Mission San Gabriel Archangel, California

Mission San Gabriel Archangel, California
Mission San Gabriel Archangel circa 1889

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

California Indians Complain to Pope Francis

Amah Mutsun’s Letter to Pope Francis
Date: 02 Mar 2015
By: Vincent Medina

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.


I read every word of this letter and found myself torn by it. As those who have read this blog know, I've done a great deal of research about the Spanish colonization of both Californias. A lot of so-called historical works relate this in a somewhat biased basis against the Catholic missionaries. So, as I read this, I tried comparing it to what I've learned.

Two things caught my eye:

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.

This is totally against everything I've read from Catholic and other historians! The friars NEVER forced any natives to come to the missions! There was an instance when one of the friars went into the interior valley of the northern part of California to being back some converts who had fled there from Mission San José. The description of tying them by their thumbs to be somewhat dramatic and overblown.

Another paragraph in which he quotes some letters from Father Serra to the governors about punishing converts. In the instance of the letter to Governor Rivera, the reason for the punishment is left out – it was not just leaving the mission but doing so after stealing property that was not theirs. And, as for “That the spiritual fathers [priests] should punish their sons, the Indians, by blows appears to be as old as the conquest of these kingdoms” quote, it was an admonishment for the governor NOT to whip them but to “spank” them in accordance with the mores of the time.

However, I invite you all to click on the link and judge for yourselves. Remember, however, the tribes involved are a tiny proportion of remaining California natives and that the vast majority of those who did not meld in with the Europeans were reduced, not by the Spanish or Mexican but the Americans who came with their generations of policies of exiling the “barbaric savages” to their own enclaves so Europeans could make the best use of their lands.