USA:Victories won in struggle to protect sacred burial grounds

By Terri Kay/Vallejo, Calif.

On day 59 of the encampment to protect Sogorea Te — the sacred Shellmound ancient burial grounds at Glen Cove, Vallejo, Calif. — Native people from many reservations along with supporters gathered for a special Spiritual Gathering June 11. The Native nations represented included Cachil Dehe/Colusa Band of Wintu, Elem Pomo, Grindstone Wintu/Wailaki, Northern Chumash, Chemehuevi, Tuolumne Me-wuk, Pit River, Maidu, Mono, Karkin Ohlone and Rumsen Ohlone.

Fred Short, American Indian Movement spiritual leader for California, opened the spiritual session. He talked about how their ancestors “fought and died to have our medicine.” He proudly stated that this is the 42nd anniversary of AIM. He called on people to write letters to the Heritage Commission and Gov. Jerry Brown to bring back the bodies stored in foot lockers and worse in Berkeley and Sonoma.

Short described a recent victory, where the local homeowners’ association wrote a resolution declaring that they don’t want a park here. (Sogorea Te is situated at the end of a cul-de-sac in a relatively new upscale community.) They said they hadn’t been told, when they had been promised a park, that it was an ancient burial ground for Indigenous tribes.

The association is planning to submit their resolution to a local newspaper for publication. They have also been bringing food and water to the encampment. Short said, “I know we’ve won now.”

Corrina Gould, from the Karkin/Chochenyo Ohlone Nation, spoke with enthusiasm about how the struggle has brought people from all walks of life here. She said they have been working on this for 12 years. She talked about the sacrifices some had made, even losing their jobs and homes. She described how they went to the Greater Vallejo Recreation District and asked them not to desecrate this land and how they picked up 350 pounds of trash from the site. She said, “We didn’t pick this place; our ancestors did.”

Gould also announced a significant recent victory. The Native activists had demonstrated at the offices of the Bay Trails in Oakland, Calif., asking them to withdraw their support for the park project. Bay Trails conceded and pulled back their $200,000 grant!

Wounded Knee, an Indigenous activist, talked with deep emotion about how the ancestors came here 4,000 years ago. He called for the end of desecration of sacred places — not putting sacred things in museums and garbage cans. He said this struggle “wasn’t about winning or losing, but about the ancestors who had stood up and protected our people.” He called on Indigenous people to take a stand. He noted that activists had spent 58 days in the cold, wind and rain, and “spirit” had brought them through.

Short said, “I don’t argue and fight, but I will die for this.” He urged people to write letters to their senators and President Barack Obama to sign the U.N. Declaration of Human Rights of Indigenous People. Supporters can also help by making donations to cover court costs at https://www.wepay.com/donate/137138 and signing the online petition at http://www.petitiononline.com/ssprit/petition.html. Read previous articles on this struggle; go to workers.org.

Articles copyright 1995-2011 Workers World. Verbatim copying and distribution of this entire article is permitted in any medium without royalty provided this notice is preserved.

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