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California Republican leader creates Indian liaison office

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SACRAMENTO, Calif. - David Quintana has been appointed American Indian liaison to State Senate Minority leader Jim Brulte, R-Rancho Cucamonga. This is the first time such a position has been created in a California legislative office.

Quintana sees his position as two-fold. His primary responsibility will be to communicate to Sen. Brulte issues of importance for American Indians in his district. Some of whose tribes include the Morongo and San Manual Band of Mission Indians.

In addition to communicating issues, Quintana says he sees himself as an advocate for American Indian tribes. He said he feels it is important for tribes to have someone in Sacramento who will listen.

In a letter on the subject, Brulte stated that Quintana will be responsible for "ongoing communication and outreach to California's Native Americans."

The senator went on to call the position "high priority" and announced that Quintana will be housed in the his office in the state capitol building here.

"As tribal issues have gotten bigger, the need for this position became apparent to the senator," Quintana says.

The Republican Party recently took heat for a resolution passed by the Washington state party which had inserted an anti-sovereignty resolution into its platform. Brulte feels the California GOP has been more supportive of American Indian sovereignty than Democratic counterparts.

Brulte calls tribal governments a great form of democracy and says self-determination for the tribes is in line with Republican philosophy. He points out that Ronald Reagan signed the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act and says that President Clinton's Justice Department had, at one point, threatened to shut gaming down.

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"I'm a big supporter of tribal sovereignty and have always had an open door policy when it comes to Indian tribes. As Republican leader in the California state Senate it is often hard for me to address Indian issues as quickly as I would like to. I wanted to make sure that one person on my staff could provide this open door," Brulte says .

He says he expects Quintana to keep him up-to-date on issues of American Indian concern.

Louisa Sustaita, a lobbyist who represents seven California tribes said she feels Brulte made a good choice with Quintana who is respected on both sides of the aisle.

"I can't say enough good things about David. Senator Brulte could not have made a better choice. I look forward to continued work with him."

Quizzed on specific issues of importance to American Indians such as repatriation and economic development, Quintana said there is a "tremendous learning curve" and he has much "homework" to do on the issues.

He singled out the Wildman bill before the California Senate, which seeks to increase funding and tribal control for American Indian education. After the bill was put on the back burner, Quintana brought the matter to Brulte. He noted strong tribal support and Brulte helped revive the bill for Senate review.

"It seems as if the tribes are concerned about legislation that would take away tribal rights for self-governance. These are the things that I'm on the lookout for," Quintana says .

Quintana is of Cherokee and Mexican descent and a veteran on the United States Air Force. He graduated from the University of California, Davis, School of Law and serves in the California Bar Association. He has served Brulte as the director of legislation and was Republican consultant to the state Legislature for public safety for three years.