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Natives Occupy California Burial Ground to Stave Off Bulldozers

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Native Americans occupying a burial ground facing development by the Greater Vallejo Recreation District (GVRD) are inviting the public to an Indigenous Peoples Earth Day and Interfaith Gathering happening Saturday, April 23 from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. at the Glen Cove Shell Mound site, where they have set up their Spiritual Encampment and Vigil.

The history and cultural value of the site has never been disputed. Native Americans continue to hold ceremonies at Sogorea Te just as they have for thousands of years. The Glen Cove Shell Mound spans 15 acres along the Carquinez Strait. It is the final resting place of many indigenous people dating back more than 3,500 years and has served as a traditional meeting place for dozens of California Indian tribes. The site continues to be spiritually important to California tribes.

"GVRD's plans to desecrate the sacred burial site have not been called off and we ask all our supporters to please remain on alert," said Morning Star Gali from the Sacred Site Protection & Rights of Indigenous Tribes (SSP&RIT). "We continue to invite all who will join us in prayer to stand with us at Glen Cove as we continue to work on all levels to protect the ancestors from further desecration."

The occupation of the ancient burial site at Glen Cove in Vallejo by Native Americans and supporters entered its sixth day on April 18, and dozens remained throughout the week.

"We did remove some of the tents we had set up as the GVRD requested, due to complaints they received about us not having camping permits,” said Gali. “However, we didn't move our sacred fire as they requested. There is supposed to be an agreement drafted today on a cultural and religious permit to stay."

Gali also noted that she met with traditional Patwin Tribe elders yesterday and received their blessing for the occupation.

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"This is not about winning or losing," said Norman "Wounded Knee" Deocampo of SSP&RIT. "This is about honoring our ancestors. As indigenous people, we must take a stand or governments will continue to desecrate sacred sites."

On April 17, American Indians and their supporters conducted a cleanup of the beach at Glen Cove and painted over Nazi graffiti that the city had allowed to remain on the old mansion at the site. Dozens of local residents visited the occupation over the weekend and expressed their support. Many expressed outrage that the city was wasting money fighting the Native Americans over this site when other city parks are dilapidated due to budget problems. Supporters brought food and supplies.

The Native Americans are highlighting the fact that public statements by the Greater Vallejo Recreation District have been very misleading, with GVRD representatives claiming they want to protect the burial site but failing to mention their plans to bulldoze into a hill that likely contains human remains. The U.S. Department of Justice met with the Indian leadership on April 16 to lay the groundwork for a possible mediation with the Greater Vallejo Recreation District.

The Glen Cove site is acknowledged by GVRD and the City to have many burials and to be an important cultural site, yet they are attempting to build a toilet and parking lot here and grade a hill that likely contains human remains and important cultural artifacts. SSP&RIT have asked GVRD to reconsider their plans.

Before the protest began, SSP&RIT filled an administrative civil rights complaint on April 13, 2011 with the State of California against the Greater Vallejo Recreation District and the City of Vallejo.

The group filed the complaint under California Government Code § 11135 alleging that the City and GVRD are discriminating on the basis of race in threatening to destroy and desecrate significant parts of the Glen Cove Shellmound and burial site, for harming Native Americans’ religious and spiritual well-being, and effectively excluding Native Americans from their right to full participation in the decision-making regarding this project.

"Everyone has the right to a final resting place. Our ancestors deserve to have a resting place on their original land without the threat of being removed for the sake of a park,” said Corrina Gould, Ohlone resident of the Bay Area. “Other countries realize the significance of ancestors and honor the ancient cemeteries by not disturbing them. Who does it ultimately serve to complete this project? Let our ancestors rest."