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Task force appointed for creation of California Indian museum and cultural center

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SACRAMENTO, Calif. - In the first step to enact legislation passed last year, a nine-member task force is being assembled to begin the creation of a new California Indian museum and cultural center.

The task force is the result of legislation written last year by Sen. Jim Brulte, R-Rancho Cucamonga that authorizes the creation of such a task force.

Brulte's legislation is in response to Gov. Davis authorizing $10 million in Proposition 40 funds last year. Proposition 40 was passed by California voters last March that provided nearly $2.6 billion in funds to go toward state park and water quality projects. Of this amount, $5 million will be available during the preliminary phase of the museum's creation.

After that, the museum is expected to be completed with a combination of state and private funds and will eventually be governed by a partnership of a non-profit foundation and an as yet un-named California Indian advisory board.

Though there is an available site in the Sacramento suburb of Folsom it is unclear whether or not this will become the permanent site of the museum.

"This task force will soon begin evaluating the location for construction of the center, which will draw people from not only around the state but from around the nation," said California State Parks Acting Director Ruth Coleman.

Already in existence is the California State Indian Museum, located on the grounds of the old Sutter's Fort near downtown Sacramento. Task force member Cindy La Marr, executive director of Capitol Area Indian Resources, Inc., and an expert in Indian education said that the new museum will replace the current one.

"All of the materials, artifacts, and traditional art pieces housed there and at the storage facility in West Sacramento will be transferred to the new museum and cultural center," said LaMarr.

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LaMarr went on to state that the existing museum will likely become a gift shop for Sutter's Fort State Historical Park, a rebuilt version of the original compound by early Swiss German settler Johann Sutter, on whose landholdings gold was discovered some 40 miles east of the fort in 1848.

In a written memo, the task force said that once completed the center would provide not only a place for Indian people in California to celebrate and protect their past but also a place to provide information and interaction with school children, teachers and interested families.

Though much of the museum will focus on Indian history, the memo also explicitly states that the museum will present California Indians as contemporary and still vibrant cultures.

"The Indian Cultural Center and Museum will be a great resource for all Californians to learn and understand the journeys of native tribes; and will be a symbol of pride for the California Indian community," said Sen. Brulte.

In his legislation, Sen. Brulte provided that the task force would be chosen among certain groups. Among these groups at least three members must come from the public at large and to ensure a proper representation from the entire Golden State, the members must be from Southern, Central and Northern California tribes respectively.

John Gomez, a Pechanga tribal member who has helped head the highly successful Pechanga Cultural Resource Center is the person selected from Southern California. Genevieve Denton of the Ione Band of Miwok Indians, who helped create a large exhibits at the California Indian Museum in Sacramento was chosen from Central California and Loren Bommelyn from the Smith River Rancheria, a teacher with a master's degree in Linguistics was chosen from Northern California.

La Marr said that the creation of the museum is a "dream come true." She has been a tireless proponent of a new cultural center and often went to visit lawmakers to propose the idea.

La Marr feels the new museum and "will recognize the untold contributions that were made to our state's history and finally, formally acknowledge its original inhabitants with the respect that is deserved."

In addition to Coleman, the task force is rounded out by William Mungary, a Paiute tribal member, a former member of the California Rural Development Council; Mary Nichols, the secretary for the powerful California Resources Agency and Larry Myers, executive secretary of the Native American Heritage Commission.