By Hwaa Irfan
As increasingly more and more people gather the courage to question a status quo that has been impose upon them, yet dishonours them, in the beautiful alcove of Glen Cove, Vellejo in California, a people who have been merged into the backdrop of life defend the continuation of life that threatens to be taken away from them.
It began with a 150 indigenous American Indians and supporters trying to prevent the desecration of a site that is sacred to them. As the meaning of life continues to be devalued today, for many people around the world, death is but a continuation of life not the duality that most people have become accustomed to living in. Some of continue that continuation of life by visiting the graves of our loved ones, so one can imagine the anger one might feel to find out that the graves of one’s loved ones is being dug up to be replaced with some unnecessary building development to scar the beauty of the land, in this case a featured public park with a paved parking lot (diminishing the lands ability to absorb rainwater), with 1000 picnic tables, a public restroom over what is in fact a 3,500 year old burial site.
For the Glen Cove Indians this is the case, for on Glen Cove or Sogorea Te (Ohlone language) as it is referred to in their native language, for hundreds of years lays an ancient burial site they have been defending for over 10 years now. The protestors are in fact not asking for much, just for the ancient burial site to be protected. The peaceful protestors made their presence known at the Vallejo City Hall, and the U.S. Dept. Of Justice responded with a senior representative to talk with the leaders of that community. All seemed to be going well as the leaders asked the DOJ to facilitate a meeting with the company concerned, Greater Vallejo Recreation District, GRVD, in order to reach an agreement.
On April 13th 2011, the Site Protection and Rights of Indigenous Tribes filed a suit against the City and GRVD on the basis of racial discrimination, for harming indigenous religious and spiritual well-being, and excluding them from the right to participate in the consultation process. Of course, this is disputed despite constantly digging up human remains, and the fact that for thousands of years they have held sacred ceremonies in Glen Cove/Sogorea Te, and is a meeting place for many Californian tribes. Archaeologists have visited that site since 1907 taking artifacts and remains, which have been stored in the Phoebe Hearst Museum of Anthropology, U.C Berkeley.
The State Attorney General got involved in order to attend to any civil rights grievances against the company and against Vallejo City. However there is a stalemate over the issue. If the intended feature park was not built, the 15-acred area would remain as it is, with a freshwater stream running through grassland rich with native plants open to the public to enjoy what nature provides. As it is, there is already an abandoned mansion built over graves with shell-mounds aside.
Member of the Hawk Clan, Seneca Nation, 90-year old Grandma Edna Gordon frames the situation as follows:
“I got my dander up, I’m 90 years old, why don’t the people call the President of the United States since it is an emergency. The emergency is them digging up the graves like at Glen Cove in Vallejo, California.
“They’ve taken enough land away from the Indians. Now they’ve got a lot of land on the White side that they took away from the Indians. So why don’t they go to those cemeteries and dig up the graves?
“As Indians we don’t go looking around for White man’s bones and what they had. When they rest we let them rest. And whatever they take with them that’s theirs, that belongs to them. If they wanted YOU to have it, they would have given it to you.
If the United States cannot go by the law, then why should we abide by it?
Now the World has gone down because of these corporations, and WHEN are you going to stop.
When you don’t do right In this world, then the Creator will see that you do.”
I will stand with pride because I am here for the Ancestors.
I will stand with courage because I am here for the Ancestors.
I will stand with strength because I am here for the Ancestors.
I will stand with compassion because I am here for the Ancestors.
I will stand with respect because I am here for the Ancestors.
The indigenous Californians ask:
All who will stand with us in prayer are welcome. If you live near the Bay Area, please consider stopping by for a few hours, or a few days. Your presence will be very appreciated. Directions to Glen Cove can be found here. We will remain on site until an agreement is reached that protects the ancestors.