SACRAMENTO— A legislative proposal to encourage public schools, parks, libraries and museums to recognize past tribal guardianship of lands where their facilities are located passed the Assembly Monday on a bipartisan 72 -0 vote.
Assemblymember James C. Ramos (D-Highland) said the voluntary proposal, AB 1968, now goes to the Senate. “This measure will advance the recognition of Native Americans’ presence throughout California and the genuine stewardship they exercised in this state despite the hardships and state-sanctioned genocide they endured,” Ramos said. “It is also a means to help educate Californians and others about Native Americans. I doubt that many Californians know that California has the largest Native American population in the country,” Ramos added.
“We have recently witnessed the results of unheard voices and unequal opportunity,” Ramos said. “Justice begins with communication and education. We cannot begin to remedy past injustices without knowledge of our history.”
Ramos said museums and other institutions play an important role in defining and portraying history and culture. “Public institutions have a duty to present accurate historical information that broadens cultural understanding.”
Advocates of the bill argue federal and state governments and agencies eroded the stewardship and visibility of California Indian people. Nevertheless, Native Americans remain actively engaged in cultural revitalization, resource protection and self-determination across the state. Systematic denial of indigenous knowledge, cultural authority and historical experiences has resulted in the practical erasure of Native American history and civilization, according to bill proponents.
“That invisibility has resulted in unequal access to health care, educational and other opportunities,” Ramos said.
Land acknowledgment is practiced at tribal events. New Zealand Māori director Taika Waititi's caused a stir at the 2019 Oscars awards when he offered a land acknowledgment to honor the tribes that resided in the region where the Dolby Theatre at the Hollywood & Highland Center is located. The recognition is practiced in some countries with Indigenous populations such as Canada, Australia and New Zealand and in a few states such as Colorado, Michigan, New York and Indiana. The Ramos bill would be the first effort to formally encourage land acknowledgment statewide in California, which boasts more Native Americans than any other state.
The California Indian Culture and Sovereignty Center and California Indian Museum and Cultural Center are co-sponsors. Supporters include the Sonoma Solidarity with Standing Rock, Wishtoyo Chumash Foundation, Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria, California Teachers Association, California Association of Museums and AFSCME.
Assemblymember James Ramos proudly represents the 40th Assembly district which includes Highland, Loma Linda, Mentone, Rancho Cucamonga, Redlands, and San Bernardino.