Plastic covers site where human remains were being excavated, January 14, 2011. City Project Photo by Seth Strongin
Native Americans — including Desiree Martinez and Johntommy Rosas, the Native American Heritage Commission, the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, pressure from the county coroner and a media outcry have halted the excavations at El Pueblo Campo Santo.
LA culture center suspends construction after American Indian concerns over unearthed remains
By JACOB ADELMAN , Associated Press
Last update: January 14, 2011 – 8:11
LOS ANGELES – Construction at a Mexican-American cultural center was suspended Friday after American Indian groups raised concerns that human remains unearthed were being disturbed. . . .
State Native American Heritage Commission staffer Dave Singleton, who called on officials last week to stop work on the project pending an investigation, said he was relieved.
“We are pleased by reports that the project has stopped finally,” he said.
The site, part of the city’s El Pueblo historical area, was the location of a cemetery that had been exhumed in 1848, project officials said. . . .
Indian groups . . . cited records taken from California’s historic mission registers that showed that about two-thirds of the roughly 670 people buried in the graveyard were American Indians.
Desiree Martinez, an archaeologist and member of the Gabrielino/Tongva Indians, said she had been showing center planners documentation that the remains were likely those of Indians for a week and a half. The tribe had a strong presence in the area before the arrival of Europeans. . . .
“Just because it has stopped, it doesn’t mean that it’s over,” she said. “We have a lot more work to do, and we want to make sure that the ancestors are taken care of properly.”
Read the rest of this AP story by clicking here.
Zach Behrens reports at KCET:
County coroners in California have the power to stop projects when Native American remains are found, but the L.A. County one determined it had no jurisdiction based on evidence at the time. Corzo said he had no records of who was buried there.
The answer to that, however, may have been a few clicks away on the internet, thanks to the nearby Huntington Library. In 1998, the institution embarked on a project to transcribe records from 23 locations: California’s 21 missions, El Presidio de Santa Barbara and the Los Angeles Plaza Church, commonly known as La Placita.
A search for death records in the Library’s Early California Population Project reveals that 127 people of Native American descent were buried there. But Steve Hackel, a professor at University of California, Riverside, and a Library researcher, estimates that up to 381 Native Americans could be buried there. That’s based on a lack of surnames in the records.
“They were very good record keepers,” explained Hackel. “If somebody doesn’t have a last name, it’s either a cleric error by the mission, which is pretty unusual, or it’s an Indian.” He added that other supporting information, like origin, can clue in researchers to Native American descent.
“They kept on falling back on ‘there’s no records,’” said Desiree Martinez, an archaeologist and Gabrielino community member who says she has documented ancestors that were buried there. “His mouth dropped,” she said about Corzo, when at a meeting on Thursday she handed over the records she found in the Library’s database.
Lawyer Robert Garcia of The City Project was also present at the meeting and said Corzo explained the excavation could not be stopped until the nonprofit board gave its approval and that “it would take a week to give notice under the bylaws.”
In an interview with KCET on Wednesday, Corzo said they would “wrap up excavation in a week or so.”
Read the rest of this story on KCET . . .
The Archdiocese of Los Angeles condemned the excavations for raising “new ethical and legal questions” that developer “LA Plaza” had not disclosed. ”We are not interested in helping to manage your public relations issue in order that the project may continue; we want to see the right steps taken and taken quickly to deal correctly and responsibly with this matter.” Read the letter from the Archdiocese . . .