Native American activists occupy burial grounds

April 16, 2011 1:24:12 AM PDT
Developers in one Bay Area community imagine a Vallejo site as a public park with benches and a parking lot. But the Native American tribes who claim the land as sacred are vowing to keep-out construction. The tribes camped out on Friday night at the Glen Cove area in Vallejo and they say they won't leave.

Native American say for thousands of years their people have gathered at Glen Cove to perform religious ceremonies, but the gathering on Friday night is different. They say they're here to try to preserve the site and prevent their sacred burial ground from being desecrated.

About two dozen Native Americans and their supporters are occupying the 15-acres they consider a 3,500 year old sacred burial site. They want to block any machinery attempting to change this area.

Norman "Wounded Knee" Deocampo is a Miwok. He told ABC7, "No sir, we don't want noting to be built on top of our sacred site. A toilet on top of a sacred burial site, I don't believe they would put a toilet on top of their ancestors."

The standoff between members of various California Native American tribes and Vallejo is because the Greater Vallejo Recreation District wants to develop Glen Cove raw parkland by the Carquinez Strait into a park area with a parking lot, benches and restrooms. The Native Americans say they have been fighting the district for 10 years in order to keep the area just the way it is and not disturb an ancient Ohlone gravesite.

Corrina Gould is an Ohlone. She says, "I have direct ties to this land. Yes, my ancestors are here, I feel their presence here and it horrifies me."

The Greater Vallejo Recreation District says it wants to preserve the site. The district plans on covering the burial site with more soil to prevent any disturbance to the remains and crews will take out invasive species and return it to what it may have looked like 3,500 years ago.

Native Americans have filed a discrimination complaint with the Department of Justice against the GVRD. General Manager Shane McAffey could not go on camera but gave ABC7 the following comment: "If the Department of Justice finds GVRD has done something wrong or illegal we will take care of it. We have worked for 10 years with state federal and local groups who have jurisdiction, as well as Native American tribes, which are the most likely descendants of the area."

"Many times that most likely descendant isn't actually a person that can really lay claim to this traditional area and territory," said Morning Star Gali from the Ajumawi-Pitt River Tribe.

Gali says members of many different local tribes are buried here. One group should not speak for all.

McAffey also told ABC7 that the district has complied with every regulation regarding culturally sensitive areas like this one, including making sure that the restrooms and the parking lot are nowhere near any suspected gravesites.

On Monday the Department of Justice will act as a mediator between the Native American groups and the Vallejo district.

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