Levi Rickert, editor-in-chief in Native Condition. Discussion »
A Pea Shell Game
Imagine if you would what would happen if there was a small 1850s Catholic cemetery in San Diego County where 25 people are buried. Imagine going to the planning department to get a permit to build a new shopping strip mall.
I assume I would not get past the front counter of the planning department.
As an American Indian, I hope I would not.
As a human being, I hope I would not.
In life there is the human decency issue.
Well, now picture this:
A community college wants to build a satellite campus. A wealthy developer wants to build 844 new southern California homes into a new subdivision with commercial shopping nearby. Shops that the college students can buy their Starbucks coffee or Egg McMuffins in, on their way to class. Or, the suburbanites can do the same on the way to their offices.
The local American Indian tribes have discovered there is an ancestral burial ground where at least 19 human remains were discovered located along the boulevard that will interconnect this new development.
Where is the San Diego County planning department in this mix?
They are right in the middle because the community college with state funds is constructing the road that will be turned over to the San Diego County.
What happens when the local American Indian tribes attempt to protect the remains of their ancestors by taking legal action?
The pea shell game takes place. Each of the interested parties maintain they have done everything correctly with the right permits secured.
For several decades, American Indians worked hard to get the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA) passed by the Congress in 1990. It is supposed to safeguard against what is happening now in San Diego County from happening with American Indian remains.
Once American Indian ancestral remains are unearthed, which is bound to happen in modern society, NAGPRA seeks to handle the remains with dignity and respect.
Further, California Public Resources Code Section 5097.98 provides the definition of a "multiple Native American Burial Ground."
"Violating a Native American burial ground is a criminal offense pursuant to California Health & Safety Code Section 7052 and California Criminal Code Section 622 ½"
commented Dave Singleton of the California Native American Heritage Commission, based in Sacramento.
Two weeks ago, the California Native American Heritage Commission wrote a letter to Palomar College asking them to STOP CONSTRUCTION at the site due to the discoveries of human remains.
The San Diego County spokesperson told the Native News Network via an email yesterday referred further inquiries to Palomar College.
Our Indian elders teach us all living things are sacred. They teach us that care for our ancestors extends beyond when they live here on Mother Earth. Further, it is our responsibility to exemplify dignity and respect for our ancestors, whether in memory or deed.
Unfortunately, these officials in San Diego County - within the county and at Palomar College never learned this lesson. Or if they did, the need and greed of money associated with a new college campus and residential area prevail over human decency.
posted February 25, 2012 12:20 pm est
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