Peter Carr Peace Center News
April 30, 1993

Preserve Puvungna

Restore the Organic Gardens

On March 18, CSULB officials closed the CSULB Organic Gardens. Why? No one knows. Perhaps they were too EC ("Ecologically Correct") for their taste. Or perhaps because the only thing green that they like is money. Never mind the promises on Earth Day of 1970, when the Organic Gardens were founded with a vision of an ecologically sane world. Never mind the over 8000 signatures supporting the Organic Gardens. Never mind the unanimous request of the AS Academic Senate that the gardens be kept open and intact. Never mind the unanimous request of California's Native American Heritage Commission that the gardens be kept open. Never mind the protests of city and state officials, students, staff, faculty, and the local community. The Powers-That-Be on this campus had made their decision: the Organic Gardens must go. "No Trespassing" signs were posted and the water turned off.

The Organic Gardens, you see, stand in the way of the West Village Center, the administration's planned mini-mall of retail shops, restaurants, apartments, and townhomes. The leasing of University land for commercial development disturbs many faculty, but not the CSULB administration. Their eyes are fixed on the bottom line, and are not raised to the vision of a multicultural University which serves the needs of California's working people and minorities.

The problem is that this West Village Center is to be built on a 22 acre parcel of land that is listed on the National Register of Historic Places as the last remnant of Gabrielino village of Puvungna. Responding to claims of campus officials that "no cultural resources are known to exist on this site," Vera Rocha, Chairperson of the Gabrielino Nation of Southern California, wrote that "Puvungna is most sacred to the Gabrielino people, as well as to other neighboring tribes, as a spiritual center from which Chungishnish, lawgiver and god, instructed his people." Martin Alcala, Chairperson of the Gabrielino/Tongva Tribal Council, wrote that Puvungna "is also the place from which all Gabrielinos originated. To say that this place has no religious cultural significance is to say that Jerusalem is a parking lot, Mecca is an amusement park, and that the Vatican is a playground."

The opposition of the Native American community to the destruction of Puvungna emerged clearly on Sunday, February 28, 1993, when a group of about fifty Native Americans met on a campus parking lot after campus officials and their hired archaeologist refused to give them a promised tour of Native American sites on campus. The Native Americans demanded an immediate halt to all development proceedings and an end to the use of the National Register site as a dump and staging area for heavy equipment. They demanded that there be no archaeological "dig" on this site because they do not want their ancestors desecrated. They demanded that the archaeologist hired by the administration to prepare the way for development be terminated. "This woman has a long past history of destroying sacred land that all Native Americans cherish." The support of the Native American community for the Organic Gardens was clearly expressed at a potluck, dance, and pipe ceremony later this day, and again at the March 12 meeting of the Native American Heritage Commission in Sacramento when campus officials and CSU lawyers were asked not to close the gardens.

Although campus officials claim to respect Native American heritage and culture, their words have a hollow ring when we recall their past and present behavior. They concealed the existence of Puvungna while gaining approval of the West Village project from the CSU Trustees. When the truth came out, they began a disinformation campaign, spreading rumors about critics and about Indians. For example, it is said that Indians are difficult and can't agree with each other, forgetting that the Native American community had no trouble coming to agreement in the parking lot on February 28. It is said that many of those claiming to be Indians are not, and that Indians don't know their own history.

Campus officials have adopted a carrot and stick policy to divide opponents to their schemes, with promises of child care facilities and housing for faculty and a cultural center, scholarships, and teaching positions for Gabrielinos. How they will be able to fulfill these promises while simultaneous planning massive layoffs of faculty is not clear. Clearly, the administration is only interested in working with Indians on their own terms, not with dealing openly and honestly with all sectors of the Native American community.

Toward the gardeners, the behavior of the administration has been harsh. After learning that the gardeners had temporarily turned the water back on to care for this land until the controversy was resolved, the administration ordered the plumbing changed. When the gardeners found another water faucet, they changed that. They have increased police surveillance and harassment of gardeners. It is not clear why the administration is so hostile toward the gardeners.

The administration, however, can only claim to speak and act for the University as long as faculty remain silent. Over 100 faculty (three-fourths of those asked) signed the petition calling for a General Faculty Meeting to hear the concerns of gardeners and Native Americans and to explore the questions that have been raised about the mission and functioning of our University.

Who made the decision to lease land for commercial development, and who is continuing to push this plan in the face of overwhelming opposition from the community and students? Why did campus officals conceal the fact that this area is listed on the National Register of Historic Places? Why has this project never been submitted to any body of faculty governance such as the Financial Affairs Council or the Academic Senate for approval? Why do campus officals continue to refuse to hold public meetings on this issue? Why the University is expanding with $210 million in new construction, including a new Foundation building for research, while instruction is being downsized? Why the administration is spending so much time, money, and energy on such a controversial scheme instead of solving our real problems? How will any of these projects improve the quality of education at CSULB or our ability to fulfill our mission under the Master Plan for Higher Education? What is the real meaning of multiculturalism when the concerns of Native Americans can be so arbitrarily dismissed.

The choice facing the University community is clear: preserve Puvungna in its natural state in honor of the First Americans and restore the Organic Gardens as a symbol of ecological sanity, OR build the West Village Center, a symbol of a much different kind for a much different University.

All faculty, staff, students, and members of the community, including Native Americans, are urged to come to the General Faculty meeting on Thursday, May 6, from 2 PM until 4 or 5, in Psy 150 (Towner Auditorium) to learn more and express their concerns.

After the General Faculty Meeting, there will be a cultural event in the Sorophomist House to honor the First Americans, with a buffet dinner by Food Not Bombs, live music, and Native American poetry. This will begin at 5:30 pm and last until midnight. Everyone is invited.


Indian people have long objected to the disturbance of their graves and to what we archeologists do. In 1655 a delegation of Narragansett sachems confronted Roger Williams at Warwick, Rhode Island, to demand satisfaction for the robbing of a Narragansett grave by a Dutchman. Williams described the act as a "gastly and stincking vilanie agst them." In the 1840s, Indians in Minnesota asked William Pidgeon to stop digging in the burial mounds of their ancestors. In the late 1960s and early 1970s, American Indian Movement activists confronted archeologists and museums over burials and excavations. . . .

The time has come for archeologists to reunite their object of study, the Indian past, with its descendants, and to ask about the needs of the Indian people and address those needs. We do have some cases and examples on which to build such a dialogue. None of these archeologists have given up their scholarly goals, and all would argue that cooperation with Indian people has enriched their research. . . .

Randall McGuire
American Anthropologist (1992)

This document posted: July 18, 1995.

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