San Jose & Santa Clara: Encounters with Priests and Presidents


On Monday evening, we reached Mission San Jose after crossing through the wetlands of the South Bay. On the steps of the Mission chapel, we were greeted by a strong group of supporters and indigenous people, including Chochenyo Ohlone matriarch Corrina Gould, whose ancestors were enslaved at Mission San Jose. We also encountered Andrew Galvan, an Ohlone descendant who is a paid emissary of the Catholic Church and an outspoken supporter of Serra’s sainthood, and soon found out he’d hatched a plan of his own for the evening.

Galvan had arranged for two priests, a deacon, and two nuns to be present, and to have the Chapel doors open, so that we might be beckoned inside. After smudging and holding a circle of introductions and story sharing on the steps outside, we cautiously stepped into the chapel for what became a surreal collision of opposing interests. Read More

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!

“There’s no respect at all for our ancestors. That needs to change.”


Sept. 10 Update: Coast Miwok Territory—San Rafael, CA (Mission #20) to Sausalito, CA

Two full days of walking brought us to Mission San Rafael, then over the hills to the waterfront at Sausalito. We came upon Mission San Rafael at dusk last night, Caroline and Kagen both expressed being surprised by the sense of dread they felt upon first sight of the bell tower. Exploring the Mission grounds, we got out flashlights in order to read the offensive and racist historic plaques.

We learned that the burial ground here is actually covered over by two driveways, a parking lot and a building. There is no sign, no marker, nothing to indicate that there are hundreds of indigenous ancestors buried beneath the asphalt. San Rafael was built in 1817 as a sort of hospital built to handle the large amount of gravely ill Indian people at Mission Dolores (the Mission’s website terms it a “sanitarium for sick natives”), but it also served as a northern extension of the Missionaries’ conquering frontier. Records kept by the Fathers indicate at least 800 were buried here between 1817 and 1839.

“There’s not even a respectful sign, not even a memorial or anything. There’s no respect at all for our ancestors. None. That needs to change,” Caroline Ward Holland says. “Call them, write to them, email them. We need to do something. Tell them that you understand that there is no grave marker for the ancestors, and there needs to be something there. They need to work directly with the Coast Miwok tribes to create some kind of memorial sign that tells the truth.”

We stood together for a minute of silence, in the middle of the driveway where the burial ground has literally been covered up. We also put up a temporary sign on the fence by the driveway: “Indian Burial Ground: Respect the Ancestors. Tell the truth.” A second sign was written in Spanish, with the same message.

Caroline spoke with a parishioner that we saw in front of the church. She told him what we were doing and he said “Burial ground? I’ve never heard of a burial ground.” She pointed out that the fine print on a faded map on one of the historical plaques indicates the location of the burial ground, just west of the church (a woman in the church office later confirmed the location). “The sign only talks about how many people they saved there, and how many people they did wonderful things for, you know? It’s disgusting, really. They did such wonderful things, but they can’t give them a grave marker?”



The walk through Coast Miwok territory from San Rafael to Sausalito was breathtakingly beautiful at times, as we crossed through marsh lands, Corte Madera Creek, and a series of forested ridges with sacred Mt Tamalpais towering above. We were fortunate to be joined for the day’s walk by Sergio, a Mexica dancer from Santa Rosa who is also a Peace and Dignity Journeys runner. Also, Johnella Sanchez and Nancy Willis, organizers of the Shellmound Peace Walk, walked with us through Novato yesterday and brought their helpful advice and blessings.

We also learned that Mission San Rafael was attacked by Coast Miwoks in 1824, under the apparent leadership of Huicmuse (Chief Marin) and Quintino, as discussed in Betty Goerke 2007 book, Chief Marin: Leader, Rebel, and Legend. Huicmuse, a skilled boatman, “would use the [Marin] islands as a hideout to elude the priests and military while sailing back to the Missions to cause trouble.”

As per Caroline’s request (above), please call or write to:

Saint Raphael Parish
Phone: (415) 454-8141
1104 5th Ave, San Rafael, CA 94901
Click here for a list of email addresses.
Rev. Mr. Gene Smith, Permanent Deacon (415) 457-5860
Msgr. Romulo Vergara, Administrator(415) 454-8141 x 19
Rev. Andrew Spyrow, Parochial Vicar (415) 454-8141 x 21
Rev. Santos Rodriguez, Parochial Vicar (415) 454-8141 x 23
Rev. Antonio DeReis, Parochial Vicar (415) 454-8141 x 18

Camped near Olompali, schedule changed

Caroline Ward Holland and Kagen Holland. Theres way too many vineyards up here!

Caroline Ward Holland and Kagen Holland. Theres way too many vineyards up here!

Today was a good day of walking, although high temperatures and blisters slowed down our pace. We realized that it would be necessary to adjust the schedule to give us more time for walking between Missions. Thus we’re recalculating dates and distances, and have thrown out most of the previously released dates except for Carmel on the 23rd (the day we expect Sainthood to be officially declared) and Santa Cruz on the 19th. San Rafael is now Thursday at 9:00am, and Mission Dolores in San Francisco will be on Sunday morning. The schedule page will continue to be kept up to date.

A highlight of today was walking along the margin of Olompali State Historic Park (near Novato), named after the large Coast Miwok village which once thrived there. According to Wikipedia, a Coast Miwok man with the Spanish Mission name of Camilo Ynitia was “the only Californian Native American in Northern California to confirm and keep a large Mexican-era land grant in the post—Mexican Cession U.S. era.” We spent some time with the buckeye and oak trees at Olompali. The Petaluma River could be seen in the grassy valley below. After Olompali, Mt Diablo appeared on the horizon, a reminder that we are nearing Ohlone territory. Thanks for reading.

Solano, CA—Mission #21—We’re on our way

Today, with a small but strong circle of 10 people, the Walk began. Before gathering to share words and prayers, we stood before three large marble plaques on which are inscribed hundreds of Spanish names, given to baptized Indians who perished in the Solano Mission. We read each name out loud.

We walked together south from Sonoma, and are currently camped out along the route to San Rafael. Tomorrow, bright and early, we will continue on our way— walking with the ancestors in our hearts.

Things are coming together. Thank you to all who have reached out in support. We are continuing to seek regional coordinators for each area, contacts of local tribal leaders, and people to join us at the Missions and walk with us. Please be aware that today we decided to change the gathering time at each Mission from 10:00am to 7:00am, to give us that many more daylight hours to walk. More updates soon—thanks for reading!

Walk begins Monday—Support Requested!


Caroline Ward Holland and Kagen Holland—seen here on the coast off Santa Cruz, this morning—are on their way up to Sonoma, CA to begin the first leg of their 650 mile pilgrimage in honor of the tens of thousands of California Indian ancestors who suffered and perished in the Mission system. They are eager to begin. We expect this first morning’s gathering to be small— the walk will gather strength and numbers from here on out.

This website and the associated Facebook page will be updated periodically with reports from their journey and announcements of any schedule changes. You can also subscribe to our email list and “like” the Facebook page to stay in the loop.

We have only just begun to get the word out about this momentous journey, and we need your to help us spread the word! We also are asking for support in many forms—please visit our Support and Participate page for more information. Many thanks.