Above photo: San Francisco street signed renamed by unknown activists. From Facebook page of Nancy Schimmel.
San Francisco, CA – After midnight on September 23, the day that Pope Francis canonized Junipero Serra during mass at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, DC., unknown activists – reported to be five elder white women – spent the night changing the signs all along Junipero Serra Blvd to “Toypurina” in honor of the Indigenous Shaman, known as the Native American ‘Joan of Arc,’ who led the revolt against Serra.
In “Pope Francis Canonizes Controversial Saint Serra,” Daniel Burke of CNN reports:
“Fifty different tribes in California condemned the sainthood conferred on Serra, said Deborah Miranda, a literature professor at Washington and Lee University in Virginia and a member of the Ohlone Costanoan Esselen Nation of California. She wrote ‘Bad Indians: A Tribal Memoir,’ a book about her ancestors’ experiences in the Spanish missions.
‘My objection and the objection of many California Indians is that he is being honored for in fact dishonoring many of our California ancestors. The missions ended up killing about 90% of the California Indians present at the time of missionization, creating all kinds of cultural and emotional baggage that we still carry to this day,” Miranda said. “It’s not a question of attacking the Catholic Church or attacking Pope Francis. It’s about making sure that the truth is heard and that injustices are not continued on into the 21st century.’
But the Native American campaign to stop Serra’s canonization never gained an audience in Rome, Miranda said.
‘We have gotten zero response from the Vatican, not a word. We do not exist, it seems, in Pope Francis’ world,’ Miranda said. ‘They’re interested in his record and in how many people he managed to convert and in the fact that he at this point in time is a famous Spanish person when the church really needs some positive PR, so they are purposely overlooking the deaths and the cultural genocide of Native American people because it’s to their benefit.'”
Activists in San Francisco plan to lobby their City Councils to officially rename Junipero Serra streets and parks for Toypurina.
Toypurina, who was the daughter of a shaman and a shaman herself, was young when Spanish missionaries and soldiers stole land from her village to build the San Gabriel Mission. At the age of ten she watched as thousands from her community were lured into the missions with gifts of clothing and blankets, then forced to labor on the mission’s farm and were chained and beaten when they tried to escape.
It is estimated that more than 200,000 Native Americans died during the Mission Period in California due to forced labor, poor diet and living conditions, disease, torture and murder.
In San Gabriel in 1785, when Toypurina was in her early 20’s, she helped to lead the revolt against the mission. Toypurina and many of her companions were eventually caught and thrown in jail. Cecilia Rasmussen of the LA Times described Toypurina’s questioning at the trial:
“As she entered the room with her hands tied behind her back, she immediately kicked over the stool on which she was expected to sit. Standing erect and proud, she stared fiercely at her judges….
Angrily, Toypurina lashed out in her defense: ‘I hate the padres and all of you, for living here on my native soil, for trespassing upon the land of my forefathers and despoiling our tribal domains.’
Her eyes filled with rage as she justified her actions: ‘I came to inspire the dirty cowards [Indians] to fight, and not to quail at the sight of Spanish sticks that spit fire, and not retch at the evil smell of gunsmoke–and be done with you white invaders!'”
Toypurina was eventually baptized and exiled to another mission where she died at the age of 39.
According to World Religion News –
“Only a few days after the Pope canonized Father Junipero Serra to the sainthood, the newly canonized saint’s statue and resting place was vandalized. The vandals broke into Carmel Mission, where the cadaver of St. Serra is buried, and poured paint over his statue, toppled other statues and damaged the gravesites. Looking at the target of such destruction, which were mainly the tombstones of the people with European origin, and that none of the Native American tombstones were touched; the police will be investigating the matter as a hate crime. After splashing paint across the cemetery and the basilica, the vandals etched “Saint of Genocide” on one of the headstones. This action, though surprising and unacceptable, may have a hint of truth due to the various controversies that surround the saint.”