SACRAMENTO – Gov. Gavin Newsom today signed AB 1314 which would enlist public assistance when Indigenous people are missing under suspicious circumstances. The California Highway Patrol would activate the alert at the request of local law enforcement and it work much like an Amber Alert. AB 1314 was authored by Assemblymember James C. Ramos (D-Highland) and was one of a five-bill tribal package Ramos introduced and that Newsom has signed.
In announcing his approval of the proposal, Newsom said, “Today’s measures continue to move these efforts forward, including a new emergency alert system that will provide us with additional critical tools needed to address the crisis of Missing and Murdered Indigenous People. I thank all the legislators and tribal partners whose leadership and advocacy help light the path forward in our work to build a better, stronger and more just state together.”
Ramos said, “I am gratified that the governor approved this bill to help stop the violence afflicting California’s Native American communities. The Feather Alert will aid law enforcement and families in getting the word out quickly when a Native individual is missing or endangered, by alerting the public in a broad and effective manner. Creating an alert or advisory system was a top recommendation from tribal leaders at a May 4 hearing to highlight this issue.” Ramos also noted that across the country, Native Americans face disproportionate numbers of missing and murdered people with high numbers of unsolved cases. He added that California, the state with the greatest population of Native Americans in the nation, is also among the states with the highest rates of reported cases of Missing and Murdered Indigenous People.
A report by the Sovereign Bodies Institute indicated only nine percent of murders of indigenous women in California have ever been solved. At a May 4 hearing of the Select Committee on Native American Affairs, tribal leaders urged legislators to take more urgent action to stem the tide of unsolved cases and provide more immediate support when suspected abductions or other acts of violence occur against California Indian people who suffer a disproportionate number of those crimes. Among other recommendations, witnesses at the hearing called for more immediate notification to the public and enlisting the aid of news outlets to help locate possible victims.
AB 1314 creates a state Endangered Missing Advisory (EMA) system when Native Americans are at risk. Currently, law enforcement agencies use the EMA to investigate suspicious disappearances of at-risk missing children or other threatened persons. The California Highway Patrol’s website states, “EMAs provide immediate information to the public to aid in the swift recovery of at-risk persons.” Two other states have approved similar legislation this year: Washington state in April and Colorado in June.
Ramos added, “The Legislature and administration are listening to those in the trenches fighting these crimes. These violent acts affect not only victims, but also families—and in too many instances, the lives of children who are left without a parent. We have much more work to do, but this is one step that can help now.”
Yurok Tribe Chairman Joe James said, “I would like to thank California Governor Gavin Newsom and Assembly Member James C. Ramos for creating a mechanism to quickly get the word out when indigenous people go missing or are at risk.” In citing his support for AB 1314 James stated, “We supported the Feather Alert bill because it will help reduce the disproportionate rate of MMIP cases in California. The next generation of indigenous Californians should not have to live in world where they have to worry about family members going missing or worse. With the emergency notification in place, we will take action to address the remaining root causes of this complex crisis.”
Annabella Hernandez, San Manuel Band of Mission Indians youth advocate has testified in support of previous legislation to add resources to the battle against MMIP cases. She said, “This feather alert system will enable law enforcement and impacted Native American communities to search for tribal members who are missing and put the community on high alert.” She added, “I am grateful the California legislature is aligned with rectifying this injustice and implementing a system that will save countless Native lives.”
AB 1314 is sponsored by the Shingle Springs Band of Miwok Indians and the Tachi Santa Rosa Racheria. In addition to the San Manuel and Yurok support, other supporters include the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians, Picayune Rancheria of the Chukchansi Indians, Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians, California State Sheriff’s Association, California Tribal Families Coalition, Los Coyotes Band of Cahuilla Cupeno Indians, Torrez Martinez Band of Desert Cahuilla Indians and Yocha Dehe Wintun Nation, California Consortium for Urban Indian Health and California Tribal Business Alliance.
The proposal received overwhelming bipartisan support in the legislature. Assemblymembers Cristina Garcia (D-Bell Gardens) and Devon Mathis (R-Visalia) are joint authors and co-authors are Assemblymembers Joaquin Arambula (D-Fresno), Lisa Calderon (D-Whittier), Wendy Carrillo (D-Los Angeles), Sabrina Cervantes (D-Corona), Eduardo Garcia (D-Coachella), Mike Gipson (D-Carson), Reggie Jones-Sawyer (D-South Los Angeles), Luz Rivas (D-San Fernando), Rudy Salas (D-Bakersfield), and Phil Ting (D-San Francisco). Senators Lena Gonzalez (D-Long Beach), Monique Limón (D-Santa Barbara), Rosilicie Ochoa Bogh (R-Redlands) and Nancy Skinner (D-Berkeley) are also authors.
The other Ramos tribal bills signed today are:
- AB 923 which requires state agency leaders to undertake training in properly communicating and interacting with tribes on government-to-government issues that affect them.
- AB 1703, the California Indian Education Act, that encourages school districts, charter schools and county offices of education to engage with the tribes in their area to provide more accurate and complete instruction about the tribes’ culture and history and share instructional materials with the California Department of Education.
- AB 1936 which authorizes the University of California Hastings Law College of the Law to remove the name of its founder, Serranus C. Hastings from the school’s name and specifies restorative justice measures for the Yuki and Round Valley people whose ancestors Hastings had slaughtered in the 1850s.
- AB 2022 that requires renaming of California geographic features, landmarks, public lands, waters and structures using the word “squaw” as part of the name by January 1, 2024.
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. Ramos chairs the Assembly Military and Veterans Affairs Committee.