As the controversy over Puvungna, the Organic Gardens, and the West Village Center continues to escalate, Cal State officials found their plans blocked by court order. On August 19, 1993, Superior Court Judge Stephen O'Neil ordered that Cal State Long Beach be "restrained and enjoined from causing any further disturbance and from barring appropriate Native American access to the land at issue" until they appear in court on Friday, Sept. 3 to show cause why their plans should not be permanently blocked.
In issuing this Temporary Restraining Order, the Court found
that immediate injunctive relief is justified . . . that there is a reasonable probability that plaintiffs will prevail on the merits of their claims regarding the land at issue … (and) that defendant's dumping of debris on the site, the transportation onto and storage on the land of heavy vehicles and equipment, the removal of topsoil, surface and subsurface materials from the site, the imminent undertaking of archeological digs and excavations and further land removals will cause the plaintiffs irreparable injury by causing severe and irreparable damage and barring appropriate Native American access to the land at issue.
This legal action blocked the campus officials from beginning earth moving on Friday, August 20 "in preparation for an archaeological dig."
The court case is the culmination of a summer of intense struggle by the Native American community to protect what is arguably the most sacred Native American site in Southern California.
The controversy has been building since last Fall, when campus officials first announced their plan to pave the Organic Gardens on the western portion of campus along Bellflower Boulevard for a temporary parking lot. As gardeners, students, and members of the local community began to mobilize to preserve the gardens, they learned what campus officials had hoped to conceal: the entire parcel of land slated for development was listed on the National Register of Historic Places as the last remnant of the Gabrielino Village of Puvungna.
The deception revealed, campus officials denied the significance of the site and developed plans for an archaeological "dig" to allow them to continue. This "archaeological survey" was not proposed for any scientific ends. This is not salvage archaeology whose purpose is to obtain as much information as possible from a site whose destruction is inevitable. The sole purpose of archaeology in this instance is to clear the way for development.
Virtually the entire Southern California Indian community is opposed to any excavation, for development or archaeology, since such excavation would desecrate a sacred place. This is not a case of archaeologists against the Indians, for archaeologists most knowledgeable about the case are also opposed to excavation.
Nevertheless, campus officials have found a few archaeologists, and a few Indians, who are willing to cooperate with them, and claim that their study will be both "scientifically valid" and "culturally sensitive." Most Indians, and most archaeologists, scoff at such claims and recognize that campus officials are using archaeology as a political weapon against the Indian community.
In March, the Organic Gardens were closed in spite of campus and community opposition and in spite of a request from California's Native American Heritage Commission (charged by law with mediating disputes between Indians and state agencies) that the gardens be kept open until the situation was resolved. On June 1 & 2, the beginning of summer vacation, campus workmen began dismantling the gardens, uprooting fences and beanpoles while a dozen campus police stood guard. While a group of Indians and gardeners began to pray, a CSULB faculty member chained herself to a beanpole in a symbolic attempt to save one plot. Their efforts were successful—until they went home and the work was finished in the middle of the night.
Lillian Robles, a 76 year old JuaneĖo elder, demanded to know who was responsible for this desecration and why campus officials were breaking their promises to the Indian people. Accompanied by another Indian, an anthropologist, and a news camerawoman, Lillian went to see CSULB Interim President Karl Anatol, but found her way blocked by several armed police, who refused to allow her to enter the Administration building. President Anatol refused to come out or send anyone out to explain the administration's actions.
Outraged by this betrayal, Lillian determined to remain on the land in a prayer vigil until June 18, when the Native American Heritage Commission was scheduled to review the case.
On June 8, the workmen and campus police returned and began fencing off the Organic Gardens site. Indians and gardeners continued their prayers while heavy equipment pounded in fencepoles. Threatened with arrest, Lillian and her supporters were forced to leave the site and continue their vigil at the reburial site across the street. Campus officials claimed that their actions only involved "standard preparation for an archaeological survey." Although they claimed their fencing was "beyond the boundaries of the registered site," in fact it only included the Organic Gardens. It did not even include the known burial on the site. A faculty member who tried to point this out to the supervising "archaeologist" was arrested.
