Native American activists condemn Pope’s decision to canonize Junipero Serra

On the 21st of September, Native American activist Louise Thundercloud gave
this video interview by the White House barricades condemning the Pope’s plans to canonize Junipero Serra, founder of California’s Indian mission system. For Native Americans, his missions meant forced labor and forced religious conversion. Escapees faced floggings and even brandings with hot irons. Now Pope Francis plans to declare this man a saint for the number of conversions of Native Americans to Christianity his missions were responsible for.

In addition to his role in genocide of Native Americans, Junipero Serra was also appointed as Inquisitor for all of what was then called “new Spain” during a 1752 visit to Mexico City. The Inquisition was the branch of the Catholic Church responsible for witch hunts and witchcraft trials.

Originally a protest in DC had been planned, but the invitations were sent out over facebook. Facebook locked the event “private,” and apparently this ensured that it was only seen by three people. This is not the first time Facebook has directly interfered in protests in DC. Back in 2010, Facebook deleted the page for a protest at CIA headquarters against torture days before the event, but the protest was sucessful anyway. Later that year, they did the same to the “Spill into Washington” protest against BP’s oil spill. That event, organized for thousands, had only dozens present after facebook deleted accounts containing the only copies of contact lists and other crucial information. Years later, interference from Facebook seriously reduced the turnout at a protest against PETA killing most animals in their shelters. Facebook has become infamous for this sort of behavior.

In California, a mother and son are leading a 650 mile walk to every one of California’s missions to protest this canonization of a man described as a monster by many Native Americans. On the 19th of September the Walk For The Ancestors reached Santa Cruz, with 80 people in attendance. This was the site of one of the most notorious of these missions. Earlier last week at San Jose, another group of supporters included Chochenyo Ohlone matriarch Corrina Gould, whose ancestors were imprisoned in that mission but survived. In a debate held inside a nearby Catholic church, a priest asked Corrina Gould what she wanted, and she said first and foremost “we want our land back.” That, after all, is at the heart of what colonization is about: theft and displacement. She then had this to say about Junipero Serra, one of the architects of colonization in California “If he was a man of his time, then he was only a man. If he was a Saint, then he would have stopped the destruction and devastation.”

More information on what California’s mission system meant for Native Americans:


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