Native Americans and their supporters held an emotional sunset gathering on Thursday, August 10, to celebrate the removal of the fence around the Organic Gardens. The fence was erected in June 1993, disrupting an Indian prayer vigil begun to protect the National Register site of Puvungna from the backhoes of archaeologists and bulldozers of developers. For two years, the fence had stood as a visible symbol of the bitter antagonism between the CSULB administration and the Indian community.
The fence is now gone. Work crews have cleaned up the Puvungna site. President Maxson has pledged that he will preserve Puvungna as open space as long as he is President, and the University no longer intends to conduct archaeological digs on the National Register site. Puvungna appears peaceful. But the fight is not over.
Although campus thinking on Puvungna has changed, the thinking of the Chancellor's Office and the CSU Trustees has not. The CSU's lawyers are continuing to attack, not only Puvungna, but Native American religious freedom itself.
On April 6, 1995, Judge Abby Soven ruled against the Puvungna plaintiffs, basically accepting the CSU challenge to the constitutionality of Section 5097.94 of the Public Resources Code that protects Indian sacred places on public land. The CSU claims the law violates the separation of church and state.
Opponents say the ruling flies in the face of common sense, pointing out that the law in question only gives Native American burial grounds and sacred places the same protection that white cemeteries and churches enjoy. The state of California protects Missions and other Christian buildings within the state park system. It is absurd to think the ACLU, known as the premiere organization for defending the constitutional separation of Church and State, would abandon its historic commitment in this case.
The CSU has spent over $800,000 in this attack on Native American religious freedom. Much if not all of this money has come from the General Fund, money from student fees and the California taxpayers intended for instruction and instructional support. It is not clear how the CSU can claim to be committed to multicultural education while using its scarce resources in a continuing attack on the religious freedom of our nation's most oppressed minority.
CSU lawyers are also insisting on the right of the University's "staff archaeologist" to conduct immediate archaeological digs for development purposes on the National Register site, even though President Maxson has pledged not to develop the site. This intransigence on their part is forcing the case to the California Supreme Count--solely to decide the issue of invasive archaeology during the appeal process. The issue of the constitutionality of 5097.94 will be addressed at a later time. This insistence on unnecessary archaeology represents a further waste, not only of University resources, but also of the time of the state Supreme Court.
The University has already spent over $1.3 million its "cultural review" and campus archaeology since the Puvungna battle began. No reports have been filed with state agencies, even though the Archaeological Information Center asks that reports be filed within 30 days. Given the absence of any clearly defined research plan, many archaeologists view invasive archaeology on the Puvungna site as unscientific, and--given the Indian opposition--unethical.
The Save Puvungna Coalition is pleased that it was able to successfully block the University's planned strip mall until wiser heads within the CSULB administration could prevail. Coalition members have pledged to continue the struggle at the state level so that future generations can enjoy and benefit from this important cultural, historic, and educational resource on the Cal State Long Beach campus.
CSU Board of Trustees, c/o Trustees Secretariat, The California State University
400 Golden Shore, Long Beach, CA 90802-4275 Tel: (310) 985-2500
This document posted: August 24, 1995.