California’s First Peoples were decimated with the arrival of the Spanish missionaries. As the story of Franciscan Spanish missionary Junipero Serra comes into the news, we must also lift up the whole peoples that he was complicit in destroying due to his limited understanding of the gospel at the time. As Christians, it is our responsibility not to condemn our ancestors for their unenlightened actions, but to take responsibility for what they did, ask forgiveness, and repair the harm. This includes making clear to the Vatican that the Papal Bulls of 1452 and 1493 (referred to as the Doctrine of Discovery) must be rescinded.
Read Thomas Reese’s interview with Robert Senkewicz, professor of history at Santa Clara University and an expert on early California history. His most recent book is Junípero Serra: California, Indians, and the Transformation of a Missionary, with Rose Marie Beebe.