Junipero Serra, a pastor from Spain was born in November 24, 1713 and lived until August 28, 1784. He is credited for founding the first nine of the twenty one missions in California and one mission in Baja.
The collective memory we share of someone or something is based on the experiences, oral history, facts, depictions and accounts of what they did and how they did it. The merry we have of Father Serra isn't much different, some honor him for his contributions to the catholic church while others shame him for how he treated the indigenous people he came into contact with on his religious conquest. Whatever our memory of him is good or bad, his impact on California cannot be denied we can examine the narrative he left by the many historic pieces of evidence left in his wake.
For the indigenous people that helped build the missions not everything about day to day life was focused on religion, in some cases they were forbidden to leave the premises at their own free will. There are two side to every story and while Father Serra had the indigenous peoples best interests at heart it didn't always seem that way. The inconsistencies between his narrative of his time with the natives is not similar to how the natives felt about his time in their land.
This passage of Junipero Serras diary is a prime example of his relationship with the native American people and his attitude towards them. Father Serra loved the natives and wished the best for them, in his eyes he was helping them by converting them to catholicism.
When Pope francis canonized Father Serra on september 23rd of 2015 naturally the process was met with mixed feelings. For some father Serras narrative of helping the native americans leave their "savage" life was hailed as a good thing but for many others this was not the case. The indigenous people Serra encountered weren't treated as people but merely savages form the Spanish point of view. friars would be assigned to the natives as legal guardians. After they were baptized they were discouraged from leaving the missions for fear of them being subjected to their former society. Does this sound like something a saint would do? it seems there are inconsistencies in the opinions people share of Father Serra, not all of them being positive.
"Oh god who by your ineffable mercy have been pleased through the labors of your priest saint Junipero Serra to count many american people within your church" -Pope Francis
Referring to the many Native Americans that Serra converted to catholicism, in the eyes of the church Serra was merely doing his job as a conquistador. However this is not the opinion that is shared by the people that father Serra affected with his forceful evangelism.
This letter from a spanish commander relays the quest for the native americans responsible for vandalizing mission San Diego. The mission along with all the other missions constructed for the same purpose was a monument to christ and a place for people to come to worship and be converted. For it to be destroyed by the same people that were supposed to be receiving the benefits of it tells us a lot about what the natives felt about the missionaries presence in their homeland.
Although this account may seem incomplete it does provide insight into the relationship Father Serra had with the native Americans and how they perceived him. originally approaching him in a violent manner with murder on their minds the natives were then coerced into accompanying father Serra to one of his missions to be converted!