Opinion: Keep sexually violent predators away from tribal land | #childpredator | #kidsaftey | #childsaftey

Mazzetti is chair of the Rincon Tribe and lives on the Rincon Reservation.

Over 200 years. That is how long our Indian people have fought against injustices initiated by the nation’s governments.

In 1786, the U.S. government established its first Indian reservation and treated each tribe as a sovereign nation. Which means Indian reservations are one centralized government that exercises the authority of their own people and land. However, in 1830, President Andrew Jackson urged Congress to pass the Indian Removal Act, which displaced hundreds of thousands of our ancestors, through treaties and military action. This occurred until 1851, when Congress passed the Indian Appropriations Act, providing funds for Western tribes to establish reservations once again. Unsurprisingly, the lands made available to tribal nations were not ideal for living due to a variety of reasons, including barren soil, inadequate access to fresh water and rough terrain. Despite these harsh conditions, our people persevered and established the foundation for many future generations to come.

Today, many Indian reservations still remain secluded from society. However, the peace that we have been fighting for so long to obtain has now become threatened again. The state of California is continuously working to place sexually violent predators near our lands. A sexually violent predator is an individual convicted of a sexually violent offense and diagnosed with a mental disorder that causes the individual to be a danger to others with a high likelihood to reoffend. While these placements may sound beneficial and convenient due to far proximity from urban areas, it directly threatens the safety of our Indian women and children living on the reservations we were forced to call home. According to the National Conference of American Indians, there are less than 3,000 tribal and federal law enforcement officers to patrol more than 56 million acres of Indian Country. On the Rincon Reservation, we hire two county sheriffs at no cost to the taxpayers to help patrol our lands. Still, that is not enough!

It is for these reasons the Rincon Tribe sponsored a state proposal which would have banned the placement of sexually violent predators within five miles of tribal lands. Why? We continue to have limited law enforcement in rural communities.

Our tribe has been slowly growing and building a promising future for our youth. With the help of AT&T, this past March, we opened a state of the art computer learning center on tribal lands. Our tribe, like many others, had limited resources to provide our children skills to succeed in this world. We can now offer these tools. It is our goal to increase the technology available on tribal lands, and it is our responsibility to offer a promising future to our youth. But how can we provide our children a promising future when the state continuously wants to place sexually violent predators in our backyard?

Senate Bill 832 was an opportunity for California’s government to stand up in support of protecting California’s first people. Unfortunately, the bill died in the state Senate Public Safety Committee. What was most disappointing was the complete lack of discussion from the members on the bill. We were astounded that an issue which puts our well-being at risk did not warrant a single question from the members of the Public Safety Committee. It simply died with a quick vote.

If there were issues with the bill, we were happy to work with the committee to address them — yet we were met with silence — and the silence was deafening. What happened to putting our children first?

We welcome any members of the California Legislature to join us and discuss how we can address this critical issue. As this issue remains a top priority for our people, and all Californians, the fight is not over. We will continue pushing until we can ensure our tribes are protected. We owe it to our children and our ancestors, many who gave their lives in search of a better future, to ensure the prosperity of our people for many generations to come.

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