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‘Serra Is No Saint’ Day of Mourning in San Francisco

Some 200 gathered at Mission Delores in San Francisco, California to protest the canonization of Junipero Serra by Pope Francis.

While Pope Francis was proclaiming Junipero Serra a Saint in Washington, D.C., California Indians continued their protest in the form of a prayer ceremony in opposition to this decision. Some 200 people attended the event organized by community leader Corrina Gould (Chochenyo Ohlone), Wicahpiluta Candelaria (Rumsen Ohlone/Apache), and Indian People Organizing for Change, this ceremony provided a place where California’s tribal members could grieve Serra’s canonization, speak historic truth, and pray for the ancestors buried beneath the streets surrounding Mission Dolores in San Francisco.

“We’re here to make a statement in opposition to the canonization of Junipero Serra. We have appealed to Pope Francis not to do this. We have prayed, sent signed petitions, have tried to awaken people to the intentional genocide committed against us by Serra. Those few Natives today in D.C. that are supporting this action do not speak for the majority of California’s tribal people. There needs to be a revision of California indigenous history in education, in the libraries, and films, that tells the truth. There needs to be an understanding about the Doctrine of Discovery and how this notion that we were ‘sub-human’ and ‘pagan’ led to genocide and colonization—5,000 people, some my direct ancestors, are buried in unmarked graves right here,” Gould said.

Photo by Nanette Deetz

Corinna Gould, a co-organizer of the event third from left) prays at the beginning of the event. Wounded Knee Ocampo holds the sage and an eagle feather staff before his prayers. Co-organizer Wicahpiluta Candelaria Rumsen Ohlone/Apache) is in the white shirt next to Gould.

Spiritual leader Wounded Knee Ocampo, Tuolumne Miwok, offered an Opening Prayer:

Grandfather, Creator, four directions, help me. I call on you, all my ancestors in the spirit world. Christians have some good words in the 10 Commandments. Thou shall not kill. What happened to our people? Thou shall not steal. Look what happened to our land. Thou shall not lie. So many lies have been told about our people. The Pope may speak good words, but he needs to be educated about what happened to our people and to others. I ask you Creator, there should be no cover up. Tell the truth, listen to the cries of our ancestors. Thank you for this day, for the sun, for letting us take care of Mother Earth. I thank the ancestors buried here, without you we would not be here today.

Singer, dancer, cultural presenter, and co-organizer of the event, Candelaria said: “The truth needs to be told. The world now has a choice, to learn the truth or continue in denial. Let’s celebrate the beauty around us. Let’s celebrate our resilience, let’s celebrate that we can still sing our songs, and acknowledge beauty again. No longer can we live a lie. We stand on the backs of warriors before us such as Toypurina.” He then sang a warrior song.

Photo by Nanette Deetz

This banner was held before the event began in front of Mission Dolores.

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Speaker Rico Miranda (Rumsen Ohlone) sang a traditional song in his language and said: “It is difficult to be here today. It is hard to think about celebrating our equinox. Daily we must live in our own colonized land. My friends look at this city, and say, ‘how do you do it?’ What I do is honor my ancestors by learning my culture, language, songs, dances and teaching my children as well as other children.”

When Laura Cedillo took the microphone, she said: “I am from San Luis Potosi, we were the first people to be contacted by Junipero Serra. I want to make sure that the only people who have a right to say whether or not this man becomes a saint, are California’s tribal people.”

Photo by Nanette Deetz

Noted basketweaver and artist L. Frank Manriquez Achemem/Tongva) singing during the event.

Keith Turner (Table Mountain Dumma/Cherokee) sang an eagle song in his language, and said: “Our people were marched from their traditional lands to mission San Juan Bautista. Some died along the way, some were buried, some left. My elders all spoke from their hearts. They never lied. When they arrived at the mission, they were made slaves. One young boy, who survived the beatings and torture and remembered his language, came to us and warned us that these people would kill us. He told our people to run, and hide in the mountains. I cry for my ancestors. I can’t bring them home, because I don’t know where they are… all because of Serra.”

Photo by Nanette Deetz

Corine Fairbanks Lakota), Director of AIM Southern California, Lisa Avers Miwok, Sacramento), and Jessie Riddle are seen here singing an AIM song.

Several representatives from different religious denominations also offered words of support. Debra Lee, Nikita Hernandez and Israel Alvaron from the United Church of Christ spoke about the forgiveness the Pope should be extending to California’s tribes. The Jewish faith was represented by a couple who ask forgiveness for settling on Native land.

The Day of Mourning ended with Candelaria leading those assembled in singing the official AIM song in solidarity and friendship with California’s indigenous people and those struggling throughout the world.