Native American Committee


California Native American Day

Celebrating Native American Day is a time-honored tradition in the Native American community. For many years California tribes have celebrated the fourth Friday of September by renewing their ties to the Earth and keeping alive the ways of their ancestors. Then Governor Ronald Reagan first acknowledged California Indians in 1968 by signing a resolution to designate the date as American Indian Day, a move meant to help inform the general public about Indian heritage and the problems confronted by Indians.

Today, people of all ages commemorate Native American Indian Day by learning more about the culture, heritage, and traditions of the California Indian. The celebration is capped off each year at the State Capitol, where hundreds of people and over 300 state agencies gather to enjoy vendors, food trucks, and traditional activities such as:

  • Blessing Ceremonies
  • Honoring our Veterans and our Elders
  • Cultural Presentations
  • Tribal Leader Speakers
  • Traditional California Indian Arts
  • Dance Groups 

Each year, the event is coordinated by the California State Native American Liaisons of California. Participating organizations include Native American organizations, Tribes, federal, state, and local governments including Caltrans, State Native American Heritage Commission, California State Parks, Department of Consumer Affairs, State Native American liaisons, Department of Fair Employment and Housing Commission, California Department of Justice-Attorney General’s Office, USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, Department of Water Resources, and Department of Housing and Community Development.

In 2020, California Governor Gavin Newsom said that “California Native American communities represent the best of who we are and who we can be as Californians. The actions we take today move us closer toward the goal of reckoning with our past, making space for healing, and promoting equity. I thank our partners in the Legislature and everyone who made possible these important advancements, especially the tribal leaders, whose persistent advocacy has compelled these changes.”

However, California Tribal Liaisons made the difficult decision to cancel this year’s Native American Day celebration at the State Capitol, originally planned for September 24, 2021. We look forward to future Native American Day celebrations when we can gather safely and responsibly to honor the legacy and cultural heritage of our people.  

Historical Facts

  • Native American Day began in California in 1939 when Governor Culbert Olson dedicated October 1st as “Indian Day.”
  • The Native American Day is an official State holiday, pursuant to Assembly Bill 1953 (Baca), signed into law by Governor Pete Wilson on September 21, 1998. In 2011, Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. wrote a Governor’s Proclamation highlighting this momentous and important day.
  • As of August 2021, Assembly member James Ramos (Serrano/Cahuilla tribe), has submitted a bill to the floor to grant judicial employees the first-ever paid holiday recognizing Native Americans.  The bill has cleared both the assembly and the senate and now sits on the governor’s desk awaiting his signature.  Ramos said he expects Governor Newsom to sign the proposed legislation, and for the bill to effect in September 2022.

A message from the SEIU Local 1000 Native American Committee

The Keystone Pipeline is a system of oil pipes running from Canada down to the Gulf Coast. The construction of the pipeline was proposed as a way to increase oil revenue and make the U.S. less dependent on Middle East oil imports. 

As promised, President Biden made the Keystone XL Pipeline a priority by signing an executive order to halt the pipeline on his first day in office!

The move prioritizes environmental protection of the nation over short-term fossil fuel production, along with protecting sacred lands of the tribes and surrounding communities.

Had it proceeded, the construction process would have destroyed croplands, forests, pastures, wetlands, and small waterways, as the pipes run primarily through rural areas.

Tribal Leaders and communities organized opposition to the Keystone project based on these negative environmental impact concerns. Halting the project averts any possibility of water contamination and the severe health risks that come with it to nearby communities.  

Construction of the pipeline would also have damaged sacred burial and ceremonial sites, destroyed cultural resources, and damaged historic archaeological sites. Furthermore, the uncertainty as to the amount of danger posed to natural water river ways, wetlands, and reforestation was unknown.

President Biden’s rejection of the Keystone pipeline was a huge victory and a tribute to the 13 years of dedicated leadership of a diverse collation of Tribal Leaders, environmentalists, and community grassroots crusaders. This opposition created allied tribal nations with landowners and ranchers from Nebraska, the Dakotas, Oklahoma, and Texas, who together insisted that our environmental future is not worth sacrificing for unsafe pipelines.

Continuing the pipeline would not make any meaningful long-term contribution to our economy or job growth, especially with our current output of shale oil. Keystone XL stood to benefit one corporation—TransCanada.

President Biden heard the voice of the people, of those who organized for a safe environment and healthy communities, not to special interest groups, and we thank him for his commitment to protect ALL of us.