A small tribe of rogue “unrecognized” Native Americans dealt a major blow to sweetness today, when they forced Mike Gatto’s fucking awesome Assembly Bill 52 to stall in committee. Despite the protest’s laughably small turnout, politicians often need to display extra sensitivities when dealing with the demands of once-oppressed minorities. And so, despite all the good that this bill would do for both the state of California and the many federally recognized Native American tribes that dwell within her borders, AB52 is now set to wither on the vine.
Also known as the Native American Historic Resource Protection Act, AB52 would establish “a misdemeanor for unlawfully and maliciously excavating upon, removing, destroying, injuring or defacing a Native American historical, cultural or sacred site” and would mandate that every project under the California Environmental Quality Act be reviewed by the Native American Heritage Commission. Sounds like a pretty sweet law, right?
Well, here’s the minuscule legislative quibble that threatens to sink an otherwise fantastically sweet bill: as written, the law applies only to Native American tribes recognized by the federal government through the Bureau of Indian Affairs. However, both nationally and locally, there are tribes whose “historic and cultural legacy are not recognized.” But judging from the extremely dorky contingent sent to represent these tribes in Sacramento, it’s hardly surprising that they were among the last to be picked for the national kick-ball team.
Mike was unable to meet with the small but vocal contingent of protesters, however he tasked two junior staffers with humoring them. And while there is some merit to their claim that this new law would effectively rewrite existing laws in regards to which tribes the CEQA recognizes (which would be the first time in 40 years that California would alter its definition Native American Tribes), I’m sure we can all agree that their shameless grandstanding was unnecessarily rude considering this is an election year, and Mike has real problems to deal with.