On Thursday, members of the Assembly gave a renewed push for the passage of a bill that would replace the toppled Junipero Serra statue outside the state capitol building in Sacramento with one honoring Native Americans in California.
According to Assembly Bill 338, authored by Assemblyman James Ramos (D-Highland), a state law passage requiring a statue of Father Junipero Serra, the Catholic friar who helped establish over a dozen of California cities in the 1700’s, would be removed. In it’s place, AB 338 would require the Department of General Services to build a monument honoring Native Americans in California. The monument, to be erected by July 2022, would be built under advisement from tribal leaders and would have the Depart of General Services be in charge of maintaining it.
In addition, a mural honoring Native Americans in California will also be installed in a hearing room during the next construction or renovation of a state capitol related building.
The former statue of Junipero Serra stood outside the Capitol Building in Sacramento from 1967 until July of last year when protesters and rioters who rioted in response to the death of George Floyd tore it down. While the statue was recovered, it was put into storage until a decision over it could be reached. Unlike other statue topplings where those who did it were arrested and brought to court, the Sacramento statue topplers have yet to be caught or prosecuted.
Assemblyman Ramos, who became the first Native American elected to the Assembly in 2018, wrote the bill because of the low number of Native American monuments in California, wanting to to open up discussion why people were frustrated with the statue in the first place, and wanting to have Native American input on monuments. Ramos also noted that he condoned the violence and the statue itself being toppled by violence.
“Now with the Junipero Serra statue down, again I don’t condone the violence or even toppling the monuments, but there should be a genuine discussion before that statue gets put back up to hear the valid frustration that people have of the reasons why that statue came down in the first place,” explained Ramos in January.
“When you ask me is there a passion, a desire, the answer is yes. We’ve got to get the truthful impact of what is happening to the California Indian people and this is a start in advocating that awareness. By introducing AB 338, we start that process of that dialogue of including the California Indian people and, in particular, the local tribes from here in the Sacramento area to have a voice and a say that then what would go up in its place.”
A renewed push for AB 338
More Assembly members gave support for the bill and coming out as co-signers this week, giving AB 338 a renewed push to be passed by the summer.
Growing support has also come from the Native American tribes of California. The 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 have all come out in support of AB 338 since it was introduced late last month.
“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,” explained the Chairman of Wilton Rancheria Jesus Tarango this week. “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.”
While the bill has drawn mostly support, some opposition against the bill has also been formed, drawing mainly on the history of the Missions in California.
“They were not perfect, but they were the spark that made California into a powerhouse years down the line,” Robert Dohrey, a Colorado-based historian who focuses on pre-1800 exploration West of the Mississippi, told the Globe. “Should the statues note the bad, as well as the good? Absolutely. History is about telling a full picture. And if California puts a Native American monument instead, that’s fine, but be sure to mention things like the Pauma Massacre too. Like the people for the monument said, we need to tell history. Monuments in Florida and Oklahoma and elsewhere note the good and bad both sides did, so why not out West too?”
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