Red Lake Nation News - Babaamaajimowinan (Telling of news in different places)

Tribe Files Opening Brief in Lawsuit Against Cal State University-Long Beach

University is accused of violating the California Environmental Quality Act by dumping tons of construction dirt on Puvungna, a sacred Native American site on the Long Beach campus

 

March 16, 2021



LONG BEACH, Calif. – The Juaneño Band of Mission Indians, Acjachemen Nation – Belardes and the California Cultural Resources Preservation Alliance, Inc. on Friday filed an opening brief in their lawsuit against California State University-Long Beach. The groups argue that the university violated the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) when it dumped 6,400 cubic yards of construction dirt and debris on a listed historic and sacred Native American site without conducting an environmental review of the potential impacts. The groups also claim that the university failed to consult the Tribe before dumping the debris to avoid adverse impacts to the site.

The dumping of construction dirt was the latest in a decades-long struggle between the area’s Tribes, who use the sacred Puvungna site regularly and for whom Puvungna holds historical, cultural, and religious significance, and the university, which has repeatedly tried to build on or cover over the site. The Tribal group is asking that the university end this long-standing controversy by removing the construction dirt and debris, restoring the site to its previous state, and entering into a legally-binding agreement to permanently protect this sacred land.

“The university’s recent actions again highlight the need to correct their false idea that they can do whatever they want with this land,” said Juaneño Band Chairman Matias Belardes. “We have been in this struggle for 30 years and we are tired of fighting the university. The recent desecration of our land is the last straw. We call on CSULB President Conoley, CSU Chancellor Joseph Castro, the CSU Board of Trustees, and Governor Newsom to bring this issue to a resolution now by entering into a legally-binding agreement to restore and permanently protect Puvungna.”

This 22-acre parcel of land is the most significant remaining undeveloped parcel of the Tribal group’s sacred land in Southern California. The site is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and on the California Native American Heritage Commission’s Sacred Lands Inventory.

“Dumping construction dirt and debris on this land is fundamentally disrespectful and, what’s more, it is a continuation of the cultural genocide that has been practiced on the Indigenous people of Southern California for centuries,” said Rebecca Robles, Acjachemen Tribal Culture Bearer of the Juaneño Band. “Just as the university would not consider dumping construction debris on top of a church or on graves in a local cemetery, they should not be dumping debris on this site that holds the graves of our ancestors and serves as a place of worship and celebration for the Tribal groups across this region.”

When the university attempted to build a strip mall on Puvungna almost thirty years ago, the Tribal group sued the university. As a result of that lawsuit, the university was stopped from developing the mall, but no permanent protection was agreed upon.

Echoes of that lawsuit are being heard now, as two of the original plaintiffs – Chairman Belardes and Tribal Manager and Cultural Resource Director Joyce Stanfield Perry – are actively involved in this new lawsuit. Robles’ mother, Lillian, was also involved in the original lawsuit.

“Less than two years ago, Governor Newsom issued a formal apology to the Native Americans of California, acknowledging that the state government had committed genocide and announcing a Truth and Healing Council to work collaboratively to begin the healing process,” said Perry. “The CSU system should follow the example of our governor instead of continuing to disrespect and ignore the rights of the original owners of this land. Now is the time to set things right for Puvungna and for California’s Native people.”

The Tribe, CCRPA, and Friends of Puvungna are asking members of the public to speak up for Native land. Supporters can call and email CSU decision makers and ask that they restore and permanently protect Puvungna:

1. Call CSU Chancellor Joseph Castro at 562-951-4700 or email at CSU-chancellor@calstate.edu

2. Call CSU Board of Trustees Chair Lillian Kimbell at 562-951-4020 or email at trusteesecretariat@calstate.edu

3. Call Governor Newsom (an Ex Officio CSU Trustee) at 916-445-2841 or contact online at https://govapps.gov.ca.gov/gov40mail/ ; select “Education Issues” for the subject.

For more information about the lawsuit or to arrange interviews please contact Severn Williams, Public Good PR, 510-336-9566 or sev@publicgoodpr.com.

 

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