by Levi Rickert, editor-in-chief in Native Condition. Discussion »
During last two weeks we have published three different stories - in three different locations - that deal with American Indian ancestral remains that are in danger of desecration.
The three different locations are:
Gabrieleño-Togva Indians Buried
is the site of the unearthing of 118 remains of tribal ancestors in a garden area on the site of the LA Plaza de Cultura y Artes Museum. The remains were initially discovered last October when the garden section of the property was excavated for construction.
In January tribal officials determined the remains were ancestral Indian remains of Gabrieleño-Togva Indians and other tribes through burial records. The remains are now being stored in buckets and boxes at the Los Angeles County Museum of Natural History. The County of Los Angeles is in control of the outcome.
Remains of 700 American Indian children
is the site of the Mt. Pleasant Indian Industrial Boarding School was established in 1893 by an act of Congress, compelling Indian children to be removed from the care of their families to attend residential schools. The Mt. Pleasant Indian School operated until 1934, with an average enrollment of 300 students annually.
It is reported that up to 700 remains of children who died while confined to the boarding school are buried there. The property is slated to change ownership from the State of Michigan to the City of Mt. Pleasant. The Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe of Michigan wants more time to determine its role in future ownership of the property.
Sogorea Te Sacred Site
is a site considered sacred by American Indians. The site is one of several shell mounds in the San Francisco Bay area. Sogorea Te has up to 13,000 human remains buried at the sacred site.
Several American Indians, who oppose the Glen Cove project, are members of an organization called Sacred Sites Protection and Rights on Indigenous Tribes.
The proposed project involves the demolition of two buildings that exist on the property and the construction of restrooms, a parking lot and placement of picnic tables on the sacred site. Construction is reportedly going to commence on April 17.
While each of these three stories - at three different locations - has its own set of circumstances, they have a common thread, which is American Indian ancestral remains are in jeopardy.
For this, other American Indians should be proud that these tribes or communities have risen to be good stewards and are willing to stand up for American Indian ancestral rights.
Being in the struggle to protect Indian ancestral rights is not always an easy endeavor because many times our rights are a hindrance or nuisance to non-Indians - especially when construction is involved.
Policy-makers are more concerned with so-called progress and fulfilling construction schedules. Unearthing human remains that were not supposed to be buried under a bulldozer is a hindrance.
Personally, I find the three stories disturbing on several fronts.
First, it seems evident non-Indians really do not care about Indian rights.
Second, most non-Indians seem to be completely oblivious to the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act, which is a federal law that protects American Indian ancestral remains.
American Indians across America should unite and rally behind those in the struggle today. Next year, the struggle may be in your American Indian community.
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