Escondido, CA

Supporting Native Americans

The 52nd Native American Day was celebrated September 27, as a time to honor and remember the contributions of California’s tribal nations, to recognize their sovereignty and the tremendous challenges they have long faced, along with their remarkable resilience and achievements.

San Diego County, with 18 reservations, covering over 190 square miles, has more reservations than any other county in the United States – and eight of these  are within the 75th Assembly District.

Tribal sovereignty is critically important in that we recognize Tribal Governments as sovereign nations separate from the United States government, with the authority to regulate their own laws and way of life. 

History has not been easy on our tribal neighbors as each has a vital history to tell.  

One of these challenges was addressed in part by the federal Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA), which was enacted in 1978 in response to the wholesale removal of Indian children from their parents, families and tribal communities. The act provided important rights and protections for Indian families, but more needed to be done. With more ICWA appeals than in any other state, California has struggled to comply and properly implement ICWA.

This session, along with Assemblymember James C. Ramos (D – Highland), I introduced Assembly Bill 686, bi-partisan legislation that increases state compliance with ICWA by updating and clarifying existing law allowing tribes to conduct placement approvals, including home evaluations and background checks. AB 686 will also ensure that Indian tribes can fully participate in ICWA cases by allowing access to telephonic or other computerized or electronic remote access options during court proceedings.

AB 686 is supported by a broad coalition of Tribal Governments around the state and other groups, including Juvenile Court Judges of California and the California Tribal Families Coalition. The bill passed both houses unanimously and is now awaiting the Governor’s signature.

*Note: Opinions expressed by columnists and letter writers are those of the writers and not necessarily those of the newspaper.

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