Governor Makes Strides in Promoting Equity for California First Nations and in Combatting Climate Change

Yesterday, Governor Newsom signed an Executive Order that acknowledges the interconnectedness of California’s communities and economic sustainability with our natural and cultural resources. The executive order aims to address the biodiversity and climate change crises in California using nature-based solutions. Notably, the Executive Order will establish a state goal to conserve at least 30% of California’s land and coastal waters by 2030, launch the California Biodiversity Collaborative, and elevate the role of natural and working lands as a pillar of California’s climate change strategy.

The full text of the Executive Order can be read here.

This bold announcement, which highlights the role of California Native American tribes as critical partners, comes just weeks after leaders of First Nations from across California gathered virtually to celebrate the 53rd Annual Native American Day. During the celebration, Governor Newson issued a proclamation recognizing Native American Day as a State holiday, and launched action to restore land and promote equity for California Native communities.

These actions by state leadership underscore the important work Tribal Leaders, The Sierra Fund, and organizations across our region have undertaken to promote ecosystem and community resiliency from the Sierra to the sea, as a way to address the mounting impacts of climate change. TSF commends these actions and looks forward to continuing to work with state agencies to restore resiliency while promoting equity and land reparations for First Nation people. Read more below:

Ancestral Lands: The Governor released a Statement of Administration Policy on Native American Ancestral Lands to encourage State entities to seek opportunities to support California tribes’ co-management of and access to natural lands that are within a California tribe’s ancestral land and under the ownership or control of the State of California, and to work cooperatively with California tribes that are interested in acquiring natural lands that are in excess of State needs. This Policy comes on the heels of the State Lands Commission’s conveyance of 40 acres of state-owned land within the ancestral lands of the Lone Pine Paiute-Shoshone Tribe to the Tribe for the preservation of tribal cultural resources. It supports actions like the California Natural Resources Agency’s award of Proposition 68 funds for the Esselen Tribe of Monterey County’s acquisition of the 1,199-acre Adler Ranch to protect Native American cultural and natural resources earlier this year.

The California Natural Resources Agency had previously awarded The Sierra Fund two grants that have been used to return and restore a 32-acre creekside property to the Nisenan of Nevada City, via the California Heritage: Indigenous Research project, a 501(c)3 dedicated to preserving, protecting, and perpetuating Nisenan culture. “This marks the first time since the California Rancheria Termination Act of 1958 that the unfederally recognized Nisenan Tribe has had privately-owned access to ancestral homelands along Deer Creek for cultural practices. We hope to continue to see many more land transactions returning ancestral homelands to First Nations of California take place as a result of this Statement of Administrative Policy,” said Alex Keeble-Toll, project coordinator and Administrative Director with The Sierra Fund.

Assessing Place Names: To build on the Administration’s work to support equity, inclusion and accountability throughout the state to better reflect its values, the California Natural Resources Agency today has announced a series of actions to identify and redress racist names of features within the state. Efforts also were announced to expand representation and increase transparency for the California Advisory Committee on Geographic Names, the state committee tasked with recommending changes to geographic names in California.

These actions follow a formal letter Governor Newsom sent to the United States Board of Geographic Names in July strongly recommending renaming Jeff Davis Peak in Alpine County to “Da-ek Dow Go-et,” a name suggested by the Washoe Tribe, which means “saddle between points.” The name change has since been approved.

Truth and Healing Council: The Governor’s Tribal Advisor released the draft charter, call for nominations and consultation report for the California Truth and Healing Council to build out the promise of Executive Order N-15-19. Earlier this week, the Native American Heritage Commission published the Digital Atlas of California Native Americans, which brings to life the rich diversity, histories and cultures of California Native peoples and will serve as an important tool for the Truth and Healing Council, with links to primary-source evidence presented by Benjamin Madley in his 2016 book, An American Genocide.

Legislation: Governor Newsom also signed into law several legislative priorities for California Native American communities:

  • AB 168 by Assemblymember Cecilia Aguiar-Curry (D-Winters) – Planning and zoning: annual report: housing development: streamlined approvals.
  • AB 275 by Assemblymember James C. Ramos (D-Highland) – Native American cultural preservation.
  • AB 1426 by Assemblymember Tasha Boerner Horvath (D-Encinitas) – Public resources: San Onofre State Beach: Richard H. and Donna O’Neill Conservancy: road construction.
  • AB 2314 by Assemblymember James C. Ramos (D-Highland) – Native American Voting Accessibility Advisory Committee.
  • AB 3099 by Assemblymember James C. Ramos (D-Highland) – Department of Justice: law enforcement assistance with tribal issues: study.
  • SB 869 by Senator Bill Dodd (D-Napa) – Tribal gaming: compact ratification.