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Assemb. Gloria champions bills to promote, protect Native American cultures and traditions

"“California is a place of rich diversity. We take pride in our communities, neighborhoods, and who we are as people – and we are proud to be a place for everyone."
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Today, as the California State Capitol recognized and celebrated the 51st annual Native American Day, California State Assemblymember Todd Gloria (D-San Diego), announced Governor Jerry Brown’s signing of two bills aimed at ensuring Californians retain the right to honor their cultural heritage. AB 1248 guarantees students’ rights to wear cultural adornments at graduation and AB 2836, which centers on the repatriation of Native American artifacts and remains.

“California is a place of rich diversity. We take pride in our communities, neighborhoods, and who we are as people – and we are proud to be a place for everyone. Every Californian deserves the right to honor their heritage and celebrate who they are,” said Assemblymember Todd Gloria. “These measures empower students to recognize their cultural identity on one of the most important days of their lives and allow Native American tribes to pay respect to their ancestors and history. As the Legislature’s only enrolled tribal member, I sincerely thank Governor Brown for his signature on these important bills.”

AB 1248 establishes the right of California students to wear items of cultural significance during school graduation ceremonies – a practice previously forbidden by some school districts. Under current law, the education code authorizes school districts to determine reasonable dress code policies including graduation attire. With this authority, some districts have adopted “no adornment” policies thereby denying students the right to wear symbolic items of achievement -- like an eagle feather (Native American culture) or kente cloth (African culture).

Beginning January 1, 2019, students will have the explicit right to wear “traditional tribal regalia or recognized objects of religious or cultural significance as an adornment at school graduation ceremonies.” Last year, a similar bill by Assemblymember Gloria was vetoed by the Governor. At the beginning of this year’s legislative session, Assemblymember Gloria immediately reintroduced the measure.

AB 2836 requires the University of California (UC) to update their processes for the repatriation of human remains and cultural items. Despite current federal and state laws governing the return of remains and artifacts, including the federal Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA), application of these statures has been inconsistent and, in some cases, ignored. This includes the UC will nearly all campuses and museums failing to repatriate at some level which has resulted in several Native American tribes being unable to properly pay respect to and honor the history of their ancestors.

Beginning January 1, 2019, the University will begin forming various stakeholder committees to update standards and processes of repatriating these sacred remains. These standards are designed to streamline repatriation requests from tribes to ensure expedient return of tribal remains and artifacts.

Assemblymember Gloria is the Majority Whip of the California State Assembly and represents the 78th Assembly District which includes the cities of San Diego, Coronado, Del Mar, Imperial Beach, and Solana Beach. A Tlingit-Indian, he is the Legislature’s only enrolled tribal member.