California Indian Education Act goes into effect
California law now encourages schools to create “California Indian Education Task Forces” to help in shaping the curriculum surrounding Indigenous perspectives, cultures, and history.  The law aims to provide a more encompassing education about the history of California, which has historically excluded Indigenous voices and perspectives. California schools have a long tradition of assigning “Mission projects” to elementary school students, where each student learns about and, in some cases, even visits one of California’s 21 missions.  This law seeks to shift the focus away from such a glorified history and focus more on the adverse impacts of colonization on Indigenous peoples. It is also long overdue that California has done this. As a state with 110 federally recognized tribes and over 80 seeking federal recognition. California also has the highest Indigenous population in the country. With such a presence, California has an obligation to Indigenous groups that their voices are heard and that the true history of California is taught.
This Act is a step in the right direction for a state that has not done enough to rectify or even acknowledge the atrocities committed against the Indigenous communities. Luckily, this Act is not the only step California or local municipalities within California have sought to address their history. Recently, Oakland has given land back to a local indigenous tribe that is not federally recognized. In doing so, it became the first Bay Area city to do so. Though Oakland remains the legal owner of the property, this act is not merely symbolic. It grants the Sogorea Te’ Land Trust with power to be stewards of the land, including closing it for restorative practices. Hopefully, such actions will be mirrored by other California cities to some degree.
California Governor Gavin Newsom has also advocated for another method to return the land to Indigenous tribes. In a sweeping budget proposal, Governor Newsom proposed that California give Indigenous Tribes $100 million to buy back lands as part of a larger attempt to preserve a third of California’s land and coastal regions. His proposition would give Indigenous leaders power in deciding which lands are preserved. In addition, Indigenous Tribes would be able to decide where the money goes, making it markedly different from other government grant programs. If accepted, it would give Indigenous leaders the tremendous power they deserve in the larger conversation about preservation and climate change.