The Critical Mission Studies project critically re-engages the study of California Indian-Spanish relations, especially in regards to its emphasis on incorporating Indigenous perspectives and epistemologies. The approach stands in glaring contrast to the historically conservative and conventional scholarship endorsed by groups like the California Missions Foundation. A Critical Mission Studies approach challenges the biases, assumptions, and often unsound scientific frameworks and methodologies integrated into conventional scholarship, including the academic study of mission art. In addition to correcting the historical and intellectual record, the approach dismantles the fantasy heritage or romanticized accounts of the “mission era” that continue to undermine the real and present consequences of colonization and genocide of Native peoples.

Imagine sitting in an audience at an art conference at a major university as a descendant of missionized California Indians and listening to non-Native scholars describe the history...

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