Missions of Culture: Reclaiming Indigenous Wisdom with Caroline Ward Holland

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EcoJustice Radio welcomes Caroline Ward Holland, a Tribal citizen of the Fernandeño Band of Mission Indians or Tataviam Nation, as she speaks on the ongoing movement to topple controversial Mission monuments and mythologies. She recounts with host Carry Kim her Walk for the Ancestors [http://walkfortheancestors.org/] in 2015, a pilgrimage she embarked upon with her son, Kagen Holland, to honor the Ancestors at all 21 missions in California.

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Caroline Ward Holland speaks on the controversial movement to take down statues associated with the California Mission and the Catholic Church.

In 2015. When Pope Francis announced he would move forward with the canonization of Junipero Serra, Caroline set out on a 780 mile journey to honor the Indigenous Ancestors who suffered and perished throughout the Mission System. Walking from the last mission built in Sonoma CA to the first mission built in San Diego. This experience put her in a completely forward direction advocating for historical truth and promoting healing in truth. Caroline sits on the University of California’s Critical Mission Studies advisory board, comprised of numerous Mission Indian Scholars as well as Tribal Leaders.

Unmonumenting the Architects of Genocide, Enslavement and Mass Incarceration

Source: https://bit.ly/unmonumenting

In 1976, Spain gifted the statue of King Carlos III to the City of Los Angeles as part of the country’s bicentennial (200 year) celebration and was installed at MacArthur Park along the path of the Portola Expedition (1769–1770). Every one of those intentional decisions of celebration and deliberate placement of markers was meant to reinforce conquest and domination through acts of violence.

In 1987, former Councilmembers Gloria Molina and Richard Alatorre opposed relocating the statue of King Carlos III to Olvera saying that the community would see it “as a symbol of colonial Spanish tyranny,” but yet the remaining Councilmembers approved the relocation.

When Indigenous and Black Peoples talk about violence, we are speaking of not only the visible damages but the invisible ones as well. It is common knowledge that intergenerational trauma is a reality whose symptoms and manifestations are currently an issue in our communities. The quest for dominance by cis-hetero white men and the imposition of patriarchal and white supremacist frameworks is what these monuments represent and reinforce.

Caroline Ward Holland speaking on her 2015 Walk for the Ancestors to allk 21 missions in California with her son Kagen Holland.

For all these reasons, these monuments must be toppled, removed, de-accessed (expunged from government art collections), and why the Indigenous Peoples of each respective community, city, and county where these monuments stand need to have agency in deciding what happens to them.

Right now to our understanding, the two Serra statues that were removed from city parks (June 20 at Olvera and June 28 at Brand Park/Mission San Fernando) sit in storage. At a time when the Mayor proposed cuts to our arts and culture department, the City had resources to pull a team together to gently remove the Serra statue in Mission Hills without public knowledge and for an undisclosed high expenditure. But again, these two objects which we guarantee are worth less than their weight in scrap metal, sit in storage paid for by Taxpayers. The cost of storing and maintaining these objects of white supremacy receive better care than our unsheltered community members. And now as a consequence, the Archdiocese of Los Angeles wants them for free!

We, Los Angeles, track mountain lions (P-22!) to protect them, we set up reserves to ensure the Big Horn Sheep don’t become extinct, the presence of bears in our backyards are a news highlight, there are laws to protect the illegal harvesting of white sage and we have programs to bring back the California Condor from the brink of extinction. We also have universities dedicating millions of dollars to help the Red Abalone thrive again, however, Los Angeles City and County are still designed to eliminate the presence of Indigenous Peoples. Yet, as cultural workers who have produced programs at LA City parks, we have to endure the ridiculous amount of bureaucracy that exists to just offer a free cultural art workshop to our youth. Workshops that are a response to our school districts failure in accurately providing adequate education around the impact of the Mission system. A failure that extends into monuments and statues like King Carlos III, Serra and Gov. Neve which remain physically visible to the public and while at the same time purposely invisible of their historical white supremacy.

We demand better. We demand justice, We demand sovereignty. We demand liberation.

Along with Serra, Governor Felipe de Neve and King Charles III were the architects of genocide, enslavement, and mass incarceration here in what is currently known as California. Who these individuals were and what contested good deeds they might have done, as perceived by some, matters less to the great harm they caused not just to the Tongva, Tataviam, Chumash, and Acjachemen Peoples of the Great Basin area but also to the natural world they helped steward.

Therefore on the 4th of July, the same date that commemorates this country’s tyranny upon Indigenous Peoples, we demand the removal of both the King Carlos III and Governor Felipe de Neve statues at Olvera.

Fernandeño Tataviam Band of Mission Indians: https://www.tataviam-nsn.us/

Interview by Carry Kim
Hosted by Jessica Aldridge
Engineer: Blake Lampkin
Executive Producer: Jack Eidt
Show Created by Mark and JP Morris
Music: Javier Kadry
Episode 73
Photo by Erick Iñiguez / https://www.instagram.com/erickphotolenz/

Updated 20 August 2020

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About Jack Eidt

Novelist, urban theorist and designer, and environmental journalist, Jack Eidt careens down human-nature's all consuming one-way highway to its inevitable conclusion -- Wilder Utopia. He co-founded Wild Heritage Partners, based out of Los Angeles, California. He can be reached at jack (dot) eidt (at) wilderutopia (dot) com. Follow him on Twitter @WilderUtopia and @JackEidt