Posted on September 13, 2015
San Francisco update— walking the Bay’s edge
Friday, we walked across the Golden Gate and through the concrete and steel edifices of San Francisco, arriving at Mission Dolores to find a group of about 20 people who had come out to join us on less than 24 hours notice. (Thanks, all of you!) We were honored to be received by Mutsun Ohlone descendants Hank Herrera and Catherine Herrera, who offered their blessings and support. “I honor your sacrifice on behalf of all of our people, as you continue this long and difficult journey,” Hank Herrera said.
Many stories and thoughtful words were shared. “I am so thankful for these people bringing this history to light, of the people harmed and killed by the California Mission System,” said April Cotte, who came out from Pacifica to support the walk. “I pray this will start some of the healing and change that needs to happen when we tell the story of the California Missions.”
We were informed that between 1776 and 1850, 6,682 indigenous people were baptized at Mission Dolores, and 5,328 died and were buried there. In other words, about 80% (79.7) of those baptized died. And where are the graves of these 5,328 ancestors (and many more who died after 1850)? Apparently, they are scattered beneath the streets and buildings of the neighborhood surrounding the Mission.
According to a scholar who has joined in supporting our Walk, overcrowding & terrible sanitary conditions at Mission Dolores were the main reasons for the high death rates. This was especially the case for women. English Captain George Vancouver visited Mission Dolores in 1792, and wrote that conditions within the monjerias (women’s dormitories): "were so abominably infested with every kind of filth and nastiness, as to be rendered not less offensive than degrading of the human species."
We are now walking the western shore of the San Francisco Bay, towards Mission San Jose, on Chochenyo Ohlone territory in Fremont. Our feet are weary but our spirits are high and we’re singing as we walk, thanks to the moving invocation of the ancestors and gestures of solidarity we received at Friday’s gathering, and the beauty of the Bayshore wetlands. Caroline just completed an interview with a KPFA reporter and a television interview with Al Jazeera America which we are told will air on Wednesday.
We finally nailed down a schedule for the next week, for each stop between San Jose and Carmel. Please help us get the word out to folks in each area! We will be in Fremont tomorrow (Monday) 6:30pm at Mission San Jose, joined by Chochenyo Ohlone community leader Corrina Gould. Then, we’ll walk all day Tuesday and are asking people to gather at Mission Santa Clara at 12:00 noon on Wednesday. We invite you to stand with us or walk with us!
I am a historian of native California and Indigenous Histories of Colonial and Mexican California. I am so moved by the walk and the reclaiming of Indigenous colonial spaces for and in honor of the ancestors. I would like to join you on October 10 and 11. Do you have any idea where you might be?
I would also like to publish an article on the walk, if you are interested, as yet another way to get out the message about native Californian history and the rights of descendants in the post-canonization moment.