Steven Newcomb: Celebrating the genocidal legacy of the church

A statue of Junipero Serra with an Indian boy. Photo by Anatoly Terentiev / Wikipedia

Steven Newcomb of the Indigenous Law Institute addresses the announcement by Pope Francis to bestow sainthood upon Junipero Serra, the founder of the brutal Indian mission system in California:
Pope Francis’s decision to grant sainthood to Father Serra by canonizing him celebrates the genocidal legacy of the Spanish Catholic mission system of domination. Pope Alexander VI unleashed that devastating system on our original nations shortly after Cristobal Colón made a successful voyage to from Spain to the Caribbean and back. The pope’s decision to canonize Serra constitutes a celebration by the Holy See of the empire of Christendom, and its efforts to achieve the “spiritual conquest” (domination) of our “infidel” ancestors, in the name of “the Prince of Peace.”

Robert Jackson, in “The Dynamic of Indians Demographic Collapse in the Mission Communities in Northwestern Spain,” gave a grim sense of the devastations of the Spanish Catholic Mission system: “Finally, more than 90 percent of the children born in the missions died before reaching age 10.” In his sampling of the Baja and Alta California missions, Jackson stated: “In other words, the population of the seven Baja California [mission] establishments experienced a mean rate of 83 percent decline, and 90 percent in the Alta California missions.” The life expectancy at birth, he said, was 7.4 years for the seven Baja California mission[s], and 4.5 years for 20 Alta California establishments.”

Given the unsaintly and deadly toll that Father Serra’s Catholic mission system had on Native families in Alta California, it is a cruel irony that Pope Francis will finalize his canonization of Father Serra during the World Meeting of Families, in “The City of Brotherly love,” the territory of our Lenape Nation.

Get the Story:
Steven Newcomb: Father Serra a Saint? Reaffirming the Holy See’s Documents of Domination (Indian Country Today 2/4)

Related Stories:
RNS: Critics question sainthood for the 'Columbus of California' (2/3)
Sainthood for founder of brutal California Indian mission system (01/22)
Steven Newcomb: Church set to sanctify legacy of domination (1/19)

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