In California, hundreds gathered at the state capitol for the dedication of a Miwok statue to replace the one of Catholic missionary Junipero Serra.
Christina Aanestad has more.
Tribes Indigenous to the Sacramento area, including Pomo and Miwok, gathered with California state lawmakers to unveil the new statue at Capitol Park of Miwok leader William Bill Franklin.
Jesus Torrango is tribal chair of the Wilton Rancheria.
“It is an important step in telling an honest account of what happened on this land. As you heard, the man portrayed in the statue is a Miwok-Aneeshnan leader, William Bill Franklin. His life epitomized the strength, honor, and commitment of California Indian people. The statue isn’t to just honor Grandpa Bill, because every tribe across this state has their own Bill Franklin – a leader who fought to keep our traditions and culture alive during a time when it wasn’t easy to be Indian, it wasn’t easy to be Indigenous.”
The statue replaces the one of Junipero Serra, the Catholic missionary who established the racist mission system that enslaved and indoctrinated Native Americans in California form of genocide.
“On July 4, 2020, during the Black Lives Matter protests following the murder of George Floyd, the father of Junipero Serra statue that stood here since 1967 was toppled.”
The state’s only Native American lawmaker, State Rep. James Ramos (Serrano/Cahuilla/D-CA), then introduced legislation to replace the statue.
It passed and Governor Gavin Newsom (D-CA) signed it into law one year ago.
Rep. Ramos commemorated the statue’s unveiling.
“Our people survived against great odds to be able to be here today, showing the resiliency of California’s first people. That’s why we’re here today to be able to unveil this monument to start the discussion about including factual curriculum about who we are and what’s being taught in the state of California.”
The Native American Development Council in Montana is hosting events for Native American Heritage Month.
Yellowstone Public Radio’s Orlinda Worthington attended a recent event in Billings and has this report.
On a chilly Montana morning, six Native Americans carrying tribal flags ran two miles to the Eagle Seeker Community Center in the middle of Billings.
They came from each of the four directions.
Tally Monteau with the Native American Development Corporation shares the significance.
“So in my tribe, we believe that the four directions ties back to our creation story and how there were four brothers and carries all our prayers coming from those four directions. And then it helps tie us to Creator and the environment and the world surrounding us.”
Sixteen-year-old Abbilee Runs Above came from the east, representing the Northern Cheyenne, Gros Ventre, Sioux, and Cree tribes.
“It was really a powerful experience. And throughout the running I was praying and wishing good thoughts for the new year. For like what I want to see come out of everybody.”
NADC has events planned throughout November with the goal of bringing the diverse tribes in the state and non-native Americans together, with Monteau adding, “We just want to celebrate who we are and express how proud we are as a people and really invite the outside community in and get this little glimpse and share our culture.”
Leonard Smith is the CEO of that organization.
He too feels the national month of recognition is an opportunity to find common ground among different cultures.
“For me it means unity among our tribes. And having pride in our past and then use it for the future of all of us.”
Billings is home to a Native American population representing over 60 tribes nationwide.
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