Santa Cruz, CA — As we approach the much-anticipated event, “Honoring Indigenous Voices,” set to take place on November 18th, 2023, at the Resource Center for Nonviolence (RCNV), our team engaged in a riveting conversation with Amah Mutsun Tribal Band Chairman Valentin Lopez. This interview, conducted by RCNV Executive Director Silvia Morales, delved into the critical mission studies, ongoing research initiatives, and the imperative for transformative action in the wake of historical truths.
In alignment with the event’s theme of connecting the goals of “Honoring Indigenous Voices” to the implementation of its messages and values in everyday life, Chairman Lopez emphasized the significance of unveiling the true history through the critical mission studies. “We’re going to be talking about the critical mission studies, to talk about its true history,” shared Valentin, emphasizing the importance of acknowledging and disseminating the authentic narratives of indigenous people.
One notable moment in the interview was Chairman Lopez’s revelation about a grant from the President of the UC System, totaling $1.1 million, allocated for research aimed at revealing the truth behind mission histories. “The project is being overseen by four campuses: UCLA, San Diego, Riverside, and Santa Cruz. We’ve been giving grants to students and organizations to conduct research on the true stories of what has happened at the missions,” explained Valentin. This research will culminate in a powerful exhibition featuring 40 different pieces of art.
Another highlight of the conversation was the discussion surrounding the development of a school curriculum specific to the Amah Mutsun, available online from K-12. Valentin acknowledged the contributions of Carolyn Rodriguez and Alexeii Sigona to this initiative, emphasizing the importance of educating the younger generation about the rich heritage of the Amah Mutsun people.
In the context of current events, Chairman Lopez addressed the incident involving the removal of mission bells. “Recently, there was an incident at the bell removal. We opposed the effort to install the bell in Gilroy and we opposed it. That’s just a reminder of the continued domination and oppression of our people,” he remarked, shedding light on the ongoing struggles faced by indigenous communities.
In response to a poignant story shared by Silvia Morales about her daughter’s experience during a high school presentation, Valentin expressed his sorrow, emphasizing the deep violation that occurs when the remains of ancestors are disturbed. “There is much work to do,” he acknowledged, highlighting the urgent need for education on native voices, histories, and legacies.
In a powerful statement, Chairman Lopez asserted, “The colonizers have a lot more healing to do than the indigenous people do. You can’t be responsible for massacres and brutal murder of our ancestors. Efforts of genocide of our people, their soul is deeply damaged yet they refuse to recognize the healing. It all starts with telling the truth, telling their story, and listening to them.”
As the conversation concluded, Valentin emphasized the healing power of learning the true history, symbolized by actions such as removing mission bells and changing the name of Cabrillo College.
“Honoring Indigenous Voices” stands not only as an event but as a catalyst for change, encouraging reflection, dialogue, and healing within our community.
For more information and to attend the event, visit RCNV’s Event Page.