SACRAMENTO – Governor Gavin Newsom issued an apology Tuesday through executive order on behalf of California to California Native American Peoples for the many instances of violence, mistreatment and neglect inflicted upon California Native Americans throughout the state’s history.
The Governor also announced the creation of a Truth and Healing Council to provide an avenue for California Native Americans to clarify the record – and provide their historical perspective – on the troubled relationship between tribes and the state. This is the first time a state has taken dual action to correct the historical record and acknowledge wrongdoing through executive order mandate and a tribally-led, consultation-informed council.
“California must reckon with our dark history,” said Governor Gavin Newsom. “California Native American peoples suffered violence, discrimination and exploitation sanctioned by state government throughout its history. We can never undo the wrongs inflicted on the peoples who have lived on this land that we now call California since time immemorial, but we can work together to build bridges, tell the truth about our past and begin to heal deep wounds.”
“As the first California Indian elected to the State Legislature, I applaud the executive order signed by Governor Newsom today to issue a formal apology from the state for past cruel treatment of Native Americans. This action will go a long way to start the healing process between the state and Native American communities throughout California,” said Assemblymember James Ramos. “This historic acknowledgment by the Governor marks the beginning of a new relationship between the state and the more than 700,000 Native Americans who make the State of California their home.”
In the early decades of California’s statehood, the relationship between the state and California Native Americans was fraught with violence, exploitation, dispossession and the attempted destruction of tribal communities. In 1850, California passed a law called the “Act for the Government and Protection of Indians,” which facilitated removing California Native Americans from their traditional lands, separating children and adults from their families, languages and culture, and creating a system of indentured servitude as punishment for minor crimes such as loitering.
Between 1850 and 1859, governors of California called for private and militia campaigns against Native peoples in the state. In his 1851 State of the State Address, California’s first Governor declared “[t]hat a war of extermination will continue to be waged between the two races until the Indian race becomes extinct must be expected.” Subsequently, the state authorized $1.29 million in 1850’s dollars to subsidize these militia campaigns.
Despite these wrongs, California Native Americans resisted, survived and carried on cultural and linguistic traditions defying all odds. Now, at the direction of Governor Newsom and working in collaboration with California tribes, the state seeks to more closely explore the historical relationship between the State of California and California Native Americans in the spirit of truth and healing through the establishment of a Truth and Healing Council. The Council will be led and convened by the Governor’s Tribal Advisor and will include representatives or delegates from California Native American tribes, relevant state and local agencies and other relevant non-governmental stakeholders. The Council will report draft findings to the Governor’s Tribal Advisor on an annual basis beginning January 1, 2020 and produce a final written report of findings regarding the historical relationship between the state and Native Americans on or before January 1, 2025.
The State of California and California Native Americans have never jointly or formally examined or documented their relationship for the express purpose of acknowledging and accounting for historical wrongs committed by the State of California against California Native Americans – and the state has never formally apologized for these atrocious actions.
A copy of the Governor’s executive order can be found here.