In the aftermath of the chaos surrounding Junipero Serra’s canonization, California Indians are exhausted. Whether we thought there was a chance of derailing Serra’s sainthood or just wanted to record our anger at the injustice of his canonization, we worked hard and pushed ourselves through an emotional hurricane the past year. We are not beaten, though; just bone tired, heart-weary.
So when I see people slamming Vincent Medina or other California Indians for their choice to remain Catholic, or even to participate in the ceremony, I want to say, look: it’s complicated. There is no one way to be California Indian. Many people think that my choices to live far away from our homeland, be active in academia, live as a Two-Spirit person, are very un-California Indian. And I admit that there are times when even I desperately wish I were living at home, learning things I can only learn from elders and people who have been working all their lives with the materials, languages, land and peoples of our homeland. But one thing I’ve learned in 54 years: each human being has individual talents and skills, and the trick is to figure out what yours are, and what choices you must make to put them to best use. I’ve made choices that not everyone approves of, or is comfortable with. The choice to come out. The choice to identify as Indigenous and commit to the work of decolonization (hey, as a mixed-blood, I could pass as vaguely ethnic and run with the unaffiliated pack). The choice to support a woman’s right to abortion. The choice to say, I’m not a Christian. Some people have written me off for those choices, even in my own family.