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Newsom Signs Bill For Native American Monument To Replace California Colonizer

Andrew Nixon
Demonstrators damaged and tore down a statue of Catholic missionary Junipero Serra on the east side of the state Capitol grounds according to the California Highway Patrol.

Gov. Gavin Newsom signed legislation on Friday officially removing from the California Capitol grounds a statue honoring Spanish missionary Junipero Serra and setting the stage for the construction of a new monument honoring Sacramento tribal communities.

The statue was toppled by demonstrators in July 2020 after the police killing of George Floyd and during racial justice protests on the Capitol grounds.

The bill creating the process for replacing the controversial monument was authored by Assemblyman James Ramos, the first California Native American elected to the Legislature.

“We do not condone the vandalism that resulted in the toppling of the Serra statue last summer, but it did provide an opportunity for us to explore why this figure from California’s founding has become a symbol of the enslavement and genocide for Native Americans,” Ramos said.

The Serra monument has remained in storage since it was torn from its foundation by protesters.

The bill was among six signed by Newsom during a virtual ceremony attended by leaders of Native American tribes from around the state. The governor proclaimed every fourth Friday of September "Native American Day."

Another notable bill Newsom signed Friday removes Columbus Day as a judicial holiday and replaces it with Native American Day in September. Other bills support tribal foster youth, bolster students’ rights to wear tribal regalia at graduation ceremonies and streamlined access to emergency response vehicles on tribal land.

“Today’s action sends a powerful message from the grounds of Capitol Park across California underscoring the state’s commitment to reckoning with our past and working to advance a California for All built on our values of inclusion and equity,” Newsom said in a prepared release.

It will be years before a replacement monument will be built. The bill calls for trial leaders to work with the state department of General Services “to plan, construct, and maintain a monument to the California Native people of the Sacramento, California, region on the grounds of the State Capitol.”

The legislative joint rules committee and department of finance would also have to sign off on a plan to privately fund the construction of the monument.

The Serra sculpture stood on the Capitol grounds from April 1967 to July 4, 2020.

“When the Serra statue was established through state law, Native Americans did not have the opportunity to tell their story about the devastating impact of the mission period on California Indians,” Ramos said. “As AB 338 progressed through the legislature, California tribal people rallied to tell their history.”