Treat the earth well: We are caretakers of the land for the next generation. ~ Native American Proverb
As an environmental activist, I have always felt kinship with the Native Americans who first inhabited our land here. They have always understood our responsibility to protect Mother Earth and all of her inhabitants for future generations. I recognize that here in Orange County, we are walking on land that was once the home of Acjachemen People, known today as the Juaneno Band of Mission Indians.. When I walk the State Park beaches here in Orange County, I often think about the first people that lived here, and the respect for our fertile land and beautiful ocean that they possessed.
The Native Americans were the first inhabitants here, yet now they are practically invisible and treated with little respect. The U.S. government has done little to honor agreed upon treaties and tribal sovereignty. The impact this has had upon the Native American community is devastating. One in four are living in poverty. One in three Native American women will be raped in her lifetime, and most of the offenders are non-Native. Meanwhile, the federal courts have continued to chip away at tribal sovereignty, making it nearly impossible to prosecute for violent crimes that occur within tribal borders.
Locally here in our district, the Native American population has the lowest percentage of college graduates than any other minority group. We need a pipeline from high school through college; only two out of 28 districts in Orange County have an Indian Education Program, and this needs to change. Until all of our students know the history of the original people of this area, this population will not receive the respect and dignity they so deserve.
When I get to Congress, I will fight to not only support tribal sovereignty but also to provide Tribes with effective law enforcement and their own Tribal courts. I will fight to honor the treaties between the U.S. and Tribal Nations and for improved housing, better education and health care, and to protect Native American culture and practices. I will work alongside my Native American brothers and sisters to create sustainable “green” jobs that will provide well-paying jobs and help alleviate the devastating effects of climate change upon our planet. When in Congress, I will fight for federal recognition, finally, for our indigenous Acjachemen Nation, and I know my Native American brothers and sisters will be happy to know that my first year in Congress I plan on bringing a bill to the House floor that will ban new offshore oil drilling.
If we consider ourselves a caring and compassionate nation, we must care for the Original Peoples here that took great care of our land, and together we can work toward saving our Mother Earth for future generations to come.