The Soboba Band of Luiseño Indians welcomed Assemblymember James C. Ramos to the Soboba Casino Resort Center on Dec. 12 to discuss the next steps in implementing Assembly Bill 1703, known as the California Indian Education Act. The bill was authored by Ramos and approved by Gov. Gavin Newsom in September. It is meant to ensure that the proper history of regional Tribes is taught in the state’s schools.
The bill encourages school districts, county offices of education and charter schools to form California Indian Education Task Forces with Tribes local to their region, or historically located in their region, who will help develop high quality curricular materials, including the correct and proper depictions of Native Americans.
Soboba Tribal Chairman Isaiah Vivanco welcomed the opportunity to host this important event for Assemblymember Ramos who is a longtime friend of his and the Soboba Tribe. He said it was a two-year battle for this bill to endure the Legislative process so it could be put on the governor’s desk for approval.
“We appreciate all the effort, time, consultation and everything else that Assemblymember Ramos has gone through to get the bill to where it’s at today – ready to be instituted within our school districts to tell our true story,” Vivanco said.
Among the Roundtable panelists were two San Jacinto High School students who traveled to Sacramento with a delegation from Soboba in March to support the bill when it was under consideration. Su’la Arviso and Rhianna Salgado are also members of the Four Directions Native American club at the high school and recently organized a Gathering of the People where they highlighted all cultures represented at the campus and in the community. Ramos attended that event and spoke about the importance of schools teaching accurate historical information regarding Native Americans.
At the Roundtable, Su’la said, “This bill will not only help clear up the misconceptions but also provide a better understanding of who we are and where we come from.” She shared that being able to provide cultural demonstrations via the club helps give her fellow students a better understanding of Native Americans than what they read about in textbooks.
Rhianna, of the Soboba Band of Luiseño Indians and Cahuilla Band of Indians, said that she was grateful to be given the platform of testifying on behalf of AB 1703 in Sacramento and to being invited to the Roundtable “where our voices can be heard.” She stressed the importance of teaching, and having students learn, the true history and culture among different Tribes throughout the state and not just have them all lumped together into one stereotype.
Ramos thanked both students for their insightful words and said they are both great examples of how the youths are already working hard to correct the misconceptions by engaging in their classrooms, on their campuses and in their communities.
“How much better would it be for a Native American student from a local Tribe to open a textbook and read the factual history of who they truly are and see it being taught to every student in their classroom?” Ramos said. “That’s where we want to get to. We want to get to that point so everybody is learning about who we are and breaking down those misconceptions.”
Other panelists, virtually and in person, included Tribal and educational leaders who stated their support and reasons why they feel this bill and subsequent implementation is so valuable to Californians.
The Soboba Band of Luiseño Indians is utilizing its strong relationship with the San Jacinto Unified School District to provide support for AB 1703.
“Hopefully we can take steps here locally to be a model to show other Tribes and districts in the state what San Bernardino and Riverside counties can do,” Vivanco said. “We will put our best foot forward and lead this charge. I know there is a lot more to be done and a lot more than can be said or talked about, but we are excited to move forward and progress.”
To Ramos, Vivanco said, “Thank you for what you are doing at the capitol and for making a difference in our lives, and for bringing attention to these serious matters.”
Photos courtesy of the Soboba Band of Luiseño Indians