California Indians, Scholars Discuss Impending Canonization of Junípero Serra

March 13 symposium at UC Riverside will address life and work of founder of California missions, impact on Native peoples

images of Junipero Serra and California Indians

A March 13 symposium at UCR will explore issues related to the impending canonization of Junípero Serra from the varying perspectives of California Indians.

RIVERSIDE, Calif. – California Indians and scholars of Native American history will discuss issues related to the decision by Pope Francis to elevate to sainthood Junípero Serra, the controversial founder of California’s mission system, at a symposium March 13 at the University of California, Riverside.

“California Indians, Canonization of Junípero Serra, and Consequences of Colonialism” will begin at 9:30 a.m. in the Rupert Costo Library, located on the fourth floor of the Tomás Rivera Library. It is free and open to the public. Parking is free; permits may be obtained at the kiosk on West Campus Drive at the University Avenue entrance to the campus.

Junípero Serra, the Franciscan priest and president of the Sacred Expedition of 1769, founded the mission system that led to Spain’s colonization of California and the decimation of the state’s Indian population in the 18th and 19th centuries. He is viewed by some as a pioneer and religious icon, and by others as a colonial imperialist.

Clifford Trafzer, UCR distinguished professor of history and Rupert Costo Chair in American Indian Affairs, said that Serra serves as a case study of history “as past and prologue, part of the circular way of approaching history.”

“UC Riverside is an ideal place to bring together California Indian people and scholars who have worked on the Mission Era of California and American history so they could have an intellectual exchange on the life and work of Serra, realities of the Spanish mission system, and the consequences of colonialism,” explained Trafzer, who also is director of UCR’s California Center for Native Nations. “UCR is a research university, which encourages diverse avenues of inquiry and interpretations.  It is neutral ground, a wonderful gathering place for discussions about the contemporary connections between the past and present.”

Participating in the morning panel are moderator Terria Smith, interim tribal liaison for First Nations Experience (FNX), the first national television broadcast channel dedicated to programming for Native American and indigenous people, Cahuilla; Andrew Galvan and Vincent Medina, Muwekma Ohlone; Julia Bogany, Tongva; Will Madrigal, Cahuilla; Jonathan Cordero, assistant professor of sociology at California Lutheran University; George Harwood Phillips, professor emeritus of history at the University of Colorado, Boulder; James Sandos, professor of history at the University of Redlands; James Fenelon, professor of sociology and director of the Center for Indigenous Peoples Studies at California State University, San Bernardino; and Steven W. Hackel, associate professor of history at UC Riverside and author of the 2013 biography “Junípero Serra: California’s Founding Father.”

The afternoon panel, which will begin at 1:30 p.m., includes moderator Charles Anthony Sepulveda, a Ph.D. student in the UCR Department of Ethnic Studies, Tongva/Juaneño;  Valentin Lopez, tribal chair of the Amah Mutsun Tribal Band; Galene Townsend, Shoshoni; Sean Milanovich, a Ph.D. student in the UCR Department of History, Cahuilla; Robert Perez, associate professor of ethnic studies at UCR, Apache; Monica Archuletta, Pueblo; and Lisbeth Haas, professor of history at UC Santa Cruz and author of “Pablo Tac, Indigenous Scholar” and other books on Spanish colonial history in California.

The symposium will provide an opportunity for California Indians with differing interpretations about the Serra canonization and the continuation of colonialism to speak from their tribal perspectives. The gathering is sponsored by the California Center for Native Nations, Rupert Costo Endowment, Native American Student Programs, Native American Education Program, UCR Library, Costo Library, UC Riverside, and the Sacred Places Institute for Indigenous Peoples.

Media Contact


Tel: (951) 827-7847
E-mail: bettye.miller@ucr.edu
Twitter: bettyemiller

Additional Contacts

Clifford Trafzer
Tel: (951) 827-1974
E-mail: clifford.trafzer@ucr.edu

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