SACRAMENTO, Calif. — A new monument honoring California Native Americans is being erected at the California State Capitol Park.

A statue of William Franklin Sr., a Miwok Indian community leader, will be placed at the same site where the Junipero Serra statue was torn down by protesters in 2020.

Last year, Assembly member James Ramos, the first and only Native American lawmaker in the legislature, introduced AB 338 to replace the controversial statue with one that honors Native Americans.

At the groundbreaking ceremony, Ramos referred to Franklin as a fierce protector of his culture.

“This monument that will be constructed and put forward here on the State Capitol will start to pave the way for the voices of all California Indian people to be heard in the state legislature and in the educational arena,” Ramos said.

Terisa Yonemura, William Franklin Sr.’s daughter, says her father was a well-known leader of the Miwok Indians. He taught native dance classes during a time when it was controversial. He also helped build three roundhouses and played a role in implementing California Native American Day.

“My dad taught us to be honorable and to be proud of Miwok and what you do,” Yonemura said.

William Franklin Sr.’s grandson, Matt Franklin, thinks the statue signifies positive progress.

“I’m in awe — grandpa is a bronze statue. It’s a real honor because he was a very humble man,” Franklin said.

Franklin says growing up he was antagonized by his classmates for being Native. He recalls one experience that compelled him to learn more about his culture.

“I was asked to read a passage in fourth grade in social studies. The teacher knew I was Indian so I read the passage and it said the half-naked savages beat the women and children and burned the village down and all the kids turned and laughed at me and that’s what people thought of natives,” Franklin said.

Franklin talked with his grandparents and visited a roundhouse to learn more about his culture. While Native Americans make up less than 2% of the state’s population, Franklin adds it’s important to recognize Native American’s role in California’s history.

“We’re not a big population in the state … We’re the smallest people in the state of California, but we’re the original people,” noted Franklin.

When Franklin Sr. passed away in 2000, former Gov. Gray Davis signed a proclamation in his name.

“It was touching because he was just a simple man. He worked just like everybody else and everything and he helped all the Indians in California and it was like wow, people really did take notice of what he did,” Yonemura said.

Franklin is eager to bring his kids to see the statue once it is standing at the Capitol next year.

“Our generations to come are going to be able to go and say that’s my grandfather, and he’s Native — I think it’s much bigger than we think it is right now,” Franklin said.

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