Ramos is a busy man these days.
is in his second two-year term as chairman of the San Manuel Band
of Mission Indians, leading the tribe as it works to expand its
businesses and develop its reservation.
is chairman of the California Native American Heritage Commission
and owns two restaurants in San Bernardino and Highland.
November, voters elected him to his second term on the San Bernardino
Community College District board.
year, Gov. Jerry Brown named Ramos to the state Board of Education,
the first American Indian to hold a seat on the panel.
move around so much, hit so many issues that I really don't have
that time to sit back and fully understand what it means,"
that time will come. ... I have to do the best I can while the opportunity
is in front of me."
state board sets K-12 education policy in areas such as standards,
assessments and accountability and adopts textbooks for K-8 students.
governor appoints the 11 members, and Ramos was one of seven Brown
picked for the board soon after he took office in January.
who often refers to himself as "we," is passionate about
education. He finds a way to weave it into most conversations --
whether it's about the state board, the community college district
or growing up on the San Manuel reservation in the foothills northeast
of San Bernardino.
someone who has a wonderful, genuine zeal for his people's history
and for educating the public about the importance of that history,"
said Jerry Levine, who as the San Manuel tribe's attorney since
the early 1980s, has known Ramos since he was a teenager.
is infectious when it comes to that."
said he had applied for a position on the state Board of Education
in the past and did so again when Brown was elected governor last
spoke with him about the appointment, he said, and the governor's
staff soon followed with a call saying they were announcing the
was like, 'Wow, really?'" Ramos said during a recent interview
from tribe's community center. "I didn't know at that time
we were the first California Indian person to be appointed to that
state Board of Education. It turned out to be true."
Ramos' goals on the state board include finding ways to better prepare
K-12 students for the transition to college and studying how to
overcome an education gap for American Indian children.
the students in pre-kindergarten and kindergarten and moving forward
really aren't having their issues addressed there, then they are
going to play catch-up at the community college level or the four-year
university," Ramos said.
related to American Indian children came up in January at his first
state board meeting, Ramos said.
Board of Education stepped in and appointed a trustee to oversee
the remote Round Valley Unified School District in Mendocino County.
Ramos said a majority of the district's students are American Indian.
off the bat, American Indian issues were at the forefront,"
he said. "The educational gap between the American Indian population
and the rest of the nation and the rest of the state of California
is so dramatic that we have to really start to understand why it
He said he wants to establish an advisory committee to study the
Longville, a former state assemblyman who serves with Ramos on the
community college board, said having a local representative on the
state panel will prove valuable for the Inland region.
time we get someone particularly skilled who develops statewide
recognition, I am pleased to see it," Longville said.
said Ramos has the skills.
politics and government is a very challenging area. It is every
bit as involved as general local government," Longville said.
"He is one of the most astute political people I know in the
valley right now."
Ramos grew up in a mobile home on the San Manuel reservation, then
an impoverished, rural community.
were surviving. You'd get a good used car, and that was like the
talk of the town," he said. "You would run that car until
the gears that went forward stopped. Then you would drive it in
years ago this summer, San Manuel opened its first bingo hall.
was the start of what turned into a multimillion-dollar business
for the tribe. The mobile home where Ramos grew up was located near
what is now the San Manuel casino's massive parking garage off Victoria
said he never thought Indian gaming would last this long or be as
transformative as it has been for the tribe, allowing him to become
the first in his family to go to college.
became tribal chairman in 2008 after stints as head of its gaming
commission and treasurer of the business committee, among other
tribe has not been without controversy, though. Before he became
chairman, Ramos took out a restraining order against the father
of two young tribal members charged -- and later convicted -- in
a Mexican Mafia murder-for-hire plot.
a result, he helped convince the tribal general council to increase
security with cameras, gates and logs of visitors.
gaming, the tribe does not see eye to eye with other Indian nations
in California. San Manuel is one of the leading tribes in the California
Online Poker Association, the sponsor of legislation introduced
in December to allow Internet poker.
tribes, including the Pechanga Band of Luiseño Indians near
Temecula, oppose the plan.
asked if the tribe could have handled anything differently in the
25 years since San Manuel's first bingo hall, Ramos said the tribe
could have done more early on to invest in the reservation's infrastructure.
said he believes "things last for an era."
day I wake up and think, if this era of gaming went down today,
how will we still survive, not only as a nation but as individuals?"
have to have a plan, an education, to market yourself, to make sure
you're able to get those good-paying jobs. These are the things
not just for Indian people. These are the things for everyone."
Ramos first entered local politics when he ran for the San Bernardino
Unified School District board in 2003. It was a six-person race
for three seats. Ramos finished fifth.
is what has allowed me to move forward in my life's dreams. I believe
in education," he said.
isn't enough for these political campaigns. No. 1, you have to be
able to raise money."
the defeat, he turned his eyes on the community college district.
In 2005, Ramos was one of four candidates seeking three seats on
the community college board.
came in third, winning 26.5 percent or 62,905 votes.
the time it came to re-election in 2010, Ramos was the lead vote-getter
with 31 percent or 71,557 votes.
a February meeting is any indication, Ramos is well liked by students
offered to meet with a faculty member over lunch to discuss an issue,
and a group of students sang happy birthday to him. He had just
what's next for Ramos? Would he run for the San Bernardino County
Board of Supervisors, a rumor that has surfaced on local political
blogs? Ramos did not directly answer.
are part of the community. Run for the local school boards. Run
for the community college boards. Run for the state assembly. Run
for the San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors, if that is what
you want to do," he said.
encourage Native Americans to move forward in that realm, to be
a part of that. But you have to have the passion and the understanding
of what really needs to be done to make the community a better place."
San Manuel Band of Serrano Mission Indians
The San Manuel Band of Serrano Mission Indians is a federally recognized
American Indian tribe located near the city of Highland, Calif.
The Serrano Indians are the indigenous people of the San Bernardino
highlands, passes, valleys and mountains who share a common language