- By Alina Bykova
Assemblymember James C. Ramos (D-Highland) introduced bill AB 855 on Wednesday, which would make California Native American Day, on the fourth Friday of September, a judicial holiday.
The measure, brought forward by Assemblymember Ramos, a lifelong resident of the San Manuel Indian Reservation and the first California Native American elected to the state Legislature, swaps the paid holiday on Columbus Day for California Native American Day, Ramos’s office said.
All state and local court employees would receive a paid holiday in celebration of California Native American Day if the bill is approved by the Legislature and signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom.
“For more than 20 years, I have worked to help create a day that recognizes the state’s first inhabitants and their history,” Ramos said in a statement. "I applaud the Judicial Council for seeking to recognize the unique role of California Native Americans. Our state has the greatest number of Native Americans residing within its boundaries, and it is fitting that we begin to expand our commemoration of this holiday.”
AB 855 would amend the Code of Civil Procedure to recognize California Native American Day as a judicial holiday so as to provide proper recognition for Native American people and celebrate their history in the state. It would not create an additional paid holiday for Judicial Council employees, but rather would exchange Columbus Day for California Native American Day. Court personnel are currently the only state workers receiving pay on Columbus Day, which falls on the second Monday of October.
The Judicial Council, which is sponsoring AB 855, voted in January to seek authority to ensure California Native American Day is designated as a judicial holiday. Ramos noted that paid judicial holidays are designated in a different code section from holidays recognized by other state agencies. Non-judicial holidays are designated in the Government Code, but court holidays are established in the Code of Civil Procedure.
“The Judicial Council of California and its chair, Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye, are committed to providing equal access and fairness in our justice system,” said Judge Marla O. Anderson, chair of the Judicial Council’s Legislation Committee. “By recognizing the importance of Native Americans we not only acknowledge our shortcomings in our state’s past treatment of them, we also celebrate their past and current contributions to our state.”
Chief Judge Abby Abinanti, Yurok tribe member and co-chair of the Tribal Court-State Court Forum, shared the following response to AB 855: “To be seen, it is a long awaited and welcomed first step by the justice system, the beginning of an effort to be inclusive of our first citizens."
Ramos said he and other people began efforts to honor California Native Americans more than 20 years ago when he was a San Bernardino County supervisor. “We were aided by then-Assemblymember Joe Baca, who successfully introduced legislation in 1998 to create a non-paid official state holiday for California’s First People. Baca went on to introduce similar legislation as a Member of Congress.”
Ramos is the only California Native American serving in the state’s Legislature.
You’re reading the first draft of history.
November is Native American Heritage Month in the United States. We feel like every month — and every day — is a reason for celebrating Native Americans and our heritage. That’s what we try to do here at Native News Online, with stories each day that celebrate, inform and uplift American Indian and Alaska Native people. Over the past year or so, we have been especially busy with three important reporting projects that are having an impact across Indian Country:
- Indian Boarding Schools. We’ve reported and published more than 150 stories and special live stream video events to help shine a light on the dark era of boarding schools — and help create momentum for change.
- Native Health Desk. Launched in January, this reporting initiative was created to heighten awareness of Native American health inequities and spotlight pockets of progress in Indian Country. So far we’ve reported and published nearly 120 stories and launched a monthly health newsletter that reaches more than 23,000 readers.
- Native Bidaske. In March, we launched this live stream interview program to highlight the work of Native Americans who are making news and leading change in Indian Country. We have hosted guests from the federal government and Native rights advocates as well as Indigenous actors, comedians, journalists and models.
We hope you will join us in celebrating Native American heritage and history this November and invite you to consider the old adage that “Journalism is the first draft of history.” If you appreciate the voice Native News Online gives to Native American people, we hope you will support our work with a donation so we can build our newsroom and continue to amplify Native voices and Native perspectives.
Any contribution — big or small — helps us remain a force for change in Indian Country and continue telling the stories that are so often ignored, erased or overlooked. Most often, our donors make a one-time gift of $20 or more, while many choose to make a recurring monthly donation of $5 or $10. Whatever you can do, it helps fund our Indigenous-led newsroom and our ability to cover Native news.
Donate to Native News Online today and support independent Indigenous journalism. Thank you.