Ramos bill to allow more California tribes to recover ancestor remains and artifacts heads to governor

UPDATED 10:15 PM:

For immediate release:

UPDATE: As of approximately 10:15 p.m. on Sunday, August 30, the Assembly concurred in the Senate amendments. The measure will now be sent to Gov. Gavin Newsom for his review. He has until September 30, 2020 to approve or veto AB 275.

SACRAMENTO--California’s Senate today approved a bill on a 39 to 0 vote to strengthen and clarify the process for repatriating California Native American remains and artifacts held by various institutions such as the University of California system.

Assemblymember James C. Ramos (D-Highland) said, “It is my expectation that my bill, AB 275, will add impetus to the delays in returning the remains of California Native people so that they may be buried with the respect and devotion they deserve, in particular the remains held by the UC system.”

Ramos observed that in June, the state auditor issued a report that described its findings in a nutshell, “Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act: The University of California Is Not Adequately Overseeing Its Return of Native American Remains and Artifacts” and made recommendations to hasten the repatriation process. 

In her report, State Auditor Elaine Howle stated that the UC system has provided inadequate oversight and inconsistent administration in repatriating the remains in its possession. It also stated cited delays in meeting legal deadlines, and lack of tribal participation in the UC committees overseeing the repatriation. She also recommended that the legislature amend state law to allow more tribes to be eligible for inclusion on the Native American Heritage Commission’s list of recognized tribes. AB 275 would allow for greater tribal inclusivity.

“This bill is vital to preserve our tribal culture and ensure Native American tribes have the opportunity to pay honor and respect to our ancestors and elders,” Ramos said. He is the first California Native American elected to the legislature in its almost 170-year history. AB 275 would:

Revise the process of creating inventories and summaries and require consultation with California Indian tribes during the creation of the preliminary inventories;

Revises the process by which a direct lineal descendent or a California Indian tribe can request the return of human remains or cultural items;

Requests that the UC Regents, and every other state agency with significant interaction with tribal issues, peoples, or lands to designate, one or more liaisons for the purpose of engaging in consultation with California Native American tribes on the contact list maintained by the Commission.

Revises various definitions, including, the definition of “California Indian tribe” to include both a tribe that meets the federal definition of an Indian tribe and non-federally recognized tribes but who are located in California and are on the Commission’s list.

AB 275 is sponsored by the United Auburn Indian Community of the Auburn Rancheria. Among others, supporters include the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians, Sacred Places Institute, San Luis Rey Band of Mission Indians, MALO, Alliance for Boys and Men of Color, the Yocha Dehe Wintun Nation, California Tribal Business Alliance, Karuk Tribe, Blue Lake Rancheria, and the Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria.

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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.