California Tribes Unite on Capitol Hill Calling for Solutions to Missing and Murdered Indigenous People Crisis | smbmi

California Tribes Unite on Capitol Hill Calling for Solutions to Missing and Murdered Indigenous People Crisis

California Tribes Unite on Capitol Hill Calling for Solutions to Missing and Murdered Indigenous People Crisis

February 10, 2023 • 5 min read
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California Native American Tribal leaders, affected families and tribal community members gathered at the Capitol in Sacramento for the first Missing and Murdered Indigenous People (MMIP) Day of Action. Tribal representatives from across the state called on legislators for a historic investment of $200 million to build programs and services that prevent girls, women and people from becoming missing or murdered.

“California tribes have united to combat the MMIP crisis, which has weighed heavy on the hearts of every Native person in the state for far too long. The time for action is now,” said Joseph L. James, the Chairman of the Yurok Tribe. “We are asking the state legislature to support a series of solutions that will help us prevent MMIP cases and keep our children safe.”

The proposal will bolster tribally led response plans, law enforcement and public health programs in Northern, Central and Southern California, which have long been excluded from many state and federal programs. It also called for legislation to change broken laws and policies. The news briefing was followed by an MMIP walk, cultural demonstrations and community engagement activities.

“The devastating issue of MMIP has caused untold tragedy that often becomes long lingering ripples of grief and further tragedy,” said James C. Ramos, California Assemblymember (D-San Bernardino) and former Chairman of the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians. “We can reduce the number of cases through greater collaboration to ensure that victims and their loved ones receive the support and attention they need to overcome these acts of violence.”

California Assemblymember James C. Ramos has introduced AB 44, (Tribal Public Safety) a bill that seeks to grant tribal police state peace officer status. Sponsored by the Yurok Tribe, the bill will give qualified tribal police officers parity with state law enforcement as well as the ability to enforce all state laws and file cases in state courts. It will also provide tribal law enforcement and tribal courts access to the California Law Enforcement Telecommunications System (CLETS). The computer network contains FBI and DMV administered databases, criminal histories and many other essential records. The bill will benefit all California residents by increasing the number of highly trained peace officers available to protect and serve communities.

A second bill, also introduced by Assemblymember Ramos, AB 273 (Protecting and Locating Foster Children Missing from Care) will require counties and courts to notify Tribes, key family members and attorneys when a child is missing from foster care. It will also require a judicial hearing when a child or nonminor dependent in foster care is missing, to ensure the child is located and returned to a safe and appropriate environment. Native children in the foster care system are disproportionately more at risk of becoming MMIP victims.

The Yurok Tribe, California’s largest federally recognized tribe, organized the MMIP Day of Action and press briefing. Speakers included: California Assemblymember James C. Ramos, Yurok Chairman Joseph L. James, Assemblymember Robert Rivas, Wilton Rancheria Chairman Jesus Tarango, Jamul Indian Village Chairwoman Erica Pinto, Paskenta Band of the Nomlaki Indians Chairman Andrew Alejandre, Picayune Rancheria of the Chukchansi Indians Chairwoman Janet Bill, Assemblymember Chris Holden, Senator Scott Wilk, Assemblymember Marie Waldron, Assemblymember Eloise Reyes, Director of the California DOJ’s Office of Native American Affairs Merri Lopez-Kiefer, MMIP Survivor Joanna Saubel, MMIP family member Marlena Alva, foster youth Olivia Shortbull, San Manuel Band of Mission Indians Youth Raven Casas, and Indigenous Justice Executive Director and MMIP Advocate Morning Star Gali.

Most, if not all, California tribes are contending with the MMIP crises. In the US, California is one of the top 10 states with the most MMIP cases. The Native American population consists of 110 federally recognized tribes and is the largest of any state.

San Manuel Band of Mission Indians is supporting the initiative by donating a $350,000 grant to hire an investigator to solve MMIP cases.

About San Manuel Band of Mission Indians
The San Manuel Band of Mission Indians is a federally recognized Indian tribe located on the San Manuel Indian Reservation near Highland, California. San Manuel exercises its inherent sovereign right of self-governance and provides essential services for its citizens by building infrastructure, maintaining civil services, and promoting social, economic, and cultural development. As the Indigenous people of the San Bernardino highlands, passes, valleys, mountains and high deserts, the Serrano people of San Manuel have called this area home since time immemorial and are committed to remaining a productive partner in the San Bernardino region.

About the Yurok Tribe
The Yurok Tribe is currently the largest Tribe in California, with more than 6,400 enrolled members. The Tribe’s major initiatives include: cultural preservation, natural resources management, Klamath dam removal, condor reintroduction, sustainable economic development and land acquisition.

Press Release

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