California campus removes bell marking Catholic missions

June 21, 2019
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A detailed view of graffiti on an El Camino Real bell marker located at UC Santa Cruz is shown before being officially removed on Friday, June 21, 2019, in Santa Cruz, Calif. The cast-iron bell marker is one of hundreds in the state which memorializes the California Missions and viewed by the Amah Mutsun Tribal Band and other California indigenous people as a racist symbol that glorifies the domination of their ancestors. (AP Photo/Cody Glenn)

LOS ANGELES (AP) — A university in Northern California removed a bell marking the 18th century Catholic missions that Native Americans say glorifies racism.

The University of California, Santa Cruz invited community members to the campus to witness the removal Friday of the El Camino Real Bell.

Named after the route taken by Franciscan priests, the bell was one of hundreds displayed across the state.

Many Native Americans say the missions cut their ancestors off from their traditional languages and cultures and enslaved those who converted to Christianity.

The university’s vice chancellor of business and administrative services, Sarah Latham, said the decision to remove the bell came after outreach attempts this past academic year.

The school listened to members of the Amah Mutsun Tribal Band as well as students and community members about what the bell meant to them, she said.

The university ultimately moved forward with the removal “in support of efforts to be more inclusive,” Latham said.

The Amah Mutsun identified two acceptable options for the disposal of the bell: placing it in a museum with proper historical context or melting it down.

The university hasn’t decided on the bell’s fate, but it will “do more outreach” to find the best solution, Latham said.

The bell was placed on the campus in the 1990s and was a copy of the original mission bells.

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