us ohlone won’t take it anymore.
I would like to share with you all a very frustrating email my boss (who is also my cousin Andy Galvan) received from a very disgruntled teacher who seemed upset that I am telling “too much” of the Ohlone story. Interesting, that 20 Missions focus almost solely on the Spanish invaders, but the one Mission has been making strides is getting attacked for being “too-Indian.”
I thank my cousin Andy from the bottom of my heart for supporting me and responding to her crazy, condescending words in a professional manner. Remember, education doesn’t always give common sense. I have attached her complaint email, and his response.
THIS IS WHAT CHANGE LOOKS LIKE!!!!!!!!!!
HER EMAIL TO MISSION DOLORES:
Dear Mr. Galvan - As a Spanish teacher who has been bringing my classes to Mission Dolores on and off for …20 years (and a bite to eat at a local taqueria afterwards) I would like to offer my perspective on your current tours. This will be the second time we have had Vincent as our tour guide….a young man with very sincere and good intentions. He is interesting and good with children. However.. he presents a one-sided view and the children walk away without any idea of Spanish customs, ways of dressing, their ideals or stories of Spanish California. There needs to be balance in the tour. At Waldorf school we tell stories. A story of an Ohlone native could also be balanced with the story of De Anza or Moraga or the first nun or almost any Spanish person. Maybe a wife who accompanied her husband. Perhaps it is felt that the children already have that perspective ..but truly they do not. What were the customs and clothing? What was the landscape around the mission? There were bears in the hills, and otter by the thousands in the Bay, and migrations of birds that blackened the skies. The women learned to sew and cook and were very gracious and devout hostesses. Anything that would give the children a view back into time.
Many were looking at the silver artifacts and garments - but nothing was mentioned about them…or the statues in the garden… One of our students had never been in a church before. What were the ideals that made them build a church? Also, some of our students are of Spanish heritage and clearly many more who come to Mission Dolores. Are they to walk away with no sense of the people of that time…just that they were oppressors of innocent native Americans? (That is the only sense that was imparted.)
I will need to find an alternative field trip for my Spanish classes unless you can have tour guides impart some sense of the Spanish heritage as well as the native Californians. I myself have native American ancestry…so I am very supportive of making it clear that native americans had a thriving society and suffered oppression. I also have Cultural Anthropology background …and years of teaching background…and want children to appreciate all cultures. Young children can be turned off by history if no sense of wonder (and fun) is established about this history. And when you walk into the Mission - one can feel that time has stopped. Why not help them to feel the wonder….and leave them with a few thoughts of hope among people? Vincent - as I mentioned - is young and has a particular agenda. I hope he and the mission can find a way to make the experience for these children more wholistic…and give them some pride in their Spanish ancestry as well. After all - the mission is in the middle of “The Mission District.”
Sincerely, Denise Deneaux Marin Waldorf School
MY COUSIN ANDY’S RESPONSE TO TEACHER
the style and content of Vincent Medina’s tour has my complete support.
Your perspective on the recent tour guided by Vincent is rare and unique in that all others who contact me after having experienced a tour with Vincent, voice only praise and enthusiasm in response to his presentation. The majority specifically request Vincent to be their guide when they book their next visit.
Today one becomes a little skeptical when one looks at history. Is it really worthwhile to take so much trouble to engage in historical research, to publish, and to lose so much time in the study of the history of the Church, of the Mission, and of the history of the Franciscans? After all, those historical records are lying there, dry as dust, in the archives. In retrospect, nothing can be changed now anyway. The present and the future are by far now much more important; it still lies within our power, and it is our responsibility to form it in a rational way.
History can never be changed, but it can change and inspire both the present and the future. Both the secular history of colonialism and the missionary history within the Church are colored by the fact that we have been indulging for a long time in a form of history-writing that was based on a Euro-centric view of the world. It is a history seen and written by Europeans in a triumphalist and self-justifying tone.
But that was only one half of the story, namely the story told by the victors. It was not until the 1950s as that history began to be written in Asia, Africa and Latin American, which shows the less laudable side of the Spanish Colonial movement. It is an unflattering portrait and one which reflects the way the oppressed colonial people thought and reacted.
I became curator of Old Mission Dolores on February 1, 2004, the first American Indian to oversee a California Mission. As curator I have the prodigious responsibility for running the daily operations of an historic site and museum that is also a working neighborhood church.
I’ve often joked about hanging a banner on the facade of the Old Mission that reads “Under New Management.”
The challenge at hand, is to present an interpretation of the historical records that is comprehensive, objective and critical. In this constant search for truth and this continual quest for fuller knowledge, it is inevitable that what one generation learns as fact and may even come to revere as absolute truth, subsequently may be reevaluated as incomplete, sometimes inaccurate and on occasion downright false. With this in mind, I have set two goals for my tenure as curator: to tell the accurate story of my ancestors and to give that story an academic slant.
Most people associate mission history with the early Spanish invaders and uninvited occupiers. The Ohlones and other peoples who lived in the communities surrounding the missions are left out of the story or portrayed only as victims of forced labor.
