The Past Is the Past

As descendants of the Chumash family members who built Mission Santa Barbara, the Barbareño Band of Chumash Indians condemns in the strongest possible way the actions of those who desecrated the Mission buildings the morning of October 10, 2018. Those individuals who desecrated the Mission and the Fr. Serra statue in September of last year do not speak for the real Chumash descendants of the Santa Barbara/Goleta area who are members of the Barbareño Band of Chumash Indians, including our members who belong to the Catholic Church.

The actions of those individuals performing their deeds anonymously and in the darkness of night are in direct contrast to the pride we openly feel at being descendants of the Chumash who built the Mission and protected the Mission padres when their lives were in danger at times in the history of the Santa Barbara Mission. Simply put, the mission is sacred to us because we built it. Our DNA is in the foundation, the walls, and grounds. It is the resting place for many of our ancestors. When those individuals desecrated the Mission, they also dishonored the memory and spirit of our ancestors who gave so much for the building of the Mission.

The Barbareño Band of Chumash Indians acknowledges the suffering our ancestors endured as a result of policies of the Spanish government and the Catholic Church at the time our homelands began to be occupied by the Europeans. We also recognize the suffering of our ancestors caused by the actions of individuals within those institutions. The suffering to this day affects our community’s wholeness and our people’s balance of body, mind, and spirit. However, we strongly feel that the way forward to healing in our native community does not lie in constantly rehashing crimes and indignities against our people, reopening old wounds and retaining a victim mentality.

Healing does not lie in actions so out of step with the existing decorum of native protocol as beheading statues or pouring paint upon a church in the darkness of night. Those actions set back the healing process for our people and perpetuates the suffering. Healing in our Barbareño Chumash community lies in taking responsibility for our own healing: Recognizing the past for what it was, forgiveness for those who wronged us, and moving forward in peace, unity, strength and pride.

James Yee is chair of the Tribal Council of the Barbareño Band of Chumash Indians; Ernestine Ygnacio-Desoto is an elder in the Council.


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