The bells and bell towers of California missions dominate our visual cultural landscape. But for many California Native peoples, they evoke the state’s violent mission history and symbolize colonial regimentation and widespread land theft, environmental devastation, and genocide. Seeing the bells can trigger painful and traumatic memories of colonial history, echoing the ways in which the mission bells instructed their ancestors’ everyday lives. They rang in the mornings to awaken them, told them when to work, when to eat, and when to get back to work, reminding them they had to follow the missionaries’ instructions. Many tribal nations and communities, including the Amah Mutsun Tribal Band, are now working toward their removal.

Valentin Lopez, tribal chair of the Amah Mutsun, has dedicated his life to resisting and healing from the colonial impact of the Spanish, Mexican, and United States...

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