By Toni G. Atkins
It’s November, and in our house that means a couple things. First, the witch’s hat goes back into the attic for another year, along with the memories of so many adorable kids celebrating Halloween while having fun and being safe.
Our first milestone in November is the start of Native American Heritage Month. It’s an important time for us to remember that so much of the Native experience has been erased or replaced by happy myths that don’t match reality. COVID-19 shined a spotlight on the realities and disparities regarding Native communities’ access to health care, recent news stories have highlighted the tragic and shameful cases of murdered and missing Indigenous women that have gone unsolved and ignored for far too long, and the horrific discoveries of children’s bodies at former Native American boarding school locations in the U.S. and Canada cry out for further investigation—and for justice.
I do have to say how pleased I am as we honor Native American culture and contributions this month, that this Thanksgiving, for the first time, America’s public lands are being overseen by a Native American—Interior Secretary Deb Haaland, a member of the Pueblo of Laguna and a 35th generation New Mexican.
Of the many, many things I am thankful for this month, the veterans we honor on November 11 are top of the list. Coming from a military family and representing a district with a long and proud history in the defense of our nation, I am committed to ensuring our veterans get the respect they deserve and receive the services and benefits they have earned—especially having a safe, decent place to call home. Later on in the newsletter there’s some good information on the gains the Legislature was able to make for veterans this year—a righteous cause I will always keep on the front burner.
Speaking of burners, do you have a favorite you’ll be warming up this Thanksgiving? A Twitter poll shows the front right is people’s favorite with 54% of the vote, while front left is a strong contender with 36.5%, The back burners, well, they weren’t all that popular, with 4.7% each. When we do our Thanksgiving cooking this month, let’s all be sure to thank the more than 5,000 farms in our region that produce a wide range of commodities from fruits, vegetables and nuts to beef, pork and poultry. According to the latest annual crop report, the bounty produced by our farmers resulted in a $1.8 billion economic impact in our region.
As we move closer to the start of the next legislative session in January, my colleagues and I will continue working to help ensure more families can gather safely for all their celebrations, so more veterans and all Californians will be able to have a home for the holidays, and so our society can focus less on myths about Native Americans bringing pies to Thanksgiving and more on the work that must be done to bring missing and murdered women and children home to their families.
Though that work is never easy, it is one of the things I am most thankful for this month and every other month—and I am grateful to you all for that privilege.
Jennifer and I wish you all the best this Thanksgiving.
— Toni G. Atkins is President pro Tempore of the California Senate. Visit www.sd39.senate.ca.gov/contact to contact her.