Lillian's continuing prayer vigil made headline news in Southern California. The actions of campus officials prompted the ACLU to enter the case. In their news conference, the ACLU stated that:
This case is about the First Amendment rights of the Native Americans to whom Puvungna is sacred to freely exercise their beliefs without the state stepping in to pave over their place of worship and put a mini-mall on it.
On June 18, the Native American Heritage Commission heard testimony from some of the over one hundred native and non-native people present and determined that
any digging, excavation, or grading would result in damage to the sacred/religious site. Therefore, the Commission recommends complete avoidance as the appropriate and only acceptable mitigation measure. The religious and sacred significance of the site cannot be determined by trenching and excavation. Archaeology cannot determine religious and cultural significance; only the Indian people can determine those values. They have spoken very clearly to the Commission. I hope the University is listening as well.
By this time, believing their own legal staff was inadequate, campus officials had hired independent counsel to defend their right to build a mini-mall. They published an incomplete and anonymous "Draft Research Design" for campus archaeology and scheduled a Public Hearing for July 29. Nearly 150 people showed up but no responsible campus official appeared, only their hired archaeologists and lawyers. Native people from all over Southern California, the United States, and Mexico—even half a dozen Australian Aborigines—spoke unanimously in opposition to the planned development and archaeology. Archaeologists and Indians alike criticized the "Draft Research Design." Not one voice was raised in support of the plans of campus officialdom.
Undaunted, campus officials continued with their plans. All negotiations having broken down, the ACLU, representing the Indians, and the Center for Human Rights and Constitutional Law, representing the Native American Heritage Commission, were forced to go to court to block the imminent destruction of this last remnant of Puvungna.
The terms of the court order allow Indians access to the gardens, and Lillian and her supporters are occupying the site and holding prayers for the land every evening at 6:30. Supporters are urged to visit the prayer vigil and learn more. Come to our Save Puvungna coalition meetings every Tuesday evening at 7:30 at the site.
You can help! Write or call:
Governor Pete Wilson: State Capitol, Sacramento, CA 95814. Tel: 916 445-4633.
Assembly Speaker Willie Brown: State Capitol, Sacramento, CA 95814. Tel: 916 445-8077.
Senate President David Roberti: State Capitol, Sacramento, CA 95814. Tel: 916 445-8390.
CSU Trustees: 400 Golden Shore, Long Beach, CA 90802-4275. Tel: 310 985-2670.
Ask them why campus officials are allowed to spend our tax dollars on lawyers while classes are being cut and faculty face layoffs. Ask them why campus officials won't listen to community concerns. Ask them why campus officials are allowed to treat Indians in such a shoddy manner. Ask them to enforce Governor Wilson's 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 the latestinformation call the Puvungna Hotline (310) 985-4619 or contact:
The Peter Carr Peace Center, c/o Eugene Ruyle, Anthropology, CSULB, Long Beach, CA 90840. (310) 985-5364.
Chancellor Barry Munitz's old boss at Maxxam, Inc. made the front page of the Wall Street Journal for his latest scheme. Munitz, you'll recall, was once called the "Texas Chainsaw Chancellor" for his role in Maxxam Corporation's takeover of Pacific Lumber. Thousand year-old redwood trees and the workers' pension fund alike were plundered to pay off Maxxam junk bonds. Munitz may have left, but his boss Charles E. Hurwitz, the "Houdini of High Finance" is still at it. The headlines of the Journal (8/6/93) say it all: "For Takeover Baron, Redwood Forests Are Just One More Deal. Hurwitz wants U.S. to Buy His Trees for $600 Million Or He'll Let Chainsaws In." As the Journal observes, Hurwitz "brings new meaning to the term greenmail."
This document posted: July 18, 1995.