“….History says that we needed missions because we were savages and we needed religion,” says Carolyn Rodriguez, a youth group leader with the Amah Mutsun Tribal Band. “But we had our religion. We had our own way of life. We didn’t need to be forced into another one.”
On Saturday, the Tribal Band led a ceremony to signify the removal of a bell marker from the intersection of Soquel and Dakota avenues in Santa Cruz, which is now the first city in California to remove all bells from public property. The Tribal Band is comprised of descendants of the tribal groups who fell under the influence of the San Juan Bautista and Santa Cruz missions in the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries.
Originally, the Tribal Band planned to remove the bell following a public speaking event at Mission Plaza Park and a procession to the site. But late Friday night or early Saturday morning, the bell was stolen.
Santa Cruz Police Chief Andy Mills confirmed the theft on Saturday. Mills said police do not yet have any suspects, but they did collect evidence and are searching for surveillance footage.
“We believe we will be able to make some progress in the not too distant future,” he says. “We certainly will investigate the hate crime aspect of this, should it be a hate crime. [Saturday] we are making a visual presence so people feel comfortable and safe.”
Former Santa Cruz Mayor Justin Cummings spoke out against the theft of the bell at the rally in Mission Plaza before a crowd of about 400 people.
“I strongly condemn the illegal removal of the bell in the cover of night,” he said. “These types of shameful acts are not acceptable. This is a time to honor all Indigenous people. Today we are not here to cancel history, but to get it right.”
Valentin Lopez, Chair of the Tribal Band, says the theft does not matter in the long run.
“It was going to come down anyways,” Lopez says. “The most important thing is that it has been removed. The ceremony was a time for prayer and for the community to come together. It was a time to acknowledge the true history of the missions and move towards healing.”
He also says that the removal did not change the ceremony “in any way.”
“We had the same prayer, same speakers and same message,” he says. “[It] brought Native peoples and non-Natives together to reflect, pray, to learn, and to recognize it is time for change and time for healing.”
….The bell was replaced Saturday with an informational metal sign that describes the reasons for its removal. The sign will eventually be replaced by a permanent memorial which will be developed by the Tribal Band and the city of Santa Cruz.
Lopez said the Tribal Band is continuing its work in removing more bell markers statewide. This includes a campaign asking for bells on state property to be removed….
The above comes from an Aug. 31 story in Good Times.