Take local action to remove the El Camino Real bells

Beyond signing and sharing the petition to the California State Legislature, there are many ways to pitch in to help bring down the El Camino Real bells and promote truth-telling about California’s past. A significant number of the approximately 580 mission bell markers in California are located on city or county property, and can only be removed through local action and advocacy.

1.Locate the El Camino Real bell markers near you.

Check streets surrounding historic missions or presidios, main city thoroughfares, and streets named El Camino Real. For clues, check online waymarking databases that have recorded many of the bell locations such as:

Extra: We’d much appreciate if you could take photos and GPS coordinates for the bells you find and email them to info [at] removethebells.org for the map of bell markers that we’re preparing.

2.Research how the bell markers came to be placed there and who has the authority to remove them. They may be under the jurisdiction of a city, county, university, private landowner, or the state.

Tips: To research property ownership, try visiting your county’s planning department or online GIS portal (just Google your county’s name + GIS portal) to determine the parcel the bell marker is located on. To research the history of a bell on city, county or university property, try searching newspaper archives at your local library or at an online archive like newspapers.com. Experiment with a variety of search keywords for best results.

3.Reach out to local tribal leadership, if you are not a member of a tribe on whose ancestral land the bell stands. If you don’t know where to start in contacting tribes, talk to friends, do some internet research and/or contact the California Native American Heritage Commission [nahc@nahc.ca.gov] to request their contact list for tribes in your area.

Ask local tribal leadership how they feel about the El Camino Real bells and if they are aware of this campaign to remove the bells. If tribal leadership is interested in seeing the bells removed, discuss next steps and action items. Be sure to move at their pace, rather than impose your own sense of urgency.

4.Follow up with next steps, such as arranging a meeting with local tribal representatives and a key local decision-maker to discuss removal of the bells, and what, if anything, tribal representatives would like to see replace the bell markers.
5.Build public support and momentum. Examples: Hold an educational public event featuring local Indigenous speakers. Write an op-ed or letter to the editor for a local paper. Consider starting a local petition if you think you can make it successful. Talk to local reporters about the story. Help to draft a resolution for removal of the bell markers.
6.Publicize, document and celebrate the removal of the bell marker. With the guidance of local tribal leadership, consider inviting the public, the press, and tribal members to witness the historic removal of a symbol that glorifies the domination and enslavement of Indigenous peoples.

Example documents

Would you like support or advice regarding your efforts to gain the removal of El Camino Real bells? Feel free to email info [at] removethebells.org

When the Mission Bells Rang — A children's book written by Judith Scott in consultation with the Amah Mutsun Tribal Band. Available now in print and PDF versions!

"Instruments of Colonization" Podcast Check out this special 25-minute podcast episode about El Camino Real bells from Challenging Colonialism podcasts. Available free at Apple Podcasts, other podcast platforms, or as a mp3 at Indybay.

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