by Levi Rickert, editor-in-chief in Native Challenges. Discussion »
VALLEJO, CALIFORNIA - As the American Indians began Monday morning on Day Four of their occupation of the Sogorea Te sacred site, they circled up to have a ceremonial prayer. As they prayed, Steve Pressley, maintenance and development manager from the Greater Vallejo Recreation District showed up and interrupted the prayer.
Day 4 of their Occupation of Sogorea Te Sacred Site
Pressley stopped by to inform the American Indian they had until sundown to move off the site or they would be arrested.
“He told us he was sick and tired of us being here,” said Mark Anquo (Kiowa), who is a member of the American Indian Movement and the International Treaty Council.
“He gave us to sundown to leave.”
“He even used the one of the most commonly used lines used by non-Indians that his great-grandmother had been a Cherokee,” continued Anquo.
Sogorea Te, commonly known as Glen Cove, is slated to become a park. Sogorea Te is sacred to American Indians because it American Indian ancestral remains are buried there. The $1.5 million planned park project is slated to be a parking lot, a two-stall restroom and improve trails. Additional construction involves the demolition of two buildings on the site.
Leaders of the protest feel any further development on the site will desecrate the burial grounds. It is reported that already thousands have been unearthed and are housed at the Phoebe A. Hearst Museum of Anthropology at the University of California at Berkley.
When some of the American Indian protest leadership told Pressley they were set to meet later on Monday with the US Department of Justice mediator, he told them the federal government did not have jurisdiction on the Glen Cove case.
“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,” Pressley told the San Francisco CBS-affiliate KCBS on later in the day on Monday.
By late afternoon, Greater Vallejo Recreation management met with leaders of the protest with the mediator of the Justice Department, out of the San Fransisco office.
As negotiations continued, it was decided that the protesters could stay without fear of arrest Monday night. Protest leadership cited Article 12 of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples that President Obama recognized on behalf of the United States this past December at the 2010 White House Tribal Nations Summit.
In essence, Article 12 grants Indigenous Peoples “to have access in privacy to their religious and cultural sites.”
“This is important because finally people are going to take notice of our rights as indigenous people,”
said Anquo. “People have been asking what does it really mean. It means a whole lot.”
Telephone calls and emails to Shane McAffee, general manager of the Vallejo Recreation District and Mayor Osby Davis of Vallejo were not returned to the Native News Network.
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