Sunday, September 27, 2015


We have a new, much needed, ferry in the San Juans this summer. It was named the  SAMISH and is the the second 144-car ferry. The total cost of the vessel was approximately $126.45 million (people wonder why we don’t have more ferries!). Who are the Samish the ferry is named after?

The SAMISH ( means “those who stand up and give) peoples were some 45 to 60 thousand strong in the 1800s throughout the San Juan Islands. They were  comprised of the Salmon Fishing People, the Planting and Gathering People, and the Shell Fish Gathering People, all nomadic tribes. Linguistically and culturally, the Tribe is grouped as Coast Salish, speaking a dialect of Coast Salish known as “Straits Salish,” rather than Lushsootseed dialect of some of our immediate neighbors to the east.

Through the years, they were assigned to reservations dominated by other Tribes, for instance, the Swinomish Indians (Anacortes)  and the Tulalip Tribes (Marysville). They are also enrolled in the Samish Indian Nation, formerly known as the Samish Indian Tribe, which regained federal recognition in 1996.

As part of a larger Coast Salish cultural complex the Samish formed a village community, which consisted of several important social groupings. These groupings can be listed as 4 units: the family, the house group, the villages, and the tribe as a whole. Samish tribal members married outside of their groupings, so as to create a network of “kinships.” These kinships regulated both the internal and external relationships between the families, the house groups, the villages, and the tribe as a whole. The Tribe relied on these relationships during bad times in order to be able to access areas of food and shelter that was not currently in their home territory.

Lawrence Yuxweluptun, Coast Salish- Scorched Earth,
 Clear-cut logging on native sovereign land, shaman coming to fix
Samish people were respected for their spiritual strength as well as their skillful carving of canoes and construction of longhouses.In 1847 the Tribe had over 2,000 members and because of the raids from Northern Tribes and epidemics of measles, small pox, and the ague (flu), the population of the tribe was decreased to approximately 150 at the time of the signing of the Point Elliott Treaty in 1855. This was a treaty in which Northwest Indians ceded their homelands in exchange for federal protection and benefits. Reportedly, 113 Samish were present on the treaty grounds for the signing. The signatories also included a dozen other tribes.

For reasons unknown, the tribe names Samish and Lummi were left off the final draft.
However, many Samish refused to go to the reservations and stayed in their traditional territory. They were often confused with the Skagit, and when they went to the Swinomish Reservation, they received only six household land allotments for the entire Tribe.

Their chief declined the US government’s offer of a reservation because they didn’t want to leave their ancestral lands. Three years later, their lands were taken from them, no deed given. Now only a handful of their tribe remain, approximately 1600 world wide and 60 here at home. Only 8 Samish people know how to speak the original language because it was forbidden once the government took over the lands Although the tribe is scattered throughout the San Juans, their home base is in Anacortes.

Many members went to Guemes Island to establish New Guemes (now referred to as "Potlatch Beach"), where they built a longhouse that housed more than 100 people. By 1912, the Samish had either moved onto the Swinomish Reservation or into other communities. They had been pushed off the island by white settlers, as the Samish had occupied the land with the only fresh water.

The Samish fished in the islands and channels off the coast of Skagit County. They had villages on Samish, Guemes, and Fidalgo Islands, and fished and harvested resources there and in the San Juan Islands.  After the Treaty, some Samish moved to the Swinomish or Lummi reservations.

The Samish Nation's historical territory includes west Fidalgo Island, Guemes Island, Samish Island, Lopez Island, and southeast San Juan Island. A 19th century promise of a reservation was not fulfilled, but the Samish Nation has been building a land base since the 1990s. The Samish Nation's land base includes 78 acres held in trust at Campbell Lake on Fidalgo Island.

Button Blankets of Coastal Salish

The Samish also were noted for their spiritual heritage. When foods were harvested, they were believed to be survival gifts from ancestors, to whom they responded with thanksgiving prayers or songs.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015


The Spanish missions in Alta California comprise a series of 21 religious and military outposts; established by the Franciscan order between 1769 and 1833, to spread Christianity among the local Native Americans. The missions were part of the first major effort by Europeans to colonize the Pacific Coast region, the most northern and western of Spain's North American claims. The settlers introduced European fruits, vegetables, cattle, horses, ranching and technology into the Alta California region; however, the Spanish colonization of California also brought with it serious negative consequences to the Native American populations with whom the missionaries and other Spaniards came in contact.

The government of Mexico secularized the missions in the 1830s and divided the vast mission land holdings into land grants which became many of the Ranchos of California. In the end, the missions had mixed results in their objectives: to convert, educate, and "civilize" the indigenous population and transform the natives into Spanish colonial citizens. Today, the surviving mission buildings are the state's oldest structures and the most-visited historic monuments. And everyone has their favorites.

