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Also see the related video: 'Assemblymember Ramos returns to CSUSB for historic swearing-in ceremony.'
It was a historic day at Cal State San Bernardino on Feb. 9 as one of its distinguished alumni, James C. Ramos, held a community swearing-in ceremony on campus to celebrate a historic achievement and milestone as the first California Native American elected to the state Assembly.
The ceremony was a celebration as Ramos joined in with fellow tribal members as they sang Big Horn Sheep songs following the invocation by Pastor Reginald Young of San Bernardino Pastors United at the start of the ceremony, and later at the end to sing intertribal bird songs. Ken Ramirez, Ramos’ older brother and secretary of the San Manuel Tribal Government, gave the opening remarks.
“Many years ago we began a journey to groom people within the tribe to one day be in the position that James is in today. My grandmother would always tell us, ‘You’re going to be there someday, you’re going to be there someday.’ And today is that day,” Ramirez said. “This is truly a new beginning for all of us in Indian Country.”
Cal State San Bernardino President Tomás D. Morales welcomed the nearly 400 people in attendance, telling them that this was also a special day in CSUSB’s history.
“It is an especially proud moment for this university. We are thrilled to see James C. Ramos – a distinguished alumnus of this great university who has been an outstanding leader within this community and a tremendous role model for countless people – sworn in to represent the state’s 40th Assembly District,” Morales said. “The fact he is the first California-born Native American elected to the Assembly is truly significant.”
Morales praised Ramos, who graduated from the university with a bachelor’s degree in business administration with a concentration in accounting, for his hard work and dedication.
“I congratulate you on your election. You inspire us with your leadership, your vision, and your commitment to the constituents you serve,” Morales said. “I sincerely look forward to working with you during your long tenure in the state Assembly.”
The ceremony also featured four fellow legislators, U.S. Rep. Pete Aguilar, 31st Congressional District; Assemblymember Lorena Gonzales, 80th Assembly District; Assemblymember Jose Medina, 61st Assembly District; and Jim Frazier, 11th Assembly District, who each paid tribute to the first-year Assembly member.
Aguilar said he has known Ramos for 15 years. “Throughout my time on the Redlands City Council and now in Congress, James has been a devoted partner dedicated to working with me to improve the region that we grew up in,” Aguilar said. “James has given a voice to members of our community who have been left out for so long.”
Gonzales thanked the audience and local voters for “sending us such a wonderful representative.” Gonzales talked about how one of her staff members spent several weeks with the Ramos campaign. When she asked the staff member what Ramos was like, Gonzales said her staff member said, “‘He’s really a good person.’ And I’m sorry to say we don’t have enough elected officials whose first description would be, ‘He’s really a good person.’”
Medina said Ramos is already making a difference since arriving in Sacramento.
“James C. Ramos has made quite an impact in his five weeks in Sacramento and he does that because of his integrity. He does that because wherever he goes, he is the same individual,” Medina said.
Frazier, chair of the Assembly Transportation Committee to which Ramos has been appointed, said Ramos is “always ready to jump in. He’s a doer. He’s not a talker and I can’t thank you enough for sharing him with us. I know sometimes at the local level when you give up a man of his stature that sometimes you suffer on the local level, but I assure you, absolutely assure you, you will not suffer with James Ramos on the state level.”
Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon, who swore Ramos in, praised the new assemblymember.
“When you spend just seconds with James Ramos, you get that sense of community, that deep commitment to his roots and that absolute desire to do something for those people who sent him to Sacramento,” Rendon said.
When it was Ramos’ turn to speak, he thanked his family, friends and colleagues for their support. He thanked President Morales for making Cal State San Bernardino available to host the event at the university’s Santos Manuel Student Union.
“It really is with great honor that we continue to move forward and spending the time here at Cal State San Bernardino,” Ramos said. “The motto is ‘We Define the Future,’ and as we look around this room, and we look around where we are today, to be sitting inside a building named after my great-great-grandfather Santos Manuel, the first building named after a California Indian leader in the state of California is right here in Cal State San Bernardino.”
In 1866, tribal leader Santos Manuel led his people to safety from the San Bernardino Mountains to the valley to escape militia forces that killed many tribal members.
“To be able to be inside this building as we look around, as we celebrate the reception, to be able to be inside the building named after Santos Manuel, who was hunted and persecuted out of the mountains, to be here today in this historic time,” Ramos said, “we finally have California Indians represented in the state Assembly.”
“To be represented in the state Assembly, representing at the district level for the state Assembly, going onto the state of California will ensure that for at least this time moving forward, that the presence of the Indian people and the voice that they share throughout the community, not just on the Indian reservation, but throughout the community” will be heard, Ramos said.
“California is home to more individual native people than any other state in the nation and we finally have a voice in the state legislature making rules that apply to the people.”
Ramos represents the 40th Assembly District, which encompasses all or parts of San Bernardino, Rancho Cucamonga, Redlands, Loma Linda, Highland and communities in the San Gabriel Mountains.
Prior to the assembly, Ramos served as a San Bernardino County supervisor when he was elected in 2012. In 2015, he was unanimously elected by his colleagues to serve as board chairman. He was also the first Native American to be elected to the county Board of Supervisors, as well as to the San Bernardino Community College Board of Trustees, on which he served from 2005-12.
Ramos is also the immediate past chairman of the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians, with a deep commitment to the preservation of California Indian culture. He is co-founder of the San Manuel Band’s Cultural Awareness Program and serves as director of the California Indian Cultural Awareness Conference held annually at CSUSB.
He and Terri, his wife of 29 years, have four children and three grandchildren.