SACRAMENTO—Legislation encouraging school districts to collaborate with local tribes to increase knowledge about California Native Americans in their communities and help prevent incidents such as the one involving a Riverside mathematics teacher who last October mocked and insulted Indian culture will be introduced in coming days announced Assemblymember James C. Ramos (D-Highland).
“We are fine tuning language in the bill and will introduce it soon,” reported Ramos, the first California Native American elected to the Legislature. He said the new bill will be a first step toward increasing student knowledge and awareness about the history and culture of tribes residing in the state. “If we don’t do a better job at encouraging our schools and tribes to work together, we’ll see more classroom episodes such as the one we saw last October,” Ramos added.
“So few people understand the diversity of California’s first people,” the lawmaker observed. “They speak different languages, use different musical instruments, practice different customs and traditions. Few know many tribes were wiped out or almost eliminated during the 1800s.” Ramos will also speak on the subject before the Assembly Education Committee at 1:30 p.m. today.
“I am excited to be working alongside Assemblymember Ramos on legislation and efforts to bring more accurate and culturally competent Native American education to California schools,” said State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond. “We have the opportunity right now to counter the actions of those who continue to teach harmful and stereotypical messages and create an environment where all students learn about and benefit from the rich history and culture of California’s First People.”
Greg Sarris, tribal chairman of the Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria, submitted a statement to the committee that argues it is “time to teach the real history of California Native Americans.” In his statement, Sarris states, “As I like to say, until there were casinos, no one knew we survived the missions.”
Ramos said strong, positive interactions between schools and tribes is the first step in creating a more relevant and accurate curriculum for all California students. “When Washington state revamped its Native American curriculum, it began by initiating a relationship between the tribes and schools. Its state’s curriculum, entitled “Since Time Immemorial,” has made a positive difference for students. “We can’t reverse 171 years of falsehood and mythology overnight, but we can start,” Ramos affirmed.
Assemblymember James Ramos proudly represents the 40th Assembly district which includes Highland, Loma Linda, Mentone, Rancho Cucamonga, Redlands, and San Bernardino. He is the first and only California Native American serving in the state’s legislature.