Senate panel approves Ramos measure to add Native American monument to Capitol Park where Serra statue once stood

For immediate release:

SACRAMENTO—California’s Senate Governmental Organization today approved placement of a monument honoring Sacramento-area tribes in Capitol Park at the former site of a sculpture commemorating Junipero Serra, controversial founder of the state’s mission system. The bill, AB 338, authored by Assemblymember James C. Ramos (D-Highland) was approved on a unanimous and bipartisan vote of 12-0.

“We do not condone the vandalism that resulted in the toppling of the Serra statue,” Ramos said. “However, it did provide an opportunity for us to explore why this figure from California’s founding has become a symbol of the enslavement and genocide for Native Americans,” Ramos said. “He is undoubtedly seen as the creator and director of a system that held Indians in servitude to force conversions and build the missions, and that led to starvation and disease. Attempts to escape were dealt with harshly. The impact of the mission system on Indian people has not been told completely or accurately,” Ramos stated. 

Ramos, the first California Native American elected to the Legislature, stated, “Even Pope Francis, on a trip to Bolivia in 2015, acknowledged the ‘grave sins’ of colonialism against Indigenous people in the Americas. The history and significance behind that apology have yet to be understood here in California.”

Jesus Tarango, Chairman of Wilton Rancheria, whose tribe is among those sponsoring AB 338 said, “A statue of Junipero Serra on Capitol grounds represents a double injury. The Miwok and Nisenan people have lived in this region since time immemorial before the hostile takeover of Native lands by settlers, land barons and gold miners who established Sacramento and the State Capitol. The statue of a figure that represents the Mission period—another earlier time of genocide, slavery, and other degradations imposed upon California Indians—strikes twice at our history. We have yet to see a full telling of what it took to build the State Capitol and who paid that cost. This bill will begin to tell that history for us and for future generations.” 

“As my bill moves forward in the legislative process, my colleagues and the public will have the vigorous debate and analysis that was missing when the Serra monument was commemorated on the Capitol grounds in 1967,” Ramos said. “It is time for additional voices to be heard and for California to more fully understand the Mission period. Others who disagree with the Native American perspective on Serra may come forward, but this proposal will ensure a more thorough discussion and analysis.”

AB 338 Proposal and Statue Background

AB 338 would:

•    Remove the statutory requirement that a monument to Junipero Serra be erected and maintained on the State Capitol grounds. 

•    Require the statue be replaced by a monument to be created with the input of local Tribal Nations.

The monument to Junipero Serra has stood on the Capitol Grounds since April 1967, following legislative action:

•    SB 1605 (McAteer & Rodda, Ch. 1944, Statutes of 1963) authorized the development of a statue of Junipero Serra, devoting $30,000 from the General Fund on the condition that matching funds be put up from private sources.

•    AB 1124 (Marks and Knox, Ch. 370, Statutes of 1965) renewed this legislation and allowed for the development of the statue. Following this legislation, funds were authorized and the statue was placed in its former location.

Sponsors include six Northern California tribes: Wilton Rancheria, Buena Vista Rancheria of Me-Wuk Indians, Chicken Ranch Rancheria of Me-Wuk Indians, Ione Band of Miwok Indians, Shingle Springs Band of Miwok Indians and the Tuolumne Band of Me-Wuk Indians. AB 338 must now work its way through the Senate.

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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. He is the first and only California Native American serving in the state’s legislature.