Calif. university removes mission bell from campus

Native Americans see it as a racist symbol

By Jason Hanna, CNN
Cody Glenn/AP via CNN

The El Camino Real bell marker appears up close before its removal Friday at UC Santa Cruz.

The University of California, Santa Cruz has taken down a cast-iron bell that memorialized Catholic missions in the state after a Native American group argued it was a symbol of racism and oppression.

School employees removed the bell from its spot outside the Hahn Student Services Building during a ceremony Friday.

The school decided to remove the bell after discussions over the past year with Amah Mutsun Tribal Band, a group of Native Americans along California's Monterey Bay.

The group's chairman "spoke of the historical injustices and oppression that the bell represents to the Amah Mutsun and indigenous populations," Sarah Latham, the university's vice chancellor for business and administrative services, said in a post last week on the school's website.

"It was such a compelling statement of impact and I am pleased we have been able to work in partnership with them on the removal. Our students have also given voice to the need to remove the bell."

The bell is one of many that can be found across California memorializing the missions, and they're "viewed by many populations as a symbol of racism and dehumanization of their ancestors," the university's post reads.

This one was given to UC Santa Cruz by a women's club years ago, the school said.

"These bells are deeply painful symbols that celebrate the destruction, domination and erasure of our people," Amah Mutsun Tribal Band Chairman Valentin Lopez said in the school's online post. "They are constant reminders of the disrespect our tribe faces to this day."

The university hasn't said what would become of the bell.

Earlier this decade, the Amah Mutsun Tribal Band opposed the Catholic Church's canonization in 2015 of Junipero Serra, an evangelist who oversaw and founded Catholic missions in Spanish America, including in the current state of California, in the 1700s.

Last year, Stanford University stripped Serra's name from two campus buildings and a pedestrian mall.

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