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Seeking Peace With the Past

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Mission San Juan Bautista is the site of Saturday's reconciliation mass with the Amah Mutsun hosted by the Diocese of Monterey. Source: oldmissionsjb.org

By J.D. Hillard
Saturday the Diocese of Monterey and the Amah Mutsun band of Ohlone participate in a joint ceremony acknowledging the brutality of the missions and seeking reconciliation.

The waves of conquest the Amah Mutsun have weathered would test any people. Band Chairman Valentine Lopez said his parents taught him one way to survive was to pretend to be Mexican.

“That’s what their grandmothers told them,” he said. “And they’re grandmothers had the history of the executive order to kill all the Indians.”

The Franciscan monks and soldiers who built the missions were among the first of these waves. Mission San Juan Bautista, which grew into the town of San Juan Bautista, was established in 1797 near the villages of the Amah Mutsun band of Ohlone. According to the Mission the relations were friendly to start with. But the Spanish regime ordered the Amah Mutsun to resettle near the missions, convert to Christianity and work essentially as slaves. Spanish soldiers would hunt down and capture or kill those who resisted. Saturday’s Ceremony represents a change: until recently the church wouldn’t acknowledge its mistreatment of the Amah Mutsun. But in a recent meeting, Lopez said, the Diocese of Monterey offered something new.

“One of the things he offered was the mass of reconciliation and the second thing he offered was for me to go in and talk to an all-priests-for-the-diocese retreat and tell them the history of our people,” he said.

The ceremony at the Mission San Juan Bautista will include elements from the religion of the Amah Mutsun and Catholicism. It begins at 10:15 and is followed by a dance and a traditional Amah Mutsun meal.

To Learn more about the Amah Mutsun visit amahmutsun.org

The ceremony will be videotaped for subsequent broadcast by the Community Media Access Partnership.

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