SACRAMENTO — The California State Senate voted to approve the placement of a monument honoring Native American tribes in Capitol Park near the state capitol of California. The monument will replace the statue of Junipero Serra, who founded the state’s Catholic mission system, that was toppled last summer in the aftermath of the killing of George Flyod. The Serra statue was erected in 1967.

The bill originated in the California State Assembly. It was authored by Assemblymember James C. Ramos (D-Highland), the first and only Native American in the California state legislature. The vote passed by a vote of 28 to 2 with widespread bipartisan support. It now moves to the desk of California Gov. Gavin Newsom for his signature.

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“AB 338 will honor the Native people on whose land the Capitol now stands. It also allows us the opportunity to hear more about the devastating impact of the mission period on California’s first people,” Ramos said.

“We do not condone the vandalism that resulted in the toppling of the Serra statue last summer, but 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.

“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,” Ramos continued.

“On behalf of the Yurok Tribe, I would like to thank Assemblymember Ramos for leading the effort to install a memorial that reflects the strength, sovereignty and traditions of our tribal nations,” Yurok Tribe Chairman Joseph L. James said. “This is a huge win for Indian Country.”

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Jesus Tarango, chairman of the Wilton Rancheria, whose tribe is among those sponsoring AB 338 also praised the legislation passage.

“A statue of Junipero Serra on Capitol grounds represents a double injury,” Tarango said. “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.”

Ramos noted that AB 338 allowed for the Native American voice to be heard. “My bill allowed for the vigorous debate and analysis that was missing when the Serra monument was commemorated on the Capitol grounds in 1967,” Ramos said.

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