Breaking the Silence: Native Americans & Historical Trauma, II

Donna Shindler, who has spent 25 years working with indigenous peoples as a psychiatrist, continues telling her story:

(from) For Native Americans, Historical Trauma is Deadly

By Donna Schindler
Republished with the author’s permission

Democracy Now! interviews Valentin Lopez, chair of the Amah Mutsun Tribal Band, who led efforts to oppose Pope Francis’ decision to canonize Father Junípero Serra.

Multiple times, Valentin Lopez, Chairperson of the Amah Mutsun tribal band in Northern California, Bishop Quinn and I sent letters and a video regarding the trauma natives endured in the missions to Pope Francis, asking the Vatican to acknowledge the suffering that the Catholic church had caused the California Natives who built and were forced to stay in the missions.

Our only reply was from a Pope substitute who said he would pray for our intentions.

In 2015, Pope Francis said that he planned to canonize Fr. Junipero Serra, who had started the mission system in California in the 1700’s. Bishop Quinn, Chairperson Lopez and I invited Father Ken Lavarone (vice postulator for Serra’s cause) and Bishop Ed Clark of the California Bishops Conference to discuss the need for the church to apologize to the mission descendants and our concern that the Pope planned to canonize Fr. Junipero Serra.

A Cross of Thorns by Elias Castillo

Fr. Lavarone and Bishop Clark were not at all interested in our point of view.  When we mentioned the book A Cross of Thorns by Elias Castillo which is critical of the missions, both Clark and Laverone dismissed it, saying, “He’s not a historian.”  Castillo, a recognized expert on Mexico and three-time Pulitzer Prize nominee, spent years doing research for his book. 

Lavarone and Andrew Galvan, one of the few Indians who supported the canonization of Serra, were present on the altar during Serra’s canonization.

The stories that have been told regarding the California missions are unfathomable.  I used to find it difficult to believe the horrible stories I heard about what had happened to Native Americans. After many years, I no longer allow myself the luxury of not believing.

Clearly, not telling the truth regarding what happened in the California missions and canonizing the man who started them is like nailing the coffin lid shut—the suffering will continue and in a hundred years the true history may be lost.

“No Sainthood for Serra” Native American community members and Interfaith clergy leaders and supporters demonstrated outside of Mission Dolores in San Francisco to oppose the impending canonization of Junipero Serra by the Catholic church. Photo by Alex Darocy.

As a practicing Catholic for my entire life until 2015, I feel that it would bring great healing to both the descendants of the California mission Indians as well as the Catholic church for Serra’s canonization to be revoked, an appropriate apology and reconciliation to be made, and the truth to be told in the missions and elsewhere. 

Cleary, political silence is not a virtue.  I thank Donna Schindler for speaking out and all others who do so about the sad and tragic history of indigenous peoples on the American continents and indeed around the world.  And not to keep silence about the Discovery Doctrine that still reigns after 572 years.

See Matthew Fox, Confessions: The Making of a Postdenominational Priest, pp. 141, 144f., 154, 192, 224, 260, 279f., 373-76, 443f.

Also see Matthew Fox, Creation Spirituality: Liberating Gifts for the Peoples of the Earth.

To read the transcript of Matthew Fox’s video teaching, click HERE.

Banner Image: Indigenous People’s Day – October 12, 2020, Mission San Rafael Arcángel: Local native Coast Miwoks and allies rallied in front of the statue of Junípero Serra at Saint Raphael’s Catholic Church in Marin County, CA, calling for the removal of the statue and acknowledgment of Serra’s brutal legacy. After numerous impassioned speeches, the statue was covered with red paint and ropes were used to pull the statue down. Photo by Peg Hunter on Flickr

Queries for Contemplation

What can you do about the historical trauma that has been inflicted on indigenous peoples near and far?

Recommended Reading

Creation Spirituality: Liberating Gifts for the Peoples of the Earth

Fox’s spirituality weds the healing and liberation found in North American Creation Spirituality and in South American Liberation Theology. Creation Spirituality challenges readers of every religious and political persuasion to unite in a new vision through which we learn to honor the earth and the people who inhabit it as the gift of a good and just Creator.
“A watershed theological work that offers a common ground for religious seekers and activists of all stripes.” — Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat, Spirituality and Practice.

