Archbishop José H. Gomez signed new protocols acknowledging that Native Americans of California, as the First People of the Land, deserve special recognition and pastoral concern. The guidelines and parameters serve to welcome and include diverse indigenous traditional perspectives to enrich the prayer, faith, traditions and ceremonies of the Church and its institutions and facilities throughout the tri-county Archdiocese of Los Angeles.

“Today we commit ourselves to going forward on a path of mutual respect, recognition and dialogue,” said Archbishop Gomez at the signing ceremony at the Museum and Cultural Center at Kuruvungna Springs in Los Angeles. “We honor the rich contributions that the “first peoples” of the land have made to the Catholic Church from the beginning — here in Los Angeles and throughout the Americas.”

More than 150,000 self-identified urban Native Americans representing over 50 American tribes live in the county of Los Angeles, the largest assemblage of urban Native Americans in the United States. Through the new protocol the Archdiocese recognizes that urban Native Americans are deserving of special recognition and pastoral concern, and honors the role played by the four Nations in building up the original missions of Santa Ines, Santa Barbara, San Buenaventura, San Fernando, San Gabriel, and San Juan Capistrano.

“These protocols that we are signing today are not a treaty or a legal document. They are a promise. A promise that we will work together so that our future will be more hopeful than our past,” said Archbishop Gomez. “I am proud to stand with my brothers and sisters from the four Nations whose sacred homelands lie within the boundaries of what is today the Archdiocese of Los Angeles — the Chumash, the Tataviam, the Tongva, and the Acjachemen,” said the Archbishop.

The 17 new protocols outline a variety of ways the Catholic Church in Los Angeles, Ventura and Santa Barbara counties can ensure that “indigenous traditional perspectives” are respected and integrated by its institutions and facilities, including:

  • Liturgies, celebrations, ceremonies or events that involve the formal public participation of Native Americans may include a traditional blessing with sacred herb (sage, tobacco) by a member or members of the Native American tribe or band.
  • Liturgies celebrated with Native American communities or involving the inclusion of Native American traditions, may use as chalices and ciboria non-porous ceramic vessels specifically and solely reserved for liturgical use.
  • Historically identified and authenticated Native American Indian burial sites are to be respected and are not to be utilized as construction sites by the Archdiocese, its parishes, and all other Catholic communities, organizations, and entities associated with the Archdiocese.
  • Whenever ground is broken for a new construction site by the Archdiocese or by one of its parishes, schools or other entities, the ground breaking ceremony may include a traditional blessing of the site by a member of the local Native American tribe or band within whose traditional lands the new site is located.
  • Consultation to take place with local tribal or band leaders in order to assure accuracy in the presentation of cultural and historical displays relating to Native Americans at the missions, parishes and schools within the Archdiocese of Los Angeles.
  • Native American Catholics who are directly descended from the Native American tribes or bands may request the celebration of Catholic sacraments and services, notably baptism, confirmation, marriage and Christian burial, in the mission churches with which they are historically associated without having current membership in the local mission parish.