For the past ten years, the National Register site of Puvungna has been protected by CSULB President Robert Maxson’s pledge to preserve Puvungna as long as he remained President. This pledge was supported by student and faculty leaders alike. President Maxson has resigned, and his replacement, F. King Alexander, will take office in early 2006. Concerns have already been raised about whether his administration will honor earlier commitments to preserve Puvungna.
The student newspaper, Long Beach Union Weekly, published an article “Indian Burial Grounds Fate Unknown,” by Amanda Parsons, on Mon Oct 31st, 2005. You can read this by clicking here
.The Associated Students will consider a resolution support the preservation of Puvungna in early 2006. You can read this resolution by clicking here.
A member of the community, Joel A. Montes, has published a plea to treat Puvungna with respect and not allow dogs to defecate near the shrine. This article, “Puvungna Neglected,” was published in Indian Times (Native American Student Programs, UC Riverside, Fall Quarter, 2005) You can download a pdf file of this issue by clicking here.
Until Maxson’s resignation, the situation remained essentially unchanged for nearly a decadee. President Maxson kept his promise to prreserve Puvungna as open space as long as he is President. He was also supportive for various Indian ceremonies on the site, including the annual Pilgrimage Honoring Our Ancestors sponsored by the Gabrielino/Tongva and Juaneño/Acjachemen Peoples.held in October of every year. Members of the Save Puvungna Coalition have been working cooperatively with the campus administration to ensure respectful treatment of the site.
For the past several years, the campus Repatriation Committee (Committee on Native American Burial Remains and Cultural Patrimony) has met monthly to advise the University on compliance with the Native American Grave Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA). These meetings are open to the public and are well attended by members of the Indian community. Our next meeting is Monday, December 9, 2002, in the President's Conference Room on the third floor of Brotman Hall (Rom 302). For information, call Gene Ruyle at 562 438-6505,
For Information on other important sacred site struggles, go to the following links.
Puvungna East at Hellman Ranch in Seal Beach
Putiidhem, sacred "Mother Village" of the Juaneno Band of Mission Indians (in San Juan Capistrano)
Here are our latest two flyers, as of April 1998:
Puvungna 1997: This flyer discusses the court victory in December 1996 and discusses the situation on campus, with our new campus President pledging to preserve Puvungna as open space as long as he is President.
Puvungna 1998: This flyer simply notes that little has changed since 1997. Members of the Save Puvungna Coalition have become involved in a variety of other struggles to preserve important Indian sites, listed in Other Threatened Indian Sacred Sites.
On December 13, 1996, the Court of Appeals ruled in favor of the Indian plaintiffs and the Native American Heritage Commission and ordered the Puvungna case back to trial, where the CSU will have to prove that its planned mini-mall or whatever project it proposes is in the public interest.
Plans for commercial development of the last remnant of the Gabrielino/Tongva village of Puvungna were made public in 1992. Since then, CSULB has spent about $2.5 million on what has been called its "Indian Wars." However, CSULB's new President, Robert C. Maxson, has, at least for now, abandoned all plans for commercialization of campus property and, for now, has pledged to preserve the Puvungna site as open space to be enjoyed by the entire campus community. As long as Maxson is President, Native people as well as the general public will continue to have free access to Puvungna. What happens after that is still in question.
One might think that the CSU would be willing to settle the case in light of the latest court decision supporting Native American religious freedom. CSU lawyers, however, are continuing their legal attacks and have appealed the latest decision to the California Supreme Court (which has already refused to hear the case before it even goes to trial).
CSU lawyers, first of all, refuse to give any assurances that future Presidents of CSULB will not resurrect the planned mini-mall, or that they will even consult with the Native American Heritage Commission about any future development plans.
Secondly, CSU refuses to acknowledge that the plaintiffs are even Indians. The plaintiffs -- widely recognized leaders within the Southern California Indian community -- have each been required to spend a full day at the CSU lawyer's offices in Orange County to be grilled about their Indian ancestry and religious beliefs.
Third, CSU refuses to acknowledge that the Puvungna site is sacred to Native Americans, even though the University itself put up a sign stating: "Gabrielino Indians once inhabited this site, Puvungna, birthplace of Chungichnish, law-giver and god."
Finally, there is the issue of legal costs. In public interest law, public agencies such as CSULB are required to pay the legal expenses of plaintiffs who are successful in cases such as the Puvungna lawsuit. Otherwise, public interest organizations that protect basic freedoms and the public interest could not exist. The ACLU went into the case knowing that if they lost, they would receive nothing for their efforts. However, they are winning and will continue to win. CSU lawyers, however, are unwilling to even negotiate on this issue. The end result will be that the CSU will be ordered to pay legal expenses far in excess of the approximately one million dollars spent so far.
The Save Puvungna Coalition would like to thank the ACLU lawyers, the Indian community, and everyone who has supported the preservation of Puvungna. Our sentiments continue to be those of our elder, Lillian Robles: "This to us is a sacred site, and we'll fight for it, and we'll fight, and we'll fight. And if I drop dead, there'll be somebody else to take my place."
We cannot understand why the CSU stubbornly insists on spending public money -- taken from student fees and the taxpayers -- on a case that even they must realize that they will surely lose. Perhaps your state legislator can explain this to you. We cannot.
As the current phase in the struggle to Save Puvungna enters its sixth year, the situation remains unchanged from our last flyer, Puvungna 1997. The latest court decision, in December 1996, supported the Indian plaintiffs and ordered the Puvungna case back to trial. The CSU will now have to prove that its planned mini-mall is essential to the public interest. However, CSULB has abandoned its ill-conceived plans for a mini-mall on the Puvungna site.
