SAN JUAN BAUTISTA -- Catholic Church leaders and Native Americans will gather Saturday at Mission San Juan Bautista for ceremonies aimed at healing historic grievances.
Bishop Richard Garcia of the Monterey Diocese will offer a Mass of Reconciliation and share a meal of elk, deer and acorn with members of the Amah Mutsun Tribal Band. Ceremonies also will include tribal dancing and singing. All are open to the public, but seating at the mass will be limited.
To the Amah Mutsun, whose members trace their lineage to the native peoples taken three centuries ago to the missions in Santa Cruz and San Juan Bautista, the event represents the church's first public acknowledgement of the impact of that history on their traditional culture.
"What happened at the missions was a very huge negative impact," said Valentin Lopez, tribal chairman. "We lost our language. We lost our way of life. We lost our land. All that happened at the missions. Then came the Mexican period and the American period, and it went on and on for seven, eight, nine, 10 generations."
The bishop could not be reached to comment Friday, but the diocese provided a written statement.
"I believe as a Roman Catholic Bishop that it is necessary to create opportunities for forgiveness, healing and paths to move beyond our brokenness," the bishop said in the statement. "So many people have experienced crises that have caused division in their families, in their communities and
Lopez said the Amah Mutsun, which includes Awaswas speakers associated with the Santa Cruz Mission and Mutsun speakers from San Juan, also will be celebrating the culture they are trying to restore and bring into the open after generations underground.
His ancestors lived in the region for thousands of years, and they are still here, said Lopez, adding his great-great-grandmother was the last of the Awaswas speakers. But tribe members are scattered. Few can afford to live in their historic lands today, he said. Many will be traveling from homes in the Central Valley to attend the unprecedented ceremony.
"This is an opportunity to tell our history in an honest way," Lopez said. "There were Indians who lived here, and we're still here today and we're continuing."
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IF YOU GO
Day of Reconciliation
WHAT: Native Americans and Catholic leaders gather for ceremonies aimed at healing historic grievances
WHEN: 11 a.m. Saturday traditional tribal dancing and intertribal singing; 1 p.m. Mass of Reconciliation
WHERE: Mission San Juan Bautista, 406 Second St., San Juan Bautista