Proudly, I will tell anyone who will listen, that the missions were built by Indians and for Indians. There is much that has been neglected in the telling of the history of the Mission Indians. Because of the Spanish invasion, the native world was overwhelmed. The environment was dramatically damaged with the introduction of foreign plants and animals. The flu and measles epidemics were very destructive. It was a time of survival and my ancestors came into the missions to survive.
Even the casual acquaintance with history reveals it is a spiraling science, constantly subject to revision and development, as new discoveries are made, as more archives become accessible and as libraries are explored thoroughly. The acute researcher must broaden the field of investigation beyond mere documentation: one must be familiar with the latest findings and evaluated discoveries of the related sciences, such as archaeology and anthropology, geography, ethnology, sociology, and the like.
I’m rather pleased to report that I am not the only Ohlone involved in presenting interpretive programs relating to California Indians and Missions. Today, at the dawn of a new millennium, many Ohlone people as either members of organized tribal groups or as unaffiliated individuals are undertaking both public and private projects. Some are involved in protecting archaeological and historic sites. Others are consultants to groups developing exhibits on the culture and history of the Ohlones. And even others are conducting traditional religious worship services. No longer do we accept merely being presented as a passive hunter-gatherer culture; long gone and something to be remembered.
The Indian people who responsibly handle this particular section of our Golden State’s history, at least in the case of the individuals with whom I have had the pleasure to become acquainted, generally have impressed me with their sincere interest, their true enthusiasm and their real anxiety to present the accurate picture of the original inhabitants of the San Francisco Bay Region.
This desire for an accurate presentation of the historical facts is focused not only on events of the long past, but also our rather recent past.
The Presidio of San Francisco like Mission Dolores is a place of survival for Indian people. It represents a colonial institutional that was responsible for the suppression of the traditional life ways of our ancestors. We who return to it are like the Jews of Germany and Poland of World War II returning to the Nazi concentration camps.
Granted the evolutionary nature of the historical sciences, I will be among the first to admit that mistakes have been made in the past, are being committed in the present and will occur in the future.
Competent historians, archaeologists, anthropologists, ethnohistorians, and the such, would agree that an attempt to produce the definitive study of the California Indians of the San Francisco Bay Region and its Missions, covering twenty to thirty centuries with flawless accuracy is veritably the academic ideal.
The fundamental point I am reiterating is that the mines and their ores are available in quantity ever increasing. It remains our task to delve even more deeply into the quarries of learning and to carve for ourselves the living image in lineaments that are true and fair, realistic and objective. The sole bar before which we stand is that of history, where the only norms are fact and truth, evaluated correctly and interpreted legitimately.
Certainly, much of what I have written is subjective, many colleagues do their best to keep me objective. I agree that is comparatively easy to point out mistakes and simple to indicate errors. It is totally different and difficult to correct those mistakes and to supplant those errors with critical truth. Such is the task before all of us who study and write about the Alta California Franciscan Missions. It must be realized that such an accomplishment is necessarily slow, tedious and painstaking.
My family is proud of our connection with the Alta California Franciscan Missions; they are places where our ancestors converted to Christianity. According to family oral traditions, my great-great grandfather laid the cornerstone of the original Mission San Jose buildings, and my father laid the cornerstone of the restored Mission Church in 1982. And so the Missions, in many ways, are places of pilgrimage for me and many members of my family.
Often, I spend my own reflective and quiet time sitting inside the Old Mission Dolores chapel as tourists browse the ornate altars and Ohlone ceiling paintings. At Old Mission Dolores, as is the case at the reconstructed Mission San Jose Church, my favorite place is near the baptismal font (the Mission Dolores reconstructed font dates from 1995). At Mission San Jose, the old hand-painted copper font has been there since 1810, it is the place where my great-grandmother’s baptism was recorded in 1864. It is known that her parents were baptized there as well (Avelina’s grandfather Liberato was baptized at Mission Dolores). When I go to either font, I can feel the connection with my blood family over the generations, as well as my faith family over two millennia, reaching back to the river Jordan, and the saving waters poured out there.
As other Americans look for their roots in such far off places as Portugal, Spain, The Philippines, Vietnam, Ireland or Germany, I just step out the front door of my home, walk up the street to Mission San Jose (our get in my vehicle and drive 40 miles to Mission Dolores)-and I’m home, in those same places where my ancestors have lived and prayed for thousands of years.
My thoughts may be faltering, and my words may be stumbling, but my appreciation of the situation is guided by an unquestionable love and respect for my ancestors. In the meanwhile, may God continue to bless you and your family and the good works that you do.
Amar a Dios1
Andrew A. Galvan
An Ohlone, Bay Miwok, Plains Miwok, Coast Miwok and Patwin “Mission Indian”.
Curator, Old Mission Dolores, San Francisco
Principal Historian, Archaeor, Archaeological Consultants
President, Board of Directors, The Ohlone Indian Tribe, Inc.
Immediate Past President, Board of Directors, The Committee for the Restoration of Mission San Jose
Member, Board of Directors, The Junipero SERRA CAUSE for Canonization
Member, and Past President (1994-1997) Board of Directors, The California Mission Studies Association
Founding Member, The California Missions Foundation
Team Member, The Franciscan Pilgrimage Program