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California governor Gavin Newsom calls Native American treatment genocide

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Gavin Newsom
Gavin Newsom

Recognizing that admission was overdue, California Gov. Gavin Newsom released an apology on Tuesday for the “systemic slaughter of California Indians,” calling it a “genocide” to be recognized.

Newsom spoke at a tribal leadership gathering at the California Indian Heritage Center’s future location in West Sacramento. The apology is codified in an executive order (pdf), which also requires a Truth and Healing Council to be established.

California governor Gavin Newsom calls Native American treatment genocide
California governor Gavin Newsom calls Native American treatment genocide

A press release from the governor’s office defines his activities as “the first time a state has taken dual action to correct the historical record and acknowledge wrongdoing through an executive order directive and a consultation-informed, tribally-led council.”

The “only way to right a wrong is to acknowledge there was a wrong,” said Newsom. He pointed to examples of state-backed violence against native people, including the state’s first governor ordering a “a war of extermination,” as a “stain on our state.”

“It’s called a genocide. That’s what it was—a genocide. No other way to describe it. And that’s the way it needs to be described in the history books.”

Gov. Gavin Newsom

Mark Macarro, tribal chairman of the Luiseño Indians Pechanga Band in southern California, was among the leaders that gathered. He accepted the apology from Newsom, which he said could “set a new tone” and “start a long cycle of healing.”

For her part, Erica Pinto, Jamul Indian Village chairwoman, praised the governor for his remarks, but emphasized that “action is where it’s at.”

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