Keeping Burial Sites Sacred
By Guillermo Herrera, The Tempest
Pablo Bay Area is historically a
multi-national region of many Native
American nations. Before the
holocaust of the Americas, the area
of Solano County was inhabited by
the Suisune Nation and the coastal
Miwok Nation, both of whom were
nations of traders, which were part
of a network of merchant cultures
that extended across the Pacific
Ocean and middle America.
Religious practices of the nations of what is today the Bay Area included ancestral worship and places of worship included places where people were buried.
Unfortunately, although many nations survived the holocaust of the Americas, Europeans refused to recognize any non-Christian religion and actively destroyed any sacred sites known to the European authorities, even in this decade.
Even Solano Community College is built on top of the sacred site and graveyard of the Suisune Nation, which is commemorated with a bronze plaque within school grounds explaining how Chief Solano is buried somewhere within the area.
Today, the practice of destroying scared sites is still prevalent, and within the Bay Area. an infamous example is the Shellmound Drive in Emeryville, built over a place of ancestral worship despite archaeological reports proving that it contained burial grounds of the Ohlone Nation, who have organized protests against the destruction of this scared sites as recently as November of 2008.
"We must protect our Sacred Sites," said Wounded Knee de Ocampo of the Vallejo Inter-Tribal Council, referring to their fight against the development of the Sacred Site at Glen Cove of Vallejo. "It is as if someone would decide to bulldoze a church."
The desecration of Native American sacred sites around the Bay Area is illegal according to federal and state laws, such as the "Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act," and if during a development project, bones and artifacts are found, all work must stop immediately, and authorities must contact a representative of a recognized Native American nation whose ancestral homeland includes the land of the development project. This process can take time, and if a development project is halted due to the discovery of bones or artifacts, the owners of the development project may lose money. Unfortunately, because of the implications of losing money, many developers choose instead to ignore any artifacts and bones found at a development site and continue a development project.
The aforementioned Shellmound Drive in Emeryville and Glen Cove in Vallejo are examples of this illegal practice on part of developers. However, groups such as Vallejo Inter-Tribal Council are organizing the sovereign nations of the Native Americans to unite and ensure that developers respect their religions and sacred sites.
For more information, contact the Vallejo Inter-Tribal Council at www.vallejointertribalcouncil.org, or the Intertribal Friendship House (IFH) of Oakland at www.ifhurbanrez.org.