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article imageCalifornia natives struggle to preserve ancient sacred site

By Stephanie Dearing     Oct 16, 2010 in Religion
Vallejo - North of San Fransisco, tucked away on a small cove of the Bay Area, lies the Glen Cove Shell Mound, a site considered sacred by the local Indians.
The Vallejo Inter-Tribal Council has been fighting to protect the Glen Cove Shell Mound, a location they claim as sacred. But after 11 years of lobbying and protests, the Council has not been able to effect any significant gains in protecting the site. Within a period of days, said the Council, the site will be subjected to what the Council calls "eco-rape."
The Greater Vallejo Recreation District said the planned rehabilitation of the land, which is currently a public park, would see some of the land restored to what it would have looked like about 100 years ago. The rest of the plans include a picnic area, restrooms and a parking lot, along with groomed hiking trails.
The Council wants to see an existing mansion and caretaker's cottage carefully torn down. They would also like to see non-native plants carefully removed. The Council would prefer the land be left alone altogether, out of respect for the ancestors. The mound is thought to be over 3,000 years old.
The SFGate reported that the Council was upset over the washroom proposal in particular, which they said would be located close to the main location of the shell mound.
As part of their ongoing fight to be heard, the Council is holding a ceremony at the shell mound on Saturday October 16. A press release calls for people to "... join us on the REAL FRONT LINES FOR MORE HUMAN AND CIVIL RIGHTS FOR INDIAN COUNTRY!!

THE ANCESTORS ARE CRYING! BRING YOUR PRAYERS, YOUR MEDICINE, YOUR SONGS to stop the eco-rape and destruction of the shell mound where the Ancient Ones Sleep!"
As for scheduled plans for the start of work at the Glen Cove Park next week, the Council has said it intends to block workers from the site reported the Vallejo Times-Herald.
Indian Country Today reported that many artefacts from the mound had been removed in the 1900s. It is believed the artefacts, which include human remains, are now at Berkley.
The former property owners built a mansion on top of the shell mound over 80 years ago, and when they sold the property, they deeded the 15 acres of waterfront area, which includes the mansion, to the City.
The battle over the shell mound has pitted Aboriginal spiritual interests against the interest of nearby property owners, who view the park as adding value to their real estate.
In a document outlining the issues from their point of view, the Inter-Tribal Council stated "... The Greater Vallejo Reaction District (GVRD) and the City of Vallejo are currently developing a park with trails, parking lot, and amendments that would effectively degrade and destroy this site. Garlon 4, an herbicide, will also be sprayed, saturating the delicate ecosystem with synthetic chemicals. Preserving and protecting this sacred place in the way those who created it means it is a de facto legal right under the American Indian Religious Freedom Act and is an essential part of Indigenous cultural survival. The desecration of the ancient Glen Cove Shellmound and surrounding burial site and the theft of remains and sacred items is criminal. This ignorance, greed, profit, and power over others, through the abuse of the departed is a crime against humanity. The $1.5 million dollar project is simply an attack by developers who see the land as a direct, intravenous line to their bank accounts. Unfortunately, because of the implications of losing money, many developers choose instead to ignore any artifacts and bones found at a development site. In a bankrupt city, with rising rates of violent crime, schools closing, and homes foreclosed, we can think of better places this money should have been channeled to."
Author Malcolm Margolin, who wrote about California's Ohlone Indians, whose ancestors were some of the people who used to live at Glen Cove, told the SFGate that the site should be preserved, saying. "It's not just an obligation we, as the dominant culture, have to save these sites. There's something to be gained from it. Otherwise we're throwing away a well of history, heritage, wisdom, humor, fun. It's about the past, but it's also about our present."
There is at least one on-line petition supporting the Vallejo Inter-tribal Council in their quest to preserve the land as a sacred space.
Vallejo entered into bankruptcy protection in early 2008. According to an article in Bloomberg, the municipality with its population of approximately 115,000, is still in financial difficulty.
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