"We want to follow in the footsteps of the ancestors. Wherever their villages were, that’s what they were forced to do: walk to the Missions.
We want our ancestors to know that we understand their suffering. And we’re going to voice it, so people will know that it wasn’t a posh life with the Catholics feeding you, and protecting you. No, it was a horrible existence for them. It’s really heart-wrenching, it’s sickening, you know.
They were people just like we are. We want to feel what they went through, and try to let everyone else know what really happened. It’s almost like, bringing them to life though what we’re doing, basically.
It won’t be such an easy road, you know, to feel what they went though. There’s gonna be a lot of things that we’ll realize or feel that the ancestors will tell us. Hopefully something that we learn will change something. Maybe just one word will help someone to understand. Those words will be given to us as we walk. We’ll know. We’ll be able to express it the right way, and we’ll say it out loud. Someone’s gonna get it.
To me, the disease brought here [by the Franciscans] was secondary, in comparison to the ways they tortured our people, mentally, and physically. The stories of the atrocities are passed down. Mothers were giving themselves abortions so their children wouldn’t face a life of abuse. And you know, even when they left the Mission [after secularization], they had nothing. They took their land, they took their culture, they took their spiritual practices…so the people didn’t know who they were.
That’s why we’re talking about cultural trauma. I didn’t realize it was going on, until I really thought about it. I mean, it’s still me, and it’s hundreds of years later, and I’m still feeling this. You can feel it all around you at the Missions, too.
The trauma, it doesn’t go away, you just learn how to live with it. And it’ll never go away. I think that anybody who has any kind of compassion for humanity, would definitely say, this is wrong. They would not go forward with condoning Serra, and the fact that they’re going to make him a Saint.
When I go to the cemetery to see my Nana, I remember what she used to say. When I was little, I spent the night at her house. She said, don’t bring me flowers when I’m dead. Buy yourself a pair of shoes, you’re gonna need them. And I swear, I took that with me my whole life, I’m 50 years old, and that’s what I think she meant. Buy yourself a pair of shoes, you’re gonna need them, because I know you’re gonna do this. Today, I don’t have to think about that ever again. I know this is exactly what she meant.
We are walking to honor our ancestors, at this time right now, when they’re being so totally disrespected. We don’t want to forget, and we’re not going to forget. Until we make things right."
—Caroline Ward Holland, Tataviam
(transcribed from a recorded interview 9/6/15)
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