'Symbol of racism' removed from UC Santa Cruz campus

SANTA CRUZ, Calif. (KGO) -- More than 100 tribal leaders, professors and students gathered to remove a bell from the grounds of UC Santa Cruz.

The mission bell is one of many that line a 700-mile trail between San Diego and Sonoma, known as the El Camino Real.

Tribal leader Valentin Lopez, who led the charge to take down the bell, said the history of the California missions is full of cruelty against the native population.

"That is a fictitious history and a lie that is told," he said. "This is a symbol of native destruction and oppression and domination and it's very offensive to us."

Lopez, who is the president of the Amah Mutsun land trust and represents the tribal territory that UC Santa Cruz campus now owns, has been working for years to have the bells removed.

In a gesture of trust and collaboration, he was joined by more than a hundred students, professors and other tribal leaders on Friday morning to officially take down the bell.

"It was really powerful today to recognize that we have heard them, we have listened to them and that we want to take this bell down, this bell that symbolizes death and destruction," said Amy Lonetree, professor at UC Santa Cruz.

"Most of the students didn't even know the bell was there, didn't understand what the symbol was or even challenged what they learned in the 4th-grade curriculum," said Renya Ramirez, professor at UC Santa Cruz.

Ramirez's hope is that the event will have an impact on students and their awareness of tribal history in California.

The bells will now be either melted down and turned into something peaceful. Or put in a museum, side-by-side the story of why it was taken down from a tribal perspective.

"We've started a journey and we've traveled one mile but let's see what happens over the next 800 miles," said Lopez.
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