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Retired bishop apologizes for mistreating the Miwoks

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  • Robert Schmidt
    http://www.marinij.com/lifestyles/ci_7816920 Retired bishop apologizes for mistreating the Miwoks Beth Ashley Article Launched: 12/26/2007 09:47:48 PM PST You
    Message 1 of 1 , Dec 27, 2007
      http://www.marinij.com/lifestyles/ci_7816920

      Retired bishop apologizes for mistreating the Miwoks

      Beth Ashley
      Article Launched: 12/26/2007 09:47:48 PM PST

      You could have heard a pin drop when Bishop Francis A. Quinn, during a Mass
      at the Church of St. Raphael in San Rafael, apologized to the Miwok Indians
      for cruelties the church committed against them two centuries ago.

      Indians who were present seemed stunned.

      The retired bishop, in green brocade robes, lofty miter and carrying a
      shepherd's crook, lent heart and historical gravitas to the Mass, part of
      the 190th birthday celebration of Mission San Rafael Arcangel the other
      day.

      Coast Miwok Indians once occupied the lands from the Golden Gate to north
      of Bodega Bay. When Spanish padres launched the San Rafael mission in 1817,
      the Indians built it, maintained it and helped it survive, according to
      anthropologist Betty Goerke, who has studied the Indians for 30 years.

      But they paid dearly for their participation. Bishop Quinn conceded that
      the church authorities "took the Indian out of the Indian," destroying
      traditional spiritual practices and "imposing a European Catholicism upon
      the natives."

      He conceded that mission soldiers and priests had sexual relations with
      Indian women and inflicted cruel punishments - caning, whipping,
      imprisonment - on those who disobeyed mission laws. He acknowledged that
      the Indians had a "civilization" of their own - one that valued all of
      nature - long before the Spanish imposed an alien, European-type life upon
      them.

      "I was teary-eyed" at his words, Goerke said. "There have been other
      anniversary events at other missions, one where a priest hinted that they
      were sorry, but this surpassed them all."

      Greg Sarris, who heads the Miwok tribal council, formally called the
      Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria, said the apology was historic. "I
      have not heard of this happening anywhere else in this country," he said.

      He was not only astounded at the apology - "it was huge" - but also by the
      bishop's appreciation of the culture.

      After the Mass, Sarris spoke at a gathering in the St. Raphael's school
      gym.

      "With the permission of my people," he said, gazing at Bishop Quinn, "I
      accept your apology."

      Most of those in attendance probably were unaware that many of the
      remaining 1,000 Coast Miwoks still feel the pain of their early
      subjugation.

      "Many, many of us are Catholics," Sarris said. "Some who are Catholics
      don't think much about the past. Others who are Catholics are still angry.
      And many of us left the church because of colonization, for which the
      church was the main instrument."

      Sarris traced the history of the Miwoks, not recognized as a modern-day
      tribe until 2000. "The Spanish came here and were homeless, far from their
      homes in Europe," he said. "And they made us homeless, too, driving us off
      our land."

      The Miwoks, and some Pomos from southern Sonoma, now make up the Federated
      Indians of Graton Rancheria. They are intent on reviving their culture,
      relearning their language and their tribal arts. They plan to resume
      stewardship of what once were Indian lands.

      The tribe has already made huge contributions in the Sonoma area, giving $2
      million for development of organic gardens in every Rohnert Park
      neighborhood, and funding land restoration projects near Highway 37 and in
      the Laguna area of Santa Rosa.

      The money is borrowed against future proceeds of the casino that the
      Indians plan to build on property near Highway 101 west of Rohnert Park.
      The complex, which is moving forward despite protests, will offer high-end
      gaming and shows, entertainment, several restaurants and a 30-room hotel.

      Teri Brunner, curator of the mission museum, said, "It was magical to have
      priests and Miwoks together again, in a peaceful setting, celebrating and
      honoring one another."

      Says Sarris: "It gave me great hope that we could move forward hand in hand
      and make a home for all of us in this land."

      After all - as Bishop Quinn reminded us - the Miwoks were here first.

      Beth Ashley can be reached at bashley@...
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