UCSC students say historical mission bell 'represents genocide'

Students are petitioning the University of California, Santa Cruz to remove a historical "mission bell" on campus marking the path of the El Camino Real trail connecting the 21 California missions.

The petition contends that the marker is a “painful and oppressive symbol for...indigenous peoples of California," demanding that it be replaced with a "public educational marker" recognizing the local Uypi tribe.

Students at the University of California, Santa Cruz are calling for the removal of a traditional California “mission bell” from campus because it “represents genocide.”

California mission bells mark the path of the historic El Camino Real, the 700 mile trail that connected the 21 California missions. The bells are a common way of recognizing state history, and have marked the route of the El Camino Real since 1906, with hundreds of them currently dotting the landscape.

The state of California has its own “Mission Bell Project,” with state-funded bells running the length of the original path, often in conjunction with major California highways. The bells erected by the state are replicas, crafted from the same molds of the original historical markers, which had to be removed over the years due to damage, vandalism, and theft.

[RELATED: Jefferson statue vandalized at Hofstra University]

The historic city of Santa Cruz is named after Mission Santa Cruz, and as a result, the UC Santa Cruz campus is home to one simple mission bell marking the path of the El Camino Real, which happens to run through campus.

In conjunction with the Amah Mutsun Tribal Band, which represents the local Uypi tribe, students are now requesting that the school remove the bell.

While the petition acknowledges that the bell is “intended to symbolize and honor the history associated with the California Missions and El Camino Real,” it insists that the marker is a “painful and oppressive symbol for the Amah Mutsun and other indigenous peoples of California,” and therefore “does not represent the values embraced by the campus community.”

“El Camino Real and the California Missions were responsible for the destruction and domination of the Uypi Tribe including their humanity, culture, environment, and spirituality,” the petition states, asserting that “the mission bell is a painful and oppressive symbol for the Amah Mutsun and other indigenous peoples of California.”

[RELATED: ‘Crusaders’ mascot succumbs to ‘Islamophobia’ concerns]

“The mission bell outside of Hahn Student Services represents the genocide of the indigenous Uypi tribe on the land that UCSC is now on,” one student posted to a private Facebook group for UCSC students. “We must remove the bell and replace it with a statue or figure that represents those who rightfully own this land, to give them representation.”

Students are demanding that the bell “be recycled for peaceful purposes, so it may not be further displayed as a symbol of dominance,” and that it be replaced by a “public educational marker” located in “a prominent location on campus grounds that recognizes the Uypi people on whose lands the campus was built, as well as their culture, spirituality, and history.”

Only students with valid UCSC login credentials are able to sign the petition, and petition organizers have not provided Campus Reform with an estimate of the current number of signatories.

”They’re wasting the UCSC student body’s and administration’s time over a non-issue that misrepresents an important part of California’s history for the sole purpose of feeling morally superior, cause who wants to be the person on the side of ‘genocide and slavery?’” College Republicans President Brandon Lang told Campus Reform. “The bells were intended to act as road markers for the historic El Camino Real, the fist road to span California, not as ‘symbols of genocide.’”

”The people who want this and others like them know they can’t get anything of substance done, so they focus on ‘symbolic’ things such as the removal of statues from the public space or changing of names, actions that are quick and easy but don’t cause any real positive change in society for the people they want to help,” Lang added.

Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @celinedryan