I believe that the "4th grade mission project" should be banned from our schools. Now, more than ever, we need to teach cultural pride, not cultural genocide. Any lesson about California Missions should be done using a critical lens and teach about the tool of colonialism that it was. Instead of focusing on the religious missions we should be focusing on the Native American experience.
Missions now function as gift shops. gardens, parish churches, Catholic schools, tourist attractions belying the forced marches and conversions, the harsh punishments, the incarceration, how anyone who tried to flee was hunted down and punished, the death rates from unsanitary conditions, poor diet, overwork and exposure to European diseases particularly the opportunistic syphilis that was spread to the women by infected Spanish soldiers who raped the women.
Instead of students building replicas of missions, why aren't they instead building pyramids? Students need to learn about parallels between the California missions and other concentration camps from California history like Manzanar and the other Japanese internment camps during World War II.
Any lessons on the California Missions should be in the context of the genocide against the indigenous peoples in our state and nation. Students need to learn more about the genocide against indigenous peoples in California so that they can see the parallels with other historical genocides including the Holocaust, the Armenian Genocide, the Rwandan Genocide and others.
I will encourage Parents, Teachers, Students and Community Members to talk with their school principals and school board members about instituting a ban of the 4th Grade Mission Project.