Patient years of labor, heroic decades of sacrifice by St. Junipero Serra, his Franciscan Padres, and the California Indians who supplied the labor lie behind the founding era of the 21 missions. Most of the missions still stand, sources of wonder and beauty originally a day's ride on horseback apart, along 600 miles of California's beautiful coastline. By the time the last mission was built in 1823, the Golden State had grown from an untamed wilderness to a thriving agricultural frontier on the verge of American statehood.

San Miguel- Ferdinand Deppe (First painting of a Mission)

The first leg of El Camino Real was forged by General Gaspar de Portola on his journey from San Diego to find Monterey Bay. Tracing his path, missionaries, colonists and soldiers all traveled its dusty stretches; it was the only road between the few civilized outposts. The road was later identified with the missions because the padres maintained the roadway and offered hospitable lodging to all. It served as the north-south stagecoach route after California became a state in 1850, and in the 1920s bronze mission bells were placed along the highway to let motorists know they were traveling the historic El Camino Real.

Interesting to note, St. Junipero Serra only founded seven of the missions, the first being San Diego in 1769 and the last in 1782, San Buenaventura (Ventura).  In between came: St. Charles Borromeo (at Carmel), San Antonio de Padua, San Luis Obespo, San Juan Capistrano (my favorite), and Santa Clara.

Julius Ludovici- 1860s

Julius Ludovici- 1860s

 Father Fermin Lasuen founded nine of the missions and the remaining were found singly by other Franciscan friars.  Father Lasuen founded Santa Barbara in 1786 followed by: La Purísima Concepción, Santa Cruz, Nuestra Señora de la Soledad, San José, San Juan Bautista, San Miguel Arcángel, San Fernando Rey, and lastly San Luis Rey de Francia in 1798.

San Gabriel Arcángel was founded in 1771 by Fathers Pedro Cambon &  Angel Somera and
San Francisco de Asís (Mission Dolores) in 1776 by Father Francisco Palóu.

Santa Inés in 1804 by Father Estevan Tapis, San Rafael Arcángel (1817) by Father Vicente de Sarria and the last mission founded, San Francisco Solano in 1823 by Father Jose Altimira.   

Capistrano- Karen Winters
The 21 missions that comprise California's Historic Mission Trail are all located on or near Highway 101, which roughly traces El Camino Real (The Royal Road) named in honor of the Spanish monarchy which financed the expeditions into California in the quest for empire. From San Diego to Los Angeles, the historic highway is now known as Interstate 5. From Santa Clara to San Francisco, the road is called State Highway 82. North of San Francisco, Highway 101 again picks up the trail to the mission at San Rafael. From there, State Highway 37 leads to the last mission at Sonoma.

Largely reconstructed after the ravages of time, weather, earthquakes and neglect, most of the missions still operate as active Catholic parishes, with regularly scheduled services. Some interesting facts about a few of the missions:.

San Carlos Borromeo de Carmelo, 2nd mission
Founded by Father Serra in 1770 on Pentecost Sunday, this mission was considered to be his favorite, and both he and Father Lasuen are buried here. It served as the ecclesiastical capital of California and also as Father Serra's headquarters for administrative duties as presidente of the missions. Set against the sea and mountains 115 miles south of San Francisco, this beautiful mission presents the complete quadrangle courtyard typical of mission architecture.

San Carlos- Shelley Cost
San Gabriel Arcangel, 4th mission (The mission I visited most as a child)
Founded in 1771 by Junipero Serra, this fortress-like structure with five-foot thick walls and narrow windows is a design not found in any other mission. Located nine miles east of downtown Los Angeles, at one time it covered several hundred thousand acres; one fourth of the wealth of California missions in stock and grain was credited to San Gabriel. One bell, which weighs a ton, can be heard eight miles away.

Edward Vischer

San Luis Obispo de Tolosa, 5th mission
The humble chapel built of logs was dedicated to St. Louis, Bishop of Tolosa in 1772, and was the first mission to use tiles extensively on the roof due to repeated attacks by Indians who used flaming arrows to ignite the original thatched roof. Situated in the fertile, well-watered Valley of the Bears, the mission produced an abundance of crops, and two water-powered grist mills processed foods normally ground by hand. The mission underwent an extensive restoration program in the 1930's and today welcomes visitors to its nearly-original condition.

San Francisco de Asis, Mission Dolores, 6th mission
On a site selected by Juan Bautista de Anza, the first mission church was a 50-foot long log and mud structure that was eventually moved to higher ground, adjacent to Lake Dolores which gives it its second name, Mission Dolores. Dedicated to Saint Francis by Father Serra in 1776, today the mission sits in the heart of San Francisco and is the oldest building in the city. Much of the original church interior is intact and the guilded reredos and colorful wall paintings are good examples of early California art.

