and that you reevaluate the Church’s relationship with the descendants of all California Indians taken to the missions.

kansireesum – With our heart,

Valentin Lopez, Chairman
Amah Mutsun Tribal Band