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Tuolumne County Proclaims California Native American Day

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Sonora, CA — The board of supervisors took time to recognize and acknowledge the contributions of the two Native American Tribal Governments in Tuolumne County, the Chicken Ranch Rancheria Me Wuk Indians and the Tuolumne Band of Me Wuk Indians.

For the third consecutive year, the county supervisors voted to proclaim the fourth Friday in September (this year on 9-22) as California Native American Day.

Office of Emergency Services Coordinator Dore Bietz, a member of the Tuolumne Band of Me Wuk Indians, led a presentation to the board and it also featured comments from Andrea Reich, Tuolumne Band of Me-Wuk Indians Tribal Chair, and a song presented by a pair of tribal leaders.

Reich told the board of supervisors, “We are asking you to consider a proclamation that not only describes the legacy of survival of all California Native American people but also one that recognizes the resilience of a culture that is still celebrated and thriving today.”

Of note, Bietz added that Chicken Ranch Rancheria Tribal Chair Lloyd Mathiesen was invited, but unable to attend today’s meeting.

The four supervisors in attendance, Jaron Brandon, Anaiah Kirk, Kathleen Haff, and Ryan Campbell all praised the resolution and the role of the local tribes in the community. Campbell noted, “The culture of the tribes in Tuolumne County is woven into the fabric of our culture as a community as a whole. You don’t have to be a member of one of the tribes to appreciate that, and learn from the cultural riches, the tradition, and the history.”

Some of the history of the local tribes, as written and presented by Bietz, is below:

California Tribes

California has 101 Federally recognized Tribes out of the 573 across this nation. California has been home to Native Americans for thousands of years. There are two federally recognized Tribal governments in Tuolumne County, the Chicken Ranch Band of Me-Wuk Indians and the Tuolumne Band of Me-Wuk Indians.  Each of these two tribes are distinct different sovereign governments and have suffered much from historical genocide seen throughout the State.

Tens of thousands of Native Californians were affected by discriminatory laws and policies. Native Californian children were forced to assimilate into white culture and attend “Indian Assimilation schools.” There, they were forbidden to speak their languages or take part in tribal ceremonies. And though Native peoples resisted discrimination and fought for civil rights, federal recognition, poverty, health disparities, and limited opportunities were, and still are, common. Despite these wrongs, California Native Americans resisted, survived, and carried on cultural and linguistic traditions defying all odds.

Rising above the historical injustices, these two Tribal Governments in Tuolumne County have provided not only for their community members but to the county as a whole multiple programs and services, including, but not limited to, social programs, health services, first responder services, education, workforce development, and land management. They also build and maintain infrastructure, including roads, bridges, medical clinics, schools, and public buildings.

In 1998, the California Legislature passed Assembly Bill 1953, establishing California Native American Day as an official day of education about the culture and heritage of American Indians in California. Since then, this day has been established to not only recognize the rich culture of Native American Communities within our State but to acknowledge the sacrifices they made and the continued commitment they give to their communities and the people within their county.

Native American Tribal Governments are sovereign nations that have deep-rooted commitment to their members but understand and support the communities around them regardless of affiliation.  Recognizing the importance of acknowledging and honoring the rich history, culture, and contributions of California Native Americans by designating the 4th Friday in September as California Native American Day provides an opportunity to celebrate the heritage, traditions, and resilience of California Native American peoples.

California Native American Day offers a chance to educate the community about the diverse California Native American cultures that have shaped our region and our state. Recognizing California Native American day will foster a greater understanding and appreciation of the historical and contemporary issues faced by California Native American communities as Tuolumne County aims to promote inclusivity, diversity, and respect for all individuals and communities within our county limits.

The full resolution approved 4-0 by the board of supervisors is below:

WHEREAS, Native American Day began in California in 1939, when California Gov.   Culbert Olson declared October 1 as ‘Indian Day.’ It was one of the first days established to recognize Native Americans and their cultures across the country. In 1968, Gov. Ronald Reagan declared the fourth Friday of September as ‘California Indian Day’ and the state continues to celebrate this occasion today; and

WHEREAS, Native American Day is an official California State holiday, pursuant to Assembly Bill 1953 (Baca) and signed into law by Governor Pete Wilson on September 21, 1998; and

WHEREAS, the County of Tuolumne recognizes the importance of acknowledging and honoring the rich history, culture, and contributions of California Native Americans; and

WHEREAS, Tuolumne County has been home to Native Americans for thousands of years. There are two federally recognized Tribal governments in our County, the Chicken Ranch Band of Me-Wuk Indians and the Tuolumne Band of Me-Wuk Indians; and

WHEREAS, Me-Wuk means “people” or “Indian people” and both Native American Tribal Governments have given so much to our community. From economic self-sufficiency, creation of jobs and resources, they have helped to make our community stronger and more prosperous; and

WHEREAS, Tribal governments provide multiple programs and services, including, but not limited to, social programs, health services, first responder services, education, workforce development and land management. They also build and maintain infrastructure, including roads, bridges and public buildings; and

WHEREAS, For California Native American Day, we pause to honor and appreciate the first Californians and these two Native American Tribal Governments, who have shaped so much of our past, present and future. Their richly diverse cultures have informed every aspect of our community’s history; and

WHEREAS, Tuolumne County is grateful for the leadership of the two California Tribal Governments and their communities here within Tuolumne County. They embody the values of diversity and resilience that have come to define California and Tuolumne County as a whole.

NOW THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the Tuolumne County Board of Supervisors does hereby acknowledge that Native American Governments have helped to make our community stronger and more prosperous, celebrating the richness of the county’s unique tribal history and traditions as well as the impact Native American cultures have had upon our county,

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the County of Tuolumne is committed to protecting the Sovereign right of Native American Tribal organizations and institutions to strengthen our communities and that we encourage all citizens join in recognizing the accomplishments and contributions Native Americans have made to our County. We salute those who have sought to honor the important role of Tribal Government leadership in our County’s past, present, and future,

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the County of Tuolumne does hereby proclaim the fourth Friday of September as California Native American Day. This proclamation is specific to Friday, September 22, 2023 and will be renewed annually.

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