Gov. Gavin Newsom issues apology on behalf of state to Native Americans

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Gov. Gavin Newsom issued an apology for historical mistreatment, violence and neglect on behalf of California to California Native American peoples through an executive order on Tuesday.

According to a press release from the governor’s office released Tuesday, Newsom also announced the creation of a Truth and Healing Council, which will give Native Americans a way to share their own perspectives on their relationship and history with the state. The press release said Newsom’s apology makes California the first state to take dual action to acknowledge  wrongdoings by using both an executive order and a “tribally-led, consultation-informed council.”

The order that the apology was issued through, Executive Order N-15-19, specifies that the state of California will recognize that the state “sanctioned over a century of depredations and prejudicial policies against California Native Americans.” The order also commends and honors California Native Americans for carrying on cultural and linguistic traditions, apologizes on behalf of the citizens of California and affirms an executive order that requires the governor’s tribal adviser and the administration to hold consultations with California Native American tribes.

The newly created Truth and Healing Council, which will be led and convened by the governor’s tribal adviser, will be made up of delegates from California Native American tribes, relevant government agencies and nongovernmental stakeholders, according to the press release. This group will draft a report on an annual basis, starting Jan. 1, 2020, and will create a final written report about the historical relationship between the state and Native Americans on or before Jan. 1, 2025.

“California must reckon with our dark history,” Newsom said in the press release. “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.”

Assemblymember James Ramos, the first California Native American elected to the state Legislature, offered words of support in the press release about Newsom’s apology from the state, adding that the action will “go a long way” in healing the relationship between the state and Native Americans.

There has been a history of tension between California Native Americans and the state of California, according to the press release. The Act for the Government and Protection of Indians was passed in 1850, removing Native Americans from their lands, separating families and “creating a system of indentured servitude as punishment for minor crimes such as loitering.” The press release also mentioned that California put $1.29 million in 1850 dollars toward subsidizing militia campaigns against Native Americans.

“Despite these wrongs, California Native Americans resisted, survived and carried on cultural and linguistic traditions defying all odds,” the press release said.

Sabrina Dong is the executive news editor. Contact her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @Sabrina_Dong_.