Donna Schindler is a psychiatrist and author of Flying Horse: Stories of Healing the Soul Wound (to which I wrote a Foreword). Recently, when Pope Francis apologized to Canadian First Peoples, she wrote the following article. We first met at meetings with indigenous peoples protesting Serra’s canonization several years ago. I remember an indigenous elder saying to me, “if the Pope canonizes Serra, he will be making war with indigenous peoples the world over.” Sadly, Serra was canonized.
As we have been considering, there are times for silence; but there are also times for speaking out and breaking silence.
For Native Americans, Historical Trauma is Deadly
By Donna Schindler
Republished with the author’s permission
The Pope’s recent apology to Canadian natives sharply contrasts with the lack of apology to descendants of the California missions and subsequent canonization of Junipero Serra.
I have been a psychiatrist for nearly four decades and have worked with indigenous people in New Zealand, the Navajo Nation and California. For the last 25 years, I have been trying to help native communities heal from intergenerational trauma. For colonized indigenous people throughout the world, the unhealed trauma of the past is passed down from generation to generation resulting in epidemic rates of depression, suicide, domestic violence, substance abuse and illnesses.
Like many California residents, I didn’t know much about the history of the missions. Then one day, in 2007, my colleague Joyce Gonzales leaned over to me during one of our community historical trauma groups at a Native American clinic and whispered, “You know, Donna, the Indians were slaves in the missions.”
I had never heard that before.
I began visiting the missions and reading all I could about them, looking for any trace of the Indians that had built them and lived in them. While visiting Mission San Diego, I felt compelled to tell the only other person there, a white man, that the Indians hadn’t been treated well at the missions.
Without so much as a pause, he replied, “It’s because they had to wear shoes.”
Lack of knowledge amongst otherwise educated people regarding Native American history is shocking.
At Mission Carmel there is only one place that mentions the Indians. It’s a room with a nondescript map entitled “The Indians.” There is a star with a line drawn to it. Nothing else. No note in the cemetery of the Indians who had built the mission and died there.
I met Bishop Francis Quinn in 2007, just after reading an article about a homily he gave to the Miwok Indians, commemorating the 190th anniversary of the founding of Mission San Rafael Archangel, north of San Francisco. Quinn apologized to the Indians for the mistreatment they received at the hands of the Franciscans.
The Indians wept. Greg Sarris, their tribal chairman, told the Associated Press that the apology was “unprecedented.”
To be continued
See Matthew Fox, Confessions: The Making of a Postdenominational Priest, pp. 141, 144f., 154, 192, 224, 260, 279f., 373-76, 443f.
To read the transcript of Matthew Fox’s video teaching, click HERE.
Banner Image: Mosaic of St Junipero Serra, ‘Apostle of California’, is depicted in a mosaic above the north arch of the East Portico of the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception just a few feet from where Pope Francis was seated at the Canonization Mass for Serra Flickr. Photo by Fr Lawrence Lew, O.P., on Flickr.
Queries for Contemplation
Do you agree that silence is sometimes God-like; but sometimes it is radically inappropriate?