22 March 2004
ANGELES (AP) -- Developers have refused to stop work at
a site where a state commission on American Indian
heritage says a 200-year-old cemetery holds the remains
of at least 169 bodies.
with Playa Vista, a residential and commercial
development company, said a 13-year-old agreement with
the Gabrielino-Tongva tribe allows them to remove the
Native American Heritage Commission board has no
authority to stop the development, but it is considering
legal action, officials said.
is vexing that these activities can continue in what can
be interpreted as an ethnocentric disregard of Native
American cultural concerns," Larry Myers, executive
secretary of the commission, said in a Feb. 19 letter to
discovered the burial ground in October while digging a
waterway to catch runoff from Playa Vista and
neighboring housing developments.
December, the commission has sent Playa Vista six
letters asking them to stop removing the remains, which
have been found on a near daily basis.
Vista officials said the excavations are allowed under
an agreement signed by the company, three
representatives of the tribe and government regulators
13 years ago. The agreement -- extended for 10 years in
2001 -- outlines procedures for handling cultural
artifacts or bodies if they are found.
president Steve Soboroff said Playa Vista was
"doing a comprehensive and respectful job"
under the agreement.
Native American Heritage Commission claims the agreement
should be revised considering the large number of
didn't know they would find a cemetery," said Rob
Wood, the board's Southern California program manager.
"They should consult with the Native American
community and look at alternatives."
to reach tribal leaders Sunday were unsuccessful. But
the tribe's Web site was critical of continued
development now that the cemetery has been discovered.
our ancestors rest," the message said. "The
meaning of Tongva is People of the Earth, if these
remains are not allowed to go back to the earth as
intended, our culture may never be the same."
of the excavation include Robert Dorame, who was named
by the commission the "most likely descendant"
of Indians buried at the site.
there's two or three remains, yes, you may follow those
recommendations," he said. "But we're talking
about a cemetery. Every Indian knows it's a cemetery.
The protocols can change."
Arizona Daily Sun