Peter Carr Peace Center News
June 7, 1993

Lies, Bribes, and Archaeology

On Friday, June 4, Lillian Robles, a 70 year old Juaneno elder, began a prayer vigil at the Organic Gardens. Lillian is praying for the protection of Puvungna, the sacred land on which the Gardens were planted. Lillian is preventing campus officials from completing their destruction of the Organic Gardens and Puvungna. Earlier in the week, while a dozen campus police stood guard, campus workers began uprooting fences and beanpoles. As heavy equipment rolled over vines and vegetables, Lillian demanded to know why campus officials were breaking their pledge to the Native American community. Receiving no answer, she asked to see CSULB President Karl Anatol. Accompanied by another Native American and the Chair of the Anthropology Department, she found her way blocked by several armed police, who refused to allow her to enter the Administration building. President Anatol refused to come out and speak to her or send anyone out to explain the administration's actions.

Campus officials later claimed that the destruction of the Organic Gardens was in preparation for an archaeological survey. But why do campus officials want an archaeological survey in this area? And why are Indians—and most archaeologists familiar with the site—opposed?

The site was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1974 with the consent of the University. It was originally proposed by George Salzar, then director of Rancho Los Alamitos, and the papers were filed by Keith Dixon, CSULB Professor of Anthropology and widely recognized as the most knowledgeable expert on the archaeology of the CSULB area. After review by state and federal officials, notice of entry on the National Register was sent to elected officials and to CSULB President Stephen Horn, who is reported to have been "pleased" by the designation. American Indian students, who waged a long and successful struggle for the reburial of portions of an Indian skeleton found on this site, understood that National Register status would provide protection.

It did, until a new administration devised a plan to make money by leasing the land for commercial development—the West Village Center. Concealing the historical, cultural, and religious significance of the site, campus officials gained approval for their plans from the CSU Trustees, and it was not until this January that their deception became known. Now they are planning an archaeological "dig" to cover up their past deception. As reported in the CSULB Daily 49er on March 16, 1993:

Unconvinced that Puvungna really lies under the Gardens, Anatol hopes the results of the archaeological survey will allow CSULB to continue with plans to develop … If Puvungna is indeed discovered under the site, Anatol said, "obviously the university will have to change its plans—not outright, not totally. There are ways to deal with the recognition of sites that still allow agencies and concerns to carry on with their projects."

Clearly, no amount of archaeology can determine whether a site is sacred or not, and one wonders about the continuing arrogance of campus officials in asserting that they and not the Native American community will decide what is sacred to Native people. Even George Bush never told the Arab people that Mecca isn't really sacred. Yet CSULB officials believe that they can decide what is and what is not sacred to the first people of this land—and they will do this scientifically, through archaeology.

Although campus officials claim to respect Indian culture and to be working with Native Americans, this is not the case. Cindi Alvitre, former Chairperson of the Gabrielino/Tongva Tribal Council, has expressed her outrage with the tactics of the CSULB administration in using "lies and bribes" to encourage "sell out activities" by individuals who are "completely ignorant about the history of our culture, our etiquette and our struggles" while ignoring those who do have that knowledge.

Far from being "culturally sensitive," the tactics of the CSULB administration flow from a profound disrespect not only of Native American culture and traditions, but of Native Americans as human beings. These tactics are well understood by members of the Native American community and are already having repercussions within that community. Native Americans also understand the tactics of CSULB officials in destroying the gardens as a means of eliminating part of the political opposition to their money-making schemes.

Campus officials claim that the West Village Center will help solve the fiscal crisis of the University, but this also is questionable. Campus and CSU officials have already wasted tens of thousands of taxpayer's dollars on this project. Even should it bring money to the University, that money would go toward more development, not instruction. No CSULB official has ever claimed that funds from the West Village Center would be used to add classes or buy books for the University library.

