by Levi Rickert, editor-in-chief in Native Condition. Discussion »
I could almost imagine it, John Wayne with a big white hat on, riding up on his horse to tell the Indians “your fun is over and it’s time to go the land is needed for progress. You Indians have to leave or else.”
Grey Eagle holding the flag in distress at Sogorea Te
Yesterday morning, during prayer, Steve Pressley drove up to the Sogorea Te sacred site to tell a group of American Indians who have occupied the site since early last Friday that they had until sundown to leave or face the prospect of being arrested. They are there protesting the proposed construction of a parking lot and bathroom at Sogorea Te.
He was there in official capacity. He is the manager of the maintenance and development at the Greater Vallejo Recreation District. His department wants to put a parking lot and two toilets on the sacred site.
Sogorea Te was an Ohlone village some 3,500 years ago and it is reported that there are thousands of ancestral remains there. At different times each year, American Indians from the San Francisco Bay area gather for ceremonies.
It matters little that the American Indians who gather there are not all Ohlone. They represent various tribes from all over the United States. Many of them are children of American Indians who were relocated to the San Francisco Bay area by the federal government in the 1940s and 1950s. They have carved out Sogorea Te as part of their land base since they or their families were moved off of their traditional land decades ago.
Sogorea Te is not out in some remote area. It is in the San Francisco Bay metropolitan area. There are condos just off the site. The property owners of the condos use Sogorea Te to walk their dogs and take strolls to lose weight.
The plan to construct the proposed $1.5 million park has been developing for twelve years. All along, American Indians have opposed the plan. So, when the bulldozers were set to commence further desecration of Sogorea Te, American Indians moved onto the property to stop the construction.
Later in the day, Pressley told the San Francisco CBS-affiliate KCBS: “We realize the sensitivity of the issue. We decided to be very flexible and let them camp there for three days and have their campfire,” referring to the American Indian protesters.
What Mr. Pressley fails to grasp is this is not about a bunch of boy scouts out for the weekend playing Indian and sitting around the campfire. This is about a serious infraction against the rights of indigenous people who have federal laws and even the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which President Obama embraced this past December at the 2010 White House Tribal Nations Summit.
The American Indians at the “occupied” Sogorea Te sacred site are serious-minded individuals who truly believe in their beliefs about desecration of the sacred sites.
A daughter of one of the protesters had her third child since the occupation began. So, Friday he took time from the protest to fulfill his family duties. He took his grandson to his little league game in his daughter’s stead. He is an American who functions every day in American society. He also happens to be one American Indian who cares the desecration of ancestral remains.
These American Indians are not leftover hippies from the 1960s who simply want to cause trouble. They are not playing Indian who want to simply sit around a campfire.
And, Mr. Pressley is not John Wayne.
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