Plans for commercial development of the last remnant of the Gabrielino/Tongva village of Puvungna were made public in 1992. Since then, CSULB has spent about $2.5 million on what has been called its "Indian Wars." However, CSULB's new President, Robert C. Maxson, has abandoned all plans for commercialization of any campus property and has pledged to preserve the Puvungna site as open space to be enjoyed by the entire campus community. As long as President Maxson is in office, Native people as well as the general public will continue to have free access to Puvungna.
Our lawyers are continuing to negotiate for a settlement that will protect Puvungna, recognize Native American religious freedom, and preserve the spiritual values for which the Indian community has been fighting. We continue to place our faith in their legal skills, and ask our brothers and sisters to remember our struggle in their prayers. Our own sentiments continue to be those of our elder, Lillian Robles: "This to us is a sacred site, and we'll fight for it, and we'll fight, and we'll fight. And if I drop dead, there'll be somebody else to take my place."
The Save Puvungna Coalition continues to meet for spiritual walks and discussion of our struggle every Monday afternoon at 4:30 at the Puvungna site. With the National Register site safe, at least for the time being, our attention has been drawn to other parts of Greater Puvungna which are threatened with destruction:
Puvungna East (aka Hellman Ranch): The Seal Beach City Council has approved plans to build 70 homes on several archaeological sites believed to be part of the Puvungna village complex, including burials and possible remains of a ceremonial center. A lawsuit has been filed. Contact Moira Hahn (562) 598-9862. Supporters are asked to write the Coastal Commission: Mr. John Auyong, California Coastal Commission, 200 Oceangate, Suite 1000, Long Beach, CA 90802. Tel: (562) 590-5071 Fax: (562) 590-5084.
Puvungna Wetlands (aka Los Cerritos Wetlands): Located between Pacific Coast Highway, Loynes Drive, and Westminster Blvd., this area has been used for oil production, but plans are being made to extend Studebaker Road through the middle of the area and begin to introduce retail development on a piecemeal basis. Such development would threaten the remaining wetlands. The Sierra Club has formed the Los Cerritos Wetlands Task Force to protect and preserve the entire area. For information, contact Gene Ruyle at (562) 985-5364. Letters of concern may be sent to Mayor Beverly O'Neil, Long Beach City Hall, 333 W. Ocean Blvd., Long Beach, CA 90802. Tel: (562) 570-6309.
Additional areas of concern are listed on the back of this flyer.
The Save Puvungna Coalition continues to be concerned about the continuing threats to important sites which merit preservation because they are considered sacred by Native Americans and scientifically significant by archaeologists. As the case of ORA-64 in Newport Back Bay shows, existing laws simply do not provide protection for Indian sites, however important.
ORA-64 in Newport Back Bay: "A pricey, gated community called Harbor Cove now sits atop the bluff that once cradled the remains of a village believed to be thousands of years older than the fabled Egyptian pyramids of Giza." Over 600 Indian burials were destroyed for this housing development without any notice to Indians or archaeologists.
Ward Valley near Needles, California. Indian elders and their supporters are continuing their struggle against plans for a nuclear waste dump on Indian land 20 miles from the Colorado River. For information, call (805) 256-2101
Cathedral of the Angels in Los Angeles is planned to be built on or near the ancient village site of Yangna. The Gabrielino/Tongva Tribal Council is currently negotiating with the Catholic Church to ensure protection of Indian remains.
San Mateo Point, Camp Pendleton. The Marine Corps is planning to build officers' housing on the remains of the Juane–o village of Pange. The Surfrider Foundation has filed a lawsuit to block this. For information, contact the Surfrider Foundation (714) 361-3902.
Bolsa Chica in Huntington Beach. The 20-year struggle to preserve the wetlands and mesa has won important victories, but ORA-83, which contains human remains as well as the famous cogged stones, is still threatened. For information, contact the Bolsa Chica Land Trust (714) 960-9939.
Friendship Park in San Pedro on the Palo Verdes Peninsula. LA County had planned to build a "nature center" in this park which contains one of the oldest and largest Gabrielino/Tongva village sites. Public pressure and a lawsuit have force the county to modify these plans, but concerns continue. For information, contact Friends of Friendship Park (310) 535-1877.
Ballona Wetlands in Playa Del Rey. Steven Speilberg is planning to build Dreamworks, a state-of-the-art studio, in this area, which contains Indian burial sites. For information, contact Kathy Knight (310) 581-0015.
Los Altos Drive-In in Long Beach. The Los Altos neighborhood is concerned about plans for retail development on the former Los Altos Drive-In site. The EIR failed to mention that an important Indian burial site would be impacted by development.
These are only some of the sites in the immediate area that are threatened. There are certainly many more throughout Southern California and elsewhere. Many Native Americans have discussed the need for a workshop to bring together Indian monitors to discuss the problems and possible solutions. Many of us hope that concerned archaeologists can get together with members of the Indian community to discuss how to address these issues.
Eugene E. Ruyle, Professor of Anthropology, California State University, Long Beach, Long Beach, CA 90840-1003. (562) 985-5364. FAX (562) 985-4379. email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Ask your school or public library to order the Puvungna video: "Sacred Lands, White Man's Laws." Available for about $149 from Films for the Humanities & Sciences: (800) 257-5126.
A background packet of newspaper clippings with other information of Puvungna is available. $10 donation to cover xeroxing and mailing requested, call the PCPC at: (562) 985-5364.
Our March 12, 1996 flyer, Puvungna 1966: Still here after three years of struggle! provides additional background on the Puvungna Sacred Site Struggle.
This document was last updated on April 24, 1998
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