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California Tribe donates $100,000 to help Native blizzard victims

Tribe reburies repatriated remains

ANGELES NATIONAL FORREST, Calif. – An ancestor was returned and re-entered into the ground among native chaparral, yuccas and Jeffery Pine, some 5,200 feet above sea level after 54 years in a museum repository.

About a dozen tribal members of the Gabrielino-Tongva Tribe reburied the bones of their ancestor and funerary objects that were first found by a construction crew installing a sewer line in 1954 at the Chilao Flats area of the Angeles National Forrest, the omnipresent mountain range overlooking the whole of the Los Angeles Metropolitan Area.

“It was beautiful, very respectful and significant,” said tribal leader Anthony Morales of the hour and half long ceremony held Dec. 3 at Chilao Flats.

Morales said the ceremony included singing and preying in a native dialect of the Uto-Aztecan language and sage and gift offerings.

The ancestor was waiting long. He or she was first interred during the Middle period (800 B.C. to A.D. 100), archeologists postulated based on bead data only to be disturbed by the encroachment of modernity some 2,000 years later.

The excavation site contained 69 associated objects including fragments of a clay pipe, stone disc beads, various rock flakes and incised animal bones. Some of it was either lost or stolen during the early 1960s, according to Department of Interior records.

The remains were curated at Southwest Museum of the American Indian in Los Angeles and finally returned to the tribe via the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians, a federally recognized tribe with a cultural affiliation to the Gabrielino-Tongva, a tribe not recognized by federal government. Only federally recognized tribes could receive Native American remains and objects under the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act. NAGPRA is a federal law passed in 1990 meant to provide a process for museums and federal agencies to return Native American cultural items to their descendants.

San Manuel Chairman James Ramos conducted a short ceremony Nov. 20.
“It was essential that we took steps to return the remains to the rightful decedents,” Ramos said in a press release.

Morales expressed gratitude for the assistance provided by the San Manuel tribe. “From the bottom of our hearts we thank the San Manuel that retrieved our ancestors for us,” Morales said.

Southwest Museum Acting Director Dr. Steven Karr said the museum was “very anxious” to return items to the tribe and said the repatriation of remains and items to tribes occurs regularly citing the recent return of regalia to the Apache tribe.

“We are constantly working with tribes specific to NAGPRA,” he said.

Since NAGPRA’s passage 32,000 individuals and 792,000 objects have been repatriated, according to the Department of Interior.

Tribes participate in sheriff’s academy amid tension

RIVERSIDE, Calif. – Some 22 Riverside County area Indians began participating in a citizens’ law enforcement academy Dec. 6 meant to educate them on state laws that could apply to their respective reservations. But the training also comes on the heels of a year-long heated conflict between law enforcement and a local Indian tribe.

A Riverside County Sheriff official said the concept of such an academy for the county’s 12 Indian tribes predated the tension between them and the chairman of the Soboba Band of Luiseño Indians. That rift resulted from the killing of three tribal members on the Soboba reservation that led to an ongoing dispute over law enforcement access to the reservation. No Soboba tribal members are registered for the inaugural academy but are expected to participate in future ones, said Alex Tortes, the sheriff’s tribal liaison.

“We are disappointed that they didn’t want to participate but apparently some issues have to be resolved and as soon as they are resolved they will be here in the spring. Eventually all tribes will have gone through it,” Tortes said.

The academy will teach tribal members the descriptions of state laws such as trespassing and the procedures for making complaints and citizen’s arrests, information deemed imperative for the often judicial blur on sovereign land still dependent on outside law enforcement service but not subject to county ordinances or civil laws. Some reservations in the country are subject to state laws and outside law enforcement for criminal matters under a controversial law enacted by congress, Public Law 280.

“We are trying to get leadership and member of tribes to become familiar with law enforcement and the Sheriffs Department and also community policing to build partnerships and give them tools to take back to their reservations and improve quality of life,” Tortes said.

But also, by “engaging with deputies,” Indians and law enforcement aim to build trust, communication and an understanding, Tortes said.

Tortes said that his findings indicated reservation residents are suspicious of deputies patrolling reservations.

“Deputies are accountable and we can’t just do what we want to do on reservations,’ Tortes said, a tribal member of the Torres Martinez Band of Cahuilla Indians and former police officer.

“I think it’s going to work, I really do,” he said.

Rapid City, SD – San Manuel Band of Mission Indians enjoyed temperate weather in southern California last fall, but that didn’t stop them from thinking about 1,200 natives some 1,300 miles away battling a punishing two-day blizzard that caused power outages, produced 20-foot snowdrifts and caused $5 million in damage.

The San Bernardino tribe donated $100,000 to blizzard victims in 13 Western South Dakota counties including the Pine Ridge, Cheyenne River, Rosebud and Standing Rock reservations. The donation was given to the Black Hills Area Chapter of the American Red Cross, which services all the reservations.

“When the tribe was made aware of the situation at Pine Ridge and at Rosebud, we knew we had to assist our brother and sister tribes,” said San Manuel Chairman James Ramos. “Living with wildfires in California, has taught us how to live with and react to natural disasters and we are fully aware that it is during these times that communities must come together to manage crises.”

With the risk of exposure to extreme cold because of massive power outages, Red Cross personnel provided blankets, food and shelter and scoured Indian country delivering meals to reservation residents cut off from services. No lives were lost during the blizzard Nov. 5 and 6.

“We are truly grateful and fortunate to the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians for answering a need in our community that rarely takes center stage,” said Black Hills Chapter Executive Director Richard Smith.

Red Cross officials said the money will help recoup the costs expended in providing disaster relief, including a shelter set up at the Crazy Horse High School, and keep the organization healthy to provide disaster relief to the reservations in the future.

“It really answers a great need,” said Black Hills Red Cross Spokeswoman Betsy Mergenthal. The Black Hills Chapter responds to floods and constant house fires in South Dakota Indian country, Smith said.

“The need for emergency services in these areas is great and the gift will go a long way in ensuring the Red Cross will be there in an emergency,” he said.

South Dakota Gov. Mike Rounds has asked President George W. Bush to declare the area a disaster which would send funds to help with the costs if granted.

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