UC Santa Cruz removes historic bell deemed ‘symbol of racism’ from campus

UC Santa Cruz removed a bell from campus Friday since a Native American group deemed it “a symbol of racism and dehumanization of their ancestors.”

According to a press release from the school, the El Camino Real Bell memorializes the many Spanish missions in California, and was originally donated to the school by a women’s club “many years ago.” It has been on campus since the 1990s.

The Amah Mutsun Tribal Band worked with the school over the past year to facilitate its removal.

“The Amah Mutsun are the direct descendents of the tribal groups whose villages and territories fell under the sphere of influence of Missions San Juan Bautista and Santa Cruz during the late 18th, 19th and early 20th centuries,” the release reads.

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Valentin Lopez, chairman of the Amah Mutsun Tribal Band, said the bell is a “deeply painful symbol” for Native Americans whose ancestors were converted to Christianity at the missions in the 18th and 19th centuries.

“These bells are deeply painful symbols that celebrate the destruction, domination and erasure of our people,” he said. “They are constant reminders of the disrespect our tribe faces to this day.”

“Val brought forth concerns to us about the symbolism of the bell,” Sarah Latham, vice chancellor for Business and Administrative Services said of discussions with Lopez in a statement. “He spoke of the historical injustices and oppression that the bell represents to the Amah Mutsun and indigenous populations. 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.”

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Latham said UC Santa Cruz students “have also given voice to the need to remove the bell.”

The Amah Mutsun said the bell should either be placed it in a museum with “proper historical context” or melted down, according to the Associated Press.

The university has yet to decide what to do with the bell.

Eric Ting is an SFGATE staff writer. Email: eric.ting@sfgate.com | Twitter:@_ericting

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This post was originally posted at https://www.sfgate.com/bayarea/article/UC-Santa-Cruz-bell-racist-removed-missions-Native-14030487.php.

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