San Juan Capistrano, 7th mission (My Mother lived just miles away after my Father died- so a family favorite).
The chapel at Mission San Juan Capistrano, built in 1782, is thought to be the oldest standing building in California. Known as "Father Serra's Church," it is the only remaining church in which Father Serra is known to have celebrated the rites of the Roman Catholic Church (he presided over the confirmations of 213 people on October 12 and October 13, 1783).

San Juan Capistrano
Named for Crusader Saint John of Capistrano and designed in the shape of a cross, the great stone church once held seven domes and a bell tower so tall it could be seen from ten miles away. Severely damaged by an 1812 earthquake, the ruins are currently being preserved by archaeologists and engineers.  A gilded altarpiece illuminates the Serra Chapel of 1777, the oldest building still in use in California and the only surviving church where Father Serra said mass. Each year on St. Joseph's Day, March 19, the mission celebrates the return of the cliff swallows from Argentina with a traditional Mexican fiesta.

Santa Barbara, 10th mission
Founded in 1786, the "Queen of the Missions" was the first to be christened by Father Lasuen, and has continuously served as a parish church for the local population since its founding. The church was destroyed in 1925 by earthquake; however, restorations have returned it to its original grandeur of wrought iron, terra cotta and carved wood. Patterned after an ancient Latin chapel in pre-Christian Rome, its twin bell towers and Doric facade present an imposing impression of strength. Fr. Serra was present at the founding of the Presidio of Santa Barbara in  1782, but was prevented from locating the mission there because of the animosity of Governor Felipe de Neve.

Santa Barbara- Paul Grimm 1945

La Purisima Conception, 11th mission
Founded in 1787 by Father Lasuen the mission is located 50 miles west of Santa Barbara. Considered to be the best example of mission architecture.

Nuestra Senora de la Soledad, 13th mission
The padres named this mission for Our Lady of Solitude in 1791, which fits the isolated location of Soledad. Settled next to the Salinas River in the pastures and rolling hills 45 miles south of Monterrey, this lonely outpost was cold, damp and frequently whipped by winds. The soil was rich and the water plentiful however, and by 1805 Soledad was producing more than 100,000 bushels of wheat per year, owned nearly 17,000 head of livestock, and had become well-known for its hospitality.

San Juan Bautista, 15th mission
Founded by Father Lasuen in 1797 this mission was unwittingly located directly above the San Andreas fault. Much of the original structure remains and has been restored to once again be the largest California mission church and the only one with three aisles. It was named for John the Baptist. Musical arts were taught here and the mission owned many instruments, which the Indians readily took to. Father Tapis developed a colored musical notation system and taught the Indians to read music as well as play it. Some of the parchments with colored notations still survive and the reredos behind the altar is so well-preserved that the paint is still brilliant.

San Luis Rey- Mary Helmreich

San Luis Rey de Francia, 18th mission
Known as the King of the Missions, San Luis Rey de Francia lies in a sheltered valley just east of Oceanside on State Highway 76. Named for Louis IX, the crusading King of France, the cross-shaped church was dedicated on the Feast of St. Anthony in 1798 by Father Lasuen. Architecturally the most graceful of California's missions, it has been restored according to the original plans and designs.

Santa Ines, 19th mission  (my second favorite- just for the memories and emoteness- at least once a year in High school, friends and I would venture there with a picnic).
Named for a 13 year-old Roman martyr, St. Agnes, who refused to sacrifice to the pagan gods in 304 AD, Santa Ines was dedicated in 1804 by Father Estevan Tapis. Amazingly, it survived the numerous earthquakes. It has lovely gardens that appear today much as they did nearly 200 years ago.

Santa Inez- Edward Vischer

Friday, September 18, 2015


The pope's decision to canonize ST. JUNIPERO SERRA, has led to some controversy, particularly over how he treated Native Americans.  Well, many Jews opposed the canonization of St. Benedicta of the Cross (Edith Stein). If we listened to the complaint of people who do not always see the total picture, we would have a lot fewer saints (or other greats for that matter). Junipero Serra was canonized because he was holy, not because he was perfect! We need to see he was a man of his times- and there was much wrong with the missionary approach of those days- just as there has been throughout history- even today.

Ruben Mendoza, a professor of archaeology at California State University, Monterey Bay, a person who describes himself as being of Mexican-Indian descent, told Catholic News Service that Serra was devoted to the Native Americans and to sharing the Gospel with them. "The irony is that, over these many years, those same communities tend to criticize him for what he did: evangelize them and bring them a different way of looking at the world."

