California is the land of superlatives. “The biggest” as in state economy. “The most” when it comes to population. And the largest number of Native Americans of any state in the country (because California has more of everything, right?).
But when it comes to electing Native Americans to state offices: Well, it’s slightly better than none.
There are a few tribal members at the city and county level: Los Angeles Council member Mitch O’Farell is a member of the Wyandotte Tribe; San Diego City Council member (and former mayor) Todd Gloria who is Tlingit and Haida; and San Bernadino County Supervisor James Ramos who is the former chairman of the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians.
There may be a few other names (let me know, please) but my point is that the list is awfully short. Call it the California Paradox: The Census says there nearly 700,000 Native Americans in the state, probably an inflated number, but that also includes 109 federally-recognized tribes. So then there is that superlative thing: California also has 37 million people making it difficult for any small group of people to win office. Even in a state that is now majority-minority.
So the California Legislature has zero Native American representation.
Andrew Masiel, Sr., a former member of the Pechanga Tribal Council, and chair of the California Democrat’s Native American Caucus, is trying to change that. He is running for the Assembly in District 75 that includes the Pechanga Reservation and Temecula. The California primary is June 7, but Masiel has already been endorsed by the San Diego Country Democrats and will likely face an incumbent, Republican Marie Waldron, in the general election.
“Andrew Masiel has devoted more than 25 years of his life to serving California tribal governments, accumulating extensive experience in tribal economic development and financing for tribal government projects,” according to the California Native American Caucus page.
Mark Trahant is the Charles R. Johnson Endowed Professor of Journalism at the University of North Dakota. He is an independent journalist and a member of The Shoshone-Bannock Tribes. On Twitter @TrahantReports
Reposting or reprinting this column? Please credit: Mark Trahant / TrahantReports.com