Building Bridges with California Tribes

This week marks the 2nd Annual California Tribal Nations Conference, which provides California state officials an opportunity to engage directly in dialogue with California Tribal leaders. Most importantly, this conference fosters stronger relationships with Tribal governments and helps refine the State’s policy priorities supporting the Native American community and other significant mutual challenges such as climate change and cultural preservation.

Engaging Tribal governments is essential in California. Tribes across the country and in California have survived and maintained their cultural and linguistic traditions while preserving natural resources for hundreds of years. It is important for state government efforts to support and advance these practices, and we can only do so by rebuilding our relationship with Native Americans—the original stewards of California.

I was humbled to witness Governor Newsom’s June 2019 formal apology for California’s dark history of discrimination and intolerance toward the Native American community. The Governor spoke with transparency, acknowledging that the government can never undo the wrongs inflicted in the past, but we can work together to build bridges for our future by telling the truth needed to help heal deep wounds. We know that action will repair and rebuild our relationships with California Tribes, and the California Natural Resources Agency is committed to advancing that effort.

It has been a point of privilege to demonstrate our commitment to rebuild and strengthen Tribal relations in California. We have begun this through the California Natural Resources Agency’s (CNRA) award of funds for the Esselen Tribe of Monterey County’s acquisition of the 1,199-acre Adler Ranch to protect Native American cultural and natural resources earlier this year, and the State Lands Commission’s conveyance of 40 acres of state-owned land to the Lone Pine Paiute-Shoshone Tribe within its ancestral lands for the preservation of Tribal cultural resources.

Now our Agency is taking another step toward advancing our commitment by establishing the Agency’s first Assistant Secretary for Tribal Affairs. This leader will guide the inclusion of Tribal governments and communities within CNRA’s work and help cultivate and support the effective integration of Tribal interests in environmental policymaking. This position will also work with Tribal, Agency and Departmental leaders to institutionalize engagement with Tribal communities in decision-making on natural, historic and cultural resources.

Tribal communities have stewarded California’s natural resources since before the State’s inception. We will continue to work cooperatively with California Tribes to address inequalities, build climate resilience and ensure access to ancestral lands. I am proud of the work that has been accomplished, but I am energized and hopeful about what we will achieve together.

If you are interested in applying for the Assistant Secretary for Tribal Affairs position, visit the Governor’s Appointment webpage to apply at https://www.gov.ca.gov/application-for-appointment/