From a purely scientific standpoint, there is no need for further excavation at LAn-235 (see insert). AS Lynn Gamble, Director of the Archaeological Information Center at UCLA noted, "Seldom do you see an archaeological site with this much documentation to it, and here they're saying there's nothing there." This is not a case of salvage archaeology where destruction of the site is inevitable and archaeologists attempt to make the best of a bad situation. The West Village Center can be stopped. It is opposed by students, staff, faculty, and the Long Beach community. Over 10,000 signatures have been gathered opposing the project. Even one of the developers to whom the University planned to lease the land, Lewis Homes, has backed away from the project after learning of its significance (campus officials hadn't bothered to tell him, either). The tactics of the CSULB administration are causing the opposition to spead and deepen. There is every reason to believe that this opposition will prevail, and that the West Village Center will never be built.

There is no scientific justification for archaeological excavation in the face of this opposition of Native people. This is a case of the abuse of science for monetary gain. The sole purpose of the proposed CSULB "archaeological survey" is to destroy this last remnant of Puvungna and clear the way for the West Village Center.

Puvungna is thus the local archaeological equivalent of Project Camelot, the U.S. Army-sponsored, multi-million dollar counterinsurgency study in Latin America which caused a major social science scandal in the 1960s. According to the 1970 "Principles of Professional Responsibility" of the American Anthropological Association:

It is a prime responsibility of anthropologists to anticipate (ethical dilemmas) and to plan to resolve them in such as to (do) damage neither to those whom they study nor, in so far as possible, to their scholarly community. Where these conditions cannot be met, the anthropologist would be well-advised not to pursue the particular piece of research.

The destruction of Puvungna is a violation of the religious rights of Native Americans, and any archaeologist who contributes to this destruction brings discredit on the scholarly community of archaeologists. It is not clear how any archaeologist can justify excavation on any ethical grounds.

Outraged by the "lies and bribes" of a University she cannot trust, Lillian began her prayer vigil to prevent further desecration of Puvungna. She has been joined by students, faculty, gardeners, and other Native Americans. The vigil will continue on a continuous, 24-hour basis until the next meeting of the Native American Heritage Commission in Malibu on Friday, June 18.

This is not a "protest" but a movement to protect Puvungna from the unscrupulous tactics of unfeeling bureaucrats. The message of Native Americans remains the same as it was in the parking lot on February 28 and at the General Faculty Meeting on May 6: No Development. Native people want the sacred land of Puvungna preserved. They want the desecration of the land stopped. They want the gardens restored for the gardens nourish the earth and the gardeners respect the first people of this land.

Supporters are urged to visit the vigil and learn more, and to write or call Governor Pete Wilson and Assembly Speaker Willie Brown (both at the State Capitol, Sacramento, CA 95814; telephone for Wilson: 916 445-4633, for Brown: 916 445-8077) and ask them to enforce Executive Order W-26-92, which requires all state agencies to administer the cultural and historic properties under their control "in a spirit of stewardship and trusteeship for future generations."

For more information contact the Peter Carr Peace Center, c/o Eugene Ruyle, Anthropology, CSULB, Long Beach, CA 90840. (310) 985-5364.

--- INSERTS ---

"This is not a site that might have historic value. It does have historic value."

--- Carol Schull,Director, National Register of Historic Places

A little homework in their (CSULB officials) own files would show that the evidence for the village name is ethnohistorical, not archaeological. No amount of digging will find a prehistoric sign that says "Welcome to Puvungna." . . .

The archaeological test excavations that were done in the late 1970s and early 1980s clearly show that there is an archaeological site here; no further digging is required to prove that. The type of human burial and the other remains are consistent with a late prehistoric or protohistoric date. Collections are sparse because of the limited sampling and the typical low artifact yield per cubic meter in this kind of site.

More extensive (and expensive) digging would increase the specimen samples--but we don't need it now

--- Archaeologist Keith Dixon, Professor Emeritus, CSULB

This document posted: July 18, 1995.

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