"I think he would have been mortified if he realized the very people that he loved, that he devoted his life to, would now see him as the culprit in their disintegration," Mendoza said.

He said many of the Spanish missionary's critics are confusing the impact of Spanish colonizing and missionary activity on the native communities with what happened after California became a U.S. territory in 1848.    

                                                                                                              "A decimation of the Native American population in the period after 1850; Serra had no connection to that phenomenon. Those who criticize Serra the most tend to conflate the American period with that of the missionaries."

Another major objection to Serra's canonization involves reports that Native American adults at his mission were beaten. "There is no documentation that the new saint himself abused any Native American.  The system under which he operated did use corporal punishment, but that was also used for transgressors from all walks of life, including soldiers."

Mendoza supports the canonization and said he believes it "has much to offer the peoples of Latin America, especially those of us of Mexican-Indian heritage who currently live under a shadow of doubt and denigration."

Msgr. Francis Weber, a historian and former archivist of the Los Angeles archdiocese, noted "five nations have concluded that Father Junipero Serra was worthy of being honored on a postage stamp - that's a distinction even more rare than canonization."

Msgr. Weber said church officials in California and at the Vatican spent "72 years sifting through" historical evidence to verify that he lived a holy life, loving God and serving others. "Serra did this in a way that went far beyond the average person. He traveled to the periphery of the world - California was the end of world back then - to share his love of God with the Native Americans, whom he deeply loved and they loved him in return."

Sunday, September 13, 2015


Pope Francis is scheduled to canonize JUNIPERO SERRA on Sept. 23 at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington.

Junípero Serra Ferrer (1713-84) was a Spanish Franciscan friar who founded a mission in Baja California and the first nine of 21 Spanish missions in California from San Diego to San Francisco, which at the time were in Alta California in the Province of Las Californias in New Spain. He began in San Diego on July 16, 1769, and later established his headquarters near Monterey, California, at Mission San Carlos Borromeo de Carmelo.

The missions were primarily designed to convert the natives. Other aims were to integrate the neophytes into Spanish society, and to train them to take over ownership and management of the land. As head of the order in California, Bl. Serra not only dealt with church officials, but also with Spanish officials in Mexico City and with the local military officers who commanded the nearby presidios (garrisons).

Bl. Serra was born as Miquel Josep Serra i Ferrer to a family of humble means, in Petra, Majorca, Spain. On November 14, 1730, he entered the Alcantarine Franciscans, a reform movement in the Order, and took the name "Junipero" in honor of Saint Juniper, who had also been a Franciscan and a companion of Saint Francis.

Few people realize how well educated he was. For his proficiency in studies he was appointed lector of philosophy before his ordination to the Catholic priesthood. Father Serra was considered intellectually brilliant by his peers. Prior to his departure to the Americas at age 27, he was assigned by his superiors to teach philosophy in professorial status to students at the Convento de San Francisco. He received a doctorate in theology from the Lullian University in Palma de Mallorca, where he also occupied the Duns Scotus chair of philosophy until he joined the missionary College of San Fernando de Mexico in 1749.

That same year he journeyed to Mexico City, where he taught. While traveling on foot from Vera Cruz to the capital, he injured his leg in such a way that he suffered from it throughout his life, though he continued to make his journeys on foot whenever possible. He requested a transfer to the Sierra Gorda Indian Missions some 90 miles north of Santiago de Querétaro, where he spent about nine years. During this time, he served as the mission's superior, learned the language of the Pame Indians, and translated the catechism into their language. Recalled to Mexico City, he became famous as a most fervent and effective preacher of missions.

In 1768, Father Serra was appointed superior of a band of 15 Franciscans for the Indian Missions of Baja California. The Franciscans took over the administration of the missions on the Baja California Peninsula from the Jesuits after King Carlos III ordered them forcibly expelled from New Spain.Serra became the "Father Presidente."

Jen Norton
 The next year the Spanish governor decided to explore and found missions in Alta (upper) California. This was intended both to Christianize the extensive Indian populations and to serve Spain's strategic interest by preventing Russian explorations and possible claims to North America's Pacific coast. Father Serra accompanied this party. When the party reached San Diego on July 1, Father Serra stayed behind to start the Mission San Diego de Alcalá, the first of the 21 California missions.

During the remaining three years of his life he once more visited the missions from San Diego to San Francisco, traveling more than 600 miles in the process, in order to confirm all who had been baptized. He suffered intensely from his crippled leg and from his chest, yet he would use no remedies. He confirmed 5,309 people, who, with but few exceptions, were Indian neophytes converted during the 14
years from 1770.

On August 28, 1784, at the age of 70, Father Junípero Serra died at Mission San Carlos Borromeo. He is buried there under the sanctuary floor.