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California's Only Native American Lawmaker: 'Taking Down The Monuments Are Not Enough'

SACRAMENTO (CBS13) — The Christopher Columbus statue will be removed from the Capitol rotunda after a growing call to have controversial historical figures taken down.

"We are seeing a resurgence of issues that we have been trying to fight for since the '70s," said Assemblymember James Ramos.

As race relations are in the spotlight, California's first and only Native American lawmaker, Assemblymember James Ramos (D-San Bernadino), hopes the call the remove some controversial historical statues is just the beginning.

"Taking down the monuments are not enough if we are not going to start to change the education process and the thought process of the people in California," he said.

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Ramos comments come after the State Legislature jointly decided to remove the Christopher Columbus statue from the capitol, describing Columbus as a "polarizing figure."

In a joint statement, the legislature explained the reason for the statue's removal: "Christopher Columbus is a deeply polarizing historical figure given the deadly impact his arrival in this hemisphere had on indigenous populations. The continued presence of this statue in California's Capitol, where it has been since 1883, is completely out of place today. It will be removed."

Ramos believes there is a more destructive symbol of oppression just feet away in the Capitol garden.

"Junípero Serra and the missionary system came in and really annihilated California Indian tribes and there is a lot more history tied to that and the correct history that needs to be taught," Ramos said.

Christopher Columbus will be the second statue taken down in the area. On Monday, the John Sutter statue was taken down at Sutter Hospital.

Former Republican congressman, Doug Ose, is concerned with what message removing historical statues across the nation sends.

"If these individuals engaged in good or bad behavior, the answer is not to erase them. The answer is to say to the viewer 'this is the good stuff that they did and this is the stuff that we don't like that they did,'" he explained.

Ose does not have a problem with the removal in the capitol, saying that it is lawmakers' right to choose what statues are inside the capitol. However, he believes it highlights a larger issue.

"Educate the viewers of these statues of who these people were. Let's tell the good and the bad and let somebody make their own mind up, you can't erase your history, you simply cannot do that," Ose said.

For Ramos, the issue goes much deeper. The lawmaker is currently working on legislation to protect Native American artifacts and remains.

"We need to make sure repatriation continues to be paid forward," he said.

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