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12 thoughts on “Breaking the Silence: Native Americans & Historical Trauma, II”

  1. Richard Reich-Kuykendall
    Richard Reich-Kuykendall

    Matthew, Today Donna Schindler and you tell us about the injustice in canonizing Fr. Junipero Serra who treated the Native peoples like slaves in the building of his missions on the Camino Real. Schindler writes, ” As a practicing Catholic for my entire life until 2015, I feel that it would bring great healing to both the descendants of the California mission Indians, as well as the Catholic church, for Serra’s canonization to be revoked, an appropriate apology and reconciliation to be made, and the truth to be told in the missions and elsewhere.” And while we’re at it, why doesn’t the Church apologize for the burning of thousands of “witches” during the “burning times?” The United Church of Christ made public apology with regards to their common congregational roots with the Church in Salem where the Witch Trails and executions occurred…

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      Thank you, Richard for bringing up the Burning Times. As I listened to Matthew and read today’s meditation, it was all I could think of as well. Christianity and Western Europe has a heavy load attached to what we did to all Indigenous Peoples, and the Patriarchy has as well for the sins against Women (and some Men).

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    Ultimately, the soothing, comforting, and binding of deep historical wounds must come from those in solidarity with same, not from those unrepentant government and religious authorities who had a hand in perpetrating them. Sheep don’t ask wolves for help in how to best protect the flock from further damages once incurred from predatory activity.

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    My brother-in-law is a 60’s scoop survivor, and I have been apart of his healing journey in various ways. I have had the privelege of meeting other elders, listening and learning through their truth-telling stories… wanting to understand and support their journeys. I have also benefited greatly in my own healing of historical family trauma as a result of receiving the many blessings of their Indigenious teachings and participation in their sacred ceremonies. For this generous act of open hearted kindness of friendship… I am most grateful for. Humanity has alot to learn from the Indigenous Peoples, their culture and their spirituality… and we all aught to support them, in any way that we can in their journey of truth, reconciliation and healing.

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    Matthew, your recent and past DMs on the continued destructive effects of unbalanced, toxic, destructive values of patriarchal societies and institutions, including religious ones, for thousands of years around the world on Mother Nature, all Her creatures, and most of humanity, especially women and indigenous peoples, have sensitized us in many ways by the need to face this darkness as part of our collective and personal spiritual journeys. We are currently having to face the accumulated ‘harvest’ of these toxic and destructive patriarchal values and behavior, especially witnessing the destruction of Mother Earth and possibly the extinction of our human species. Along with other light workers, beyond denial of this darkness, we need to maintain our faith, prayers, and compassionate actions daily with-in our Living Present Divine Feminine Spirit of Love~Wisdom~Creativity~Justice~Healing~Mercy~Compassion~Oneness… with one another….

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    What can we do?
    1. Address the ill-gotten gains of property and related wealth from colonialism that benefit us. Transfer ownership of your congregation’s land to the Native peoples for whom it was home prior to colonization. Request they allow you to lease the land to continue to use it. For families, proceeds from homestead land that has been sold can be transferred to those from whom it was taken.
    2. Identify texts in the Christian bible that are harmful and contribute to Christian religious intolerance. (see list in The Great Evil, by Chris Mato Nunpa, PhD, appendix A, B, and C.) Have Bible publishers mark these passages with the advice to not take them as guidance for today, so they do no further harm.
    3. Make sure your denomination’s logo does not that juxtapose the cross with the globe to imply Christian domination.
    4. Identify sites in your area where Indigenous were martyred for practicing their religion.

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      Wonderful and practical suggestions. I would only add that our black brothers and sisters receive the same for all the homesteads and land that was stolen back from them after the brief liberalism of Reconstruction.

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    One obvious thing we can do is to stop celebrating Columbus Day, and eliminate it as a national holiday. It only serves to keep the wound open and bleeding..

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    To address this historical trauma, after we have journeyed into our own darkness, we can take both individual and group action by speaking up against any racial slurs that we come across personally and supporting peaceful actions or participating in them if we are able. The Sierra Club keeps track of all efforts to damage Mother Earth and sends out updates and suggestions for contacting appropriate authorities, sometimes Congress folk, sometimes EPA, sometimes the banks and insurance companies that are involved with the oil industry, etc. There is always the acknowledgement and inclusion of the fact that poor and indigenous people are usually also the victims in these attacks on Mother Earth.
    Regarding the outrageous canonization of Serra, I agree that every pressure should be brought to reverse this decision. It seems to me, as a non-Catholic that the whole canonization system is ripe for corruption. Please do not take offense.

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    We can break the silence with facts. Hitler’s genocide numbers were exceeded by those of Stalin, whose numbers were exceeded by Mao, whose numbers in the Americas, some scholars estimate, exceeded Mao’s by twofold or more. Yet those in the Americas don’t appear on any of the top 10 lists of holocausts.

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    What struck me most was the sentence in Donna Schindler’s book: “If we do not share common stories, we are not a nation,”. I’m currently reading The 1619 Project. I wish everyone could read these stories. This IS American history. A history we have not been willing to recognize and acknowledge.
    The story of the genocide of Native Americans saddens me, and more so because they are the main environmental activists to oppose dirty pipelines right now. (Standing Rock.)
    These realizations led me to declare that America needs to give the entire country back to the native people.

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