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Gov. Newsom Calls California's Native American Treatment Genocide

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Gov. Gavin Newsom formally apologized Tuesday and pushed the state to reckon with California's dark history of violence, mistreatment and neglect of Native Americans, saying it amounted to genocide.

Show transcript

Speaker 1: 00:00 This week, California Governor Gavin Newsom did what no other governor in the state had done before him. He apologized to California native American people for the history of violence, the state perpetrated against them and he used an important word to describe it. Genocide

Speaker 2: 00:17 coordination, collaboration vigilantes, militia men, federal soldiers working in concert. It's called the genocide. That's what it was. A genocide. No other way to describe it and that's the way it needs to be described in the history books. And so I'm here to say the following, I'm sorry. On behalf of the state of California,

Speaker 1: 00:47 San Diego is home to four tribal groups and more Indian reservations than anywhere else in the country. Joining me with reaction to the governor's apology is Jolie Proudfit, Phd. She has Luiseno, Paiam cool. Each chum and director of the California Indian culture and sovereignty center. Julie, welcome.

Speaker 3: 01:07 Thank you for having me.

Speaker 1: 01:08 What does it mean to you that governor Newsome publicly apologized to native Americans in California?

Speaker 3: 01:14 Well, it means a lot. I appreciate the gesture. It was a long time coming. It is something that I think California native people had expected for many, many years. And we're so glad that it's finally happened. Took basically 40 governors of the state to have this happen. And it's, um, we appreciate it and it's a feeling of finally being seen and um, respect being paid to what has happened to our people. And we hope that this is the first step in a direction that, um, is used to restore some of, uh, the harm that has been done to us by creating some pathways to address some of the issues and the concerns facing our people today.

Speaker 1: 02:04 How important is it that the governor used the word genocide?

Speaker 3: 02:09 We're Gen of side is powerful because it's something that has been denied to California Indians and addressing our history and addressing the experience that we have faced at the hands of the California government. So having governor Newsome use that language really honestly depicts the challenges and the atrocities that California Indian people face and, um, will help us heal and move forward and help others to understand why we've struggled for so long. And the fact that we're still here shows our resiliency, but also under significant, uh, tragedy and duress through the, through acts of genocide.

Speaker 1: 02:56 And what is the legacy of that genocide on native Americans in California?

Speaker 3: 03:00 Well, a California Indians are different than a tribe anywhere else because of the atrocities perpetrated against us from various forms of groups or government. We had, you know, this legacy and history of colonization through the Catholic mission system, then disease and population decline. And then this Mexican period and then the American period with the gold rush and then this period of government sanctioned, um, genocide towards our people. So it's a unique, unique experience. One that it's surprising to many that we survived and many of our populations are now thriving economically, socially, politically. But most of our communities are still struggling with the historical trauma. This legacy of, of genocide is, is, you know, it's many would say it's genetic. It's just in our, it's, you know, a part of our DNA that we need to, um, remove and, and go forward. And so addressing the issue and addressing the history is a first step for us in healing

Speaker 1: 04:20 and addressing that history. You know, how different is the curriculum now taught on native Americans in California from what really happened?

Speaker 3: 04:29 We have a long ways to go. The California curriculum process is in its early stages in addressing California Indians. And you know, we still struggle with some of the, um, racist and, um, the ineffective ways in telling California history through trying to, you know, sugarcoat it using language like the Indians wandered to the missions. We didn't wander to the missions. We were held captive at these places. We were made slaves, indentured servitude. These are, um, very different episodes then wandering to the mission. So I think it's important for all of California citizens and children to learn the honest and truthful history and, you know, understand that this is a difficult history. So we have to make sure that we're, um, approaching this thoughtfully grade by grade. Uh, right now we still teach in the fourth grade in California, the mission history, which is very much sugarcoated, um, using very, uh, culturally insensitive language.

Speaker 3: 05:47 And so I think if we're going to look at history, we have to be honest and we have to create in partnership with cultural leaders, tribal educators, curriculum writers are tribal governments, really good high quality education so that we not only teach all of our citizens and our children the truth, but we do phone away so that we never repeat this type of atrocities again. We have 109 federally recognized tribes in California. We have, I think it's a little over 80 tribes seeking recognition. We have the two largest urban Indian populations of, of any urban population in the u s residing in California. So we have to tell that story holistically and accurately and that's going to take a large investment by the state government.

Speaker 1: 06:42 And you know, the governor mentioned an apology, but is that enough? Uh, what about reparations?

Speaker 3: 06:47 It's a step in the right direction. I, I am completely, I'm appreciative of the apology and especially the way it was done. He did that in, in a formal meeting with tribal leaders face to face and to use the language that he used and to own the atrocities. And to own the language and what did happen to us, which was an act of genocide. So I appreciate that. I believe that's a step in the right direction and it's the first step in a series of activities that need to happen to provide for that reconciliation. You know, I'd love to see, I'd love to see an investment in our curriculum are real investment. I would love to see a formal recognition of land acknowledgement at all public spaces, places, parks, museum. In fact, um, I know that assemblyman Ramos has, is putting together, um, a bill, um, that I've assisted him with on providing formal landing, not acknowledgement in those public spaces so that Californians and visitors to California know exactly who's landed there on. And that's, that's really important to move away from eraser and to recognize how we all benefit from this beautiful place that we call California, which is home to so many a California native people. And you know, there's just a number of things that this governor and the governor's that will follow him can do. Um, and Matt's going to take some real resources and it's going to take working collaboratively with our tribal nations, with our native peoples to make sure that we're on a trajectory for success and for healing.

Speaker 1: 08:34 I've been speaking to Jolie Proudfit. She is Luiseno Paiam cool. Each him and director of the California Indian culture and sovereignty center. Joey, thank you very much.

Speaker 3: 08:45 Thank you.

Speaker 4: 08:47 Uh.

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Maureen Cavanaugh and Jade Hindmon host KPBS Midday Edition, a daily radio news magazine keeping San Diego in the know on everything from politics to the arts.