Assemblyman James C. Ramos, D-Highland, and Sen. Scott Wiener, D-San Francisco, last Thursday asked the Legislature’s administrative committees to obtain input from an advisory group that includes historians and California Native Americans before determining the fate of the Junípero Serra statue taken down on Capitol grounds by protesters on July 4.
The Serra sculpture was placed in Capitol Park after the state approved legislation by then-San Francisco Assemblyman Milton Marks in 1965. His law, AB 1124, authorized the purchase and maintenance of the memorial.
In their letter to the Rules Committees of both houses and the Legislature’s Joint Committee on Rules, Ramos and Wiener asked legislative leaders to consider whether another monument better representing the impacts on Native Americans of the mission system Serra founded and led is more fitting at this crossroads in California history.
Ramos is a member of the Assembly and Joint Rules Committees and Wiener is a member of the Joint Rules Committee. They ask that the Legislature convene an advisory committee of “legislators, historians, California Native Americans and other appropriate persons” to determine the statue’s future and whether “another monument better representing the state’s mission period and its impact on Native Americans is more appropriate at this juncture in California’s history.”
“We don’t want to erase history,” Ramos said. “We actually want a fuller and more honest appraisal of various figures designated as heroes. Without this greater context, we continue perpetuating injustices by ignoring and minimizing the suffering these individuals inflicted on their victims. More than ever, it’s a time for correcting omissions, and balancing the selective and too often sanitized history in schoolbooks. That is why we are asking for historians and California Native Americans to help the Legislature decide what happens next with the Serra statue.”
Wiener said, “We're in the middle of a massive reckoning with the racism and violence that make up our country's history, and with the current injustice that stems from that history.” He added, “We have to acknowledge that the colonization of California was fundamentally oppressive, and that Native people of California were brutalized and killed en masse. The genocide of native people, of course, continues to impact native communities. We must remember that Junípero Serra was a colonialist leader who caused immense suffering. When looking to replace the statue, I am asking the Joint Rules Committee to seek input from historians and leaders from communities – like the Native community – who to this day live with the impacts of Serra’s missions.”
Assemblyman James Ramos represents the 40th Assembly District. He is the first California Native American elected to the Legislature.
Sen. Scott Wiener represents Senate District 11, which encompasses San Francisco and Northern San Mateo counties.