The Puvungna case had been scheduled to begin in court today, but has been postponed again. On April 6, Judge Abby Soven dismissed the case, accepting the University's contention that the California law which protects Indian sacred sites is unconstitutional.
This decision is being appealed. Earlier judges, including the California Supreme Court, have ruled against the University on this issue. The latest decision, therefore, is but one phase of a protracted legal battle that will quite likely find its way to the U.S. Supreme Court.
The immediate issue before the courts is the nature of the injunction during the appeal process. The University is willing to agree not to develop the site during the appeal process and to allow appropriate access to the site for spiritual purposes by Native Americans. The University is also willing to take down the fence and clean up the site by removing trash and other debris, cutting brush, and trimming trees and shrubs.
Plaintiffs have no objections to the University proceeding with archaeological surveys, studies, or other testing of the site, as long as this does not involve invasive archaeological methods such subsurface digging, trenching, augering, drilling, or boring of test holes.
The University, however, is refusing to agree to any terms that would prevent it from engaging in such invasive archaeological digs on the Puvungna site.
The University's contract archaeologist, Dr. Matthew Boxt, has proposed "a phased study of the 22-acre site. Phase I would involve a study of the surface area of the site and a review of the previous subsurface archaeological investigations. Phase II would involve a series of 10-cm-diameter soil auger borings, dug to a depth of approximately three meters. These probes would be spaced approximately every ten meters around the perimeter of the 22-acre site, and approximately every five to ten meters in areas of the 22-acre site not previously tested by SRS. All precautions would be taken to avoid disturbing the interment at the southern end of the 22-acre site. Phase II may involve up to fifteen 2m2 excavation units in areas where cultural material, if any, is found in the auger program of Phase II. It is, impossible to predict the necessity for any further testing after Phase I and Phase II without the results of those tests. These phases would take less than six months to complete."
At a hearing on June 13, Judge Soven ruled that the University could proceed with archaeological digs proposed by Boxt, but stayed her decision until August to give our attorneys time to appeal.
On a positive note, Judge Soven rejected the University's attempt to have plaintiffs pay the University's legal expenses. According to the University, it has spent approximately $800,000 on lawyer's fees on this case. Asking plaintiffs to pay the University's legal fees is highly unusual and can be seen as an attempt at intimidation.
This latest figure brings to over $2.3 million that the University has spent on its "Indian Wars."
Our lawyers are returning to court for a ruling on the terms of the injunction during the appeal process. This is likely to be decided by the end of July.
Puvungna has the potential of becoming a place not only of great beauty, but also of great educational value for the University. It is important to let the new administration of Cal State Long Beach know your concerns. Write or call:
Dr. Robert C. Maxson, President
California State University, Long Beach
Long Beach, CA 90840
(310) 985-4121 FAX: 310 985-5584
This document posted: July 18, 1995.
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