Ohlone Language Activist Responds to Canonization of Junipero Serra during Pope Francis’ Visit to the United States

In response to the canonization of Fr. Junipero Serra, “News from Native California” magazine’s Outreach Coordinator and Chochenyo language activist Vincent Medina (Muwekma Ohlone) offered the following statement:

“After months of thought and soul-searching on a very complex and difficult issue, I have decided that I will be attending the papal Mass that will canonize Junipero Serra.

At the mass, I will be reading in Chochenyo in front of an estimated 75,000 people in attendance and 500 million viewers here in the United States and across the world. I fully understand the significance and importance of this decision. I am attending this Mass for two reasons. My first and primary reason is that I am going for my ancestors; the brave people who suffered under the California Missions, and survived them. I am going to discredit misconceptions many have that California Indians are extinct, and to show that we are here–thriving and strong. Secondly, I am going because I am a Catholic. Pope Francis is a hero of mine because of his vision of a more inclusive and just Church.

I clearly and unequivocally would like to state that I am opposed to the canonization of Fr. Junipero Serra. His policies with the establishment of the California Mission system led to catastrophic conditions my own ancestors had to live under; our voices were silenced, many of our people perished, and our world changed in permanent ways. Despite this injustice, we persisted, and we are correcting those mistakes of the past that were imposed on us. As both an Ohlone and a Catholic I see no reason why Junipero Serra should be made a saint, and my attendance at this mass does not change my view on his canonization.

At the canonization my hope is that I will give a voice to my ancestors who were once silenced. I hope to show the world that we Ohlone people are an integral part of the patchwork of society in the twenty-first century, that the Chochenyo language is alive and thriving. I hope to show to the world that we are guided by the strength, dignity, and power of those before us.

Makkin mak hayya ta-mak horše. We fight to make it right.”

About News from Native California

News from Native California is a quarterly magazine devoted to the vibrant cultures, arts, languages, histories, social justice movements, and stories of California’s diverse Indian peoples. We strive to preserve the cherished knowledge of an older generation, provide opportunities for a younger generation making a place for Indian ways in the modern world, and illuminate the beauty of Native cultures to all of California. News from Native California is published by Heyday.

About Heyday

Heyday is an independent, nonprofit publisher and unique cultural institution. We promote widespread awareness and celebration of California’s many cultures, landscapes, and boundary-breaking ideas. Through our well-crafted books, public events, and innovative outreach programs we are building a vibrant community of readers, writers, and thinkers.