California’s first Native American legislator: removing statue of Columbus is ‘a step, not a solution’

As the first California Native American elected to the Legislature, I welcome removal of the statue.

For immediate release:

SACRAMENTO—Assemblymember James C. Ramos (D-Highland) today issued the following statement after legislative leaders ordered removal of the state Capitol’s statue of Queen Isabella and Christopher Columbus:

As the first California Native American elected to the Legislature, I welcome removal of the statue. It is a symbol of genocide and atrocities toward Indigenous people throughout the world, including the United States. We need to harness this opportunity to portray factual history from the view of those who suffered. Yet, we must also focus on the present in order to change the future.

Today, my community still lags behind our fellow citizens in educational and economic opportunity, in access to health care and civic participation. These disparities are all symptoms of ongoing disrespect and prejudice.

On June 18, we mark the one-year anniversary of Governor Gavin Newsom’s formal apology to Native Americans for California’s genocide, maltreatment and neglect. The apology, like the removal of the statue, was welcomed. But such actions are a step and a beginning, not a solution.

Native American women and girls have been murdered and missing at rates as high as 10 times the national rate on some reservations. Their assailants are too often protected by a tangle of confused law enforcement and judicial authority covering crimes on tribal lands. That’s why we urge greater justice system collaboration and communication on reservations.

Last week, the state auditor reported the University of California has yet to return tribal remains and cultural artifacts despite state and federal laws to do so and the pleas of a community anxious to bury those remains with the traditional devotion and respect they deserve.

We must move past the anger and start healing, but that cannot be accomplished until frank discussions occur and inequities are resolved.

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Assemblymember James Ramos proudly represents the 40th Assembly district which includes Highland, Loma Linda, Mentone, Rancho Cucamonga, Redlands, and San Bernardino.