Bill passes extending birth registration, accommodating Native American traditions
For California’s Native American families, practicing and passing down naming traditions just got easier with a bill expanding the time frame for Native families to register the birth of a child.
The bill, AB 2176 signed into law by Gov. Newsom on June 22, extends California’s timeline for registering new births from 10 days to 21 days, which allows Native families to both comply with state law and take part in traditional naming ceremonies.
The bill was written by Assemblymember Jim Wood, D-Santa Rosa, after he visited the St. Joseph Hospital in Eureka last fall.
He drafted the legislation after meeting with representatives of Providence Health & Services, a not-for-profit, Catholic health care system that operates multiple hospitals including St. Joseph in Humboldt County and Providence Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital.
In Humboldt County, hospital staff had initiated the “Better Birthing Project” in March 2021.
The project’s purpose was to build relationships and increase trust between the Eureka hospital and numerous tribes including the Yurok, Hupa and Karuk, said Martha Shanahan, the director of community health investment for Providence in Northern California.
A team of hospital staff and Native community members conducted extensive interviews with parents to identify their needs for care, not only during birth, but prenatal and postnatal, Shanahan said.
One of their findings was that some Native parents felt irritated and annoyed with the 10-day time frame for registration, which didn’t allow them to practice traditional birthing and name-giving ceremonies in their entirety, while hospital staff were trying to comply with the state’s registration policy.
This was causing unnecessary tensions between the community and hospital staff, Shanahan said.
The team heard from expecting mothers and one woman whose grandson is a teenager now and still has the wrong name on his birth certificate, she said.
The conversations ultimately led to them ask, can and should the state make a change as a way to correct and as reparations for past atrocities against Indigenous people who first resided on the land.
“I think everybody came to the realization that, yes, that's what we can do,” Shanahan said.
In fall 2021, Providence representatives met with lawmakers and told them how stressful the state’s registry of births was for the Native patients they serve.
Wood agreed and decided to author the bill, which was co-authored by Assemblymember James Ramos, D-Highland.
I thought it's an honor to do something,” Wood said. “Sometimes the simplest things mean so much to people.”
The bill passed unanimously after lawmakers received dozens of letters in support, Wood said.
Yurok Tribal Council Member Phillip Williams testified in the assembly hearing March 19, thanking the Native families who shared their personal stories.
“California laws and policies have often harmed Native people,” Williams said. “I'm happy to see the beginning of shift toward justice.”
Williams said this bill is not something that can make up for past atrocities, attempts at assimilation and policies which have hurt California Natives, but the naming extension is “a step in the right direction.”
You can reach Staff Writer Alana Minkler at 707-526-8511 or email@example.com. On Twitter @alana_minkler.
The world is filled with stories that inspire compassion, wonder, laughs and even tears. As a Press Democrat reporter covering education, it’s my goal to give others a voice to share these stories.
UPDATED: Please read and follow our commenting policy: