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'We're very proud' | Groundbreaking held for new Native American monument at Capitol Park

A bronze sculpture of the late William "Bill" Franklin will soon stand tall at the corner of L and 13th Streets in Sacramento.

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — A special groundbreaking ceremony for a new monument was held at the California State Capitol Park on Monday. It's all part of recognizing Native American Heritage Month in November. 

A bronze sculpture of the late William "Bill" Franklin will soon stand tall at the corner of L and 13th Streets in Sacramento.

According to the Wilton Rancheria Tribe, Franklin was a Native American leader who dedicated his life to reviving traditional Miwok and Nisenan songs and dances. 

Franklin was also a member of the California Native American Heritage Commission. He fought to establish the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act of 1990 to help restore Indigenous people's rights to human remains and cultural items. He also led the way in building three Native American roundhouses in California for Native people to celebrate their traditions and culture.

"We're very proud,"  Louie Brown, grandson of Franklin, said. "He's going to be happy that he's out here in the park amongst the trees because he was an outside type of guy. He was always helping somebody and anybody who needed help in the Indian community. I'm glad he will be here for generations to see."

The Franklin statue will replace the old statue of Junipero Serra. He was a Roman Catholic priest who established a string of missions from San Diego to San Francisco in the late 1700's and used them as centers to convert members of nearby Tribes to Christianity. 

But Native people were enslaved, forced to live and work at the missions and subjected to beatings and other abuse. Thousands died.

The Serra statue was erected in 1965 at Capitol Park. In July 2020, protesters vandalized and tore down statues of Serra in Sacramento, San Francisco and Los Angeles. 

Assemblymember James Ramos (D-Highland) is the first and only California Native American serving in the state's legislature. He introduced Assembly Bill 338 last year, authorizing the placement of the Native monument in Capitol Park to honor Native American Tribes in Northern California. 

Governor Gavin Newsom signed the bill last year in a package of legislation honoring the rich histories and cultures of California Native peoples.

"This monument that will be constructed and put forward at the State Capitol will start to pave the way for the voices of all Californian Indian people to be heard in the state's legislature and in the educational arena," Ramos said. "Once this new monument is completed, it will serve to remind students and all visitors to this historic Capitol Park that Native Americans lived on this land and cared for it long before California statehood and its preceding eras."

Sacramento sculptor Ronnie Frosta will undertake design of the project.

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