By Miriam Raftery
August 12, 2010 (San Diego’s East County) – San Diego County Superior Court Judge Judith Hayes yesterday granted an injunction requested by the state Native American Heritage Commission. The injunction requires Padre Municipal Water District to cease construction at the site of a planned water project in Lakeside where human bone fragments identified as ancient Native Americans and artifacts were found during preliminary construction for a proposed pump station, 2.5 million gallon reservoir, flow control facility and pipelines near Lake Jennings.
“We are very pleased that Judge Hayes granted the Heritage Commission’s request for an injunction,” said Viejas spokesman Robert Scheid. “This ruling provides what the Viejas Band ultimately sought: to halt further desecration of the sacred site, respect those who are buried there, and preserve the human remains and cultural resources at the site, which is important to both the Viejas Band and all of southern California.”
Padre Dam spokesman Mike Uhrhammer said the District is reviewing the rulings to determine its next steps. “The District is reviewing the rulings to determine our next steps. The District continues to believe that we can protect the core area where the vast majority of the remains have been found and also meet the critical needs of our customers with this water storage and delivery project,” a statement released by the district read. “Obviously, we were hoping for an immediate resolution, but there are still issues that need to be resolved and parts of the ruling that need to be clarified. We look forward to working with the court and the NAHC to resolve these issues."
Asked whether the ruling meant construction would remain halted at the entire project, Uhrhammer told East County Magazine, “There’s no chance that construction will just start up. Of course we have to comply with the court.”
On June 7, Judge Hayes granted a temporary restraining order halting construction. On June 17, the Native American Heritage Commission declared the site a sanctified Native American burial ground and ceremonial site and directed the water district to halt work and find a different site, however construction continued on a portion of the project. On June 24, California Attorney General Jerry Brown filed a lawsuit against the water district to halt potential desecration.
The Padre Dam Water District’s own experts had advised them in 2007 to avoid the site because of the likelihood of unearthing significant Native American cultural resources, including human remains.
Human remains and a very high density of burned pottery shards were later uncovered at the site, indicating a sacred burial ground and ceremonial place where cremated Native Americans were buried in sacred pottery urns.
In documenting the discovered cultural resources at the site, a data recovery report prepared for the District by its experts called the discovery “unparalleled in the San Diego region” and said the site contained “one of the highest densities of Native American ceramic shards ever found in San Diego County,” which has 19,000 recorded archaeological sites.
Although only approximately 6 percent of the site was recovered, the District’s report already details the significance of the discovery:
• 14 human bones belonging to at least 3-8 individuals have been positively identified by the Coroner, dating to A. D. 780 - 1910.
• 204 other bone fragments are considered either likely to be human or have yet to be assessed but were treated as though they were human. (Fragmented remains are typical of the traditional cremation practices of local Indian Bands.)
• The District’s report also says that the human remains found during excavations at the site were mostly “burned during cremation” and that the “calcined bones may have come from human cremations given the large amounts of burned pottery and other burial artifacts that may have been grave goods.” (Actual quotes from Padre Dam Water District’s Data Recovery Report, August 2009.)
For more information, view ECM's prior coverage of this issue: http://www.eastcountymagazine.org/node/3616.