Native Americans Accuse Gilroy Town Leaders of Ignoring ‘Mission Bell’ Objections – CBS San Francisco

GILROY (KPIX) – Native Americans in Gilroy accuse many town leaders of ignoring their repeated objections to the recent installation of a “Mission Bell” in the heart of town and plan to fight to have it removed.

“They don’t care, they’re going to tell the story the way they want it told,” Amah Mutsun tribal band chairman Valentin Lopez said.

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The El Camino Real Mission bell, which has been installed on Monterey Street downtown, is to celebrate Gilroy’s 150th anniversary. But Lopez said it instead symbolized a story of oppression and murder.

“These bells represent the destruction and domination of Native Americans,” Lopez said. “These missions represent slavery, they represent brutality, whippings, rape, the breakdown of families.”

When Lopez learned the bell was to ring downtown, he and several groups, including the ACLU, wrote letters urging city leaders not to go ahead with the project.

“We haven’t received any response from the city,” he said.

But they didn’t stop there. Lopez and other community members showed up at the January 10 council meeting and spoke out against the Bell Mission during public comments, including asking that it be officially discussed by putting it under the order of the day.

During the meeting, Councilor Rebeca Armendariz offered to postpone the installation.

“Tonight we have an opportunity not to condone and move forward in acknowledging historical wrongs and instead an opportunity to honor those who have suffered,” Armendariz said. “I hope we can organize a discussion to postpone the installation of the Mission or the El Camino Real bell.”

However, as Armendariz spoke, Mayor Blankley interrupted Armendariz.

“My request is that we recognize their voices, we ask for what they asked of us,” council member Armendariz replied to the mayor.

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The mayor then asked council to give a “thumbs up or down” to hold a discussion about the bell.

“I see one, two, three thumbs up for the move to fail,” Blankley said.

The bell was installed a few weeks later.

Blakley did not respond to KPIX 5’s request for comment.

Council member Zach Hilton said he was among three members who voted to table the discussion and said in a statement that “we should not approve the installation of any artwork, statues or symbols of oppression without examining them with fairness”. and the policy of inclusion.

Hilton said he would continue to work to put it on the agenda.

Last year, the Santa Cruz City Council voted unanimously to get rid of all of its mission bells. UC Santa Cruz also removed the bell from its campus several years ago, and Lopez said they stopped the city of Hayward from considering it completely.

There is now an effort by tribes across California, he added, to discuss a statewide campaign to remove all mission bells from government properties.

KPIX 5 has reached out to members of Gilroy City Council for comment. Council member Dion Bracco claimed in a statement to KPIX that referring to the bell as “Mission Bells” is incorrect and perpetuates a false misunderstanding of what they are: road markers. Most people who call them Mission Bells do so out of ignorance or to deliberately stir up passions.

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“They want to erase indigenous history, they want to continue their domination over indigenous peoples,” Lopez said.

Nohemi M. Moore