By Miriam Raftery
Photo by Ozzie Monge
September 1,2016 (San Diego’s East County) – Native Americans held a protest Wednesday outside theNavy’s new SEAL training center on Coronado over desecration of an area where ancient Indian remains were found.
The 12 tribes of the Kumeyaay Nation have asked the Navy to move the construction boundary to preserve the site where tribal members believe more remains are likely located, but so far the Navy has refused.
“To us, the sight of those machines brutally ripping our ancestors from the ground is no different than it would be for those very same Navy personnel to watch bulldozers rip through Arlington National Cemetery, scattering the bodies of fallen soldiers carelessly under the metal treads,” Cynthia Parada, Councilwoman of the La Posta Band of Mission Indians, wrote on a Facebook page for the Save Our Ancestors from Desecration event.
Back in 2002, 7,000-year-old partial remains of a boy were found at the site south of the Silver Strand beach. Parada says tribal representatives were told at the time by military officials that those remains “would not be disturbed for another 7,000 years.”
The San Diego Union-Tribune reports that tribal members who visited the site in January say they saw remnants of tools and shells used by their ancestors. They believe the site is atop an ancient village and that many more ancient people are buried there. Native American tradition requires that the dead remain undisturbed.
But now the Navy contends that the site does not qualify for protection under the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act because the area was previously disturbed, bulldozed back in 1940. The Navy’s statement indicates it added a 100-foot buffer around eligible archaeological and environmentally sensitive sites. The Navy also claims its request for the Kumeyaay to provide a monitor at the site during construction but that the Kumeyaay declined.
Over the last year and a half, tribal and military representatives have met several times, but the tribes’ request to protect the site was denied.
Parada wrote on the event site that “in the end, the consultation process, like so many 19th century treaties, turned out to be a façade designed to allow the Federal Government to take what they wish, when they wish, without being hindered by technicalities like Federal Law.”
If honored, that request would reduce the size of the project footprint by about four percent, Parada said.
Ozzie Monge was among those who attended Wednesday’s protest, which included singing bird songs intended to let ancestors’ spirits know that they are not forgotten. Monge is a lecturer at San Diego State University, where his topics include the impacts of settler colonialism and his master’s thesis titled “Fail Montezuma” focused on cultural racism and misrepresentations of Native Americans in popular culture.
“I saw so much strength, pride, dignity and beauty,”Monge said of the protesters at the event, including those shown in the photo above.
Another meeting is scheduled for this Friday, September 2.
The tribal members hope others in the community, including military personnel, veterans and their families will support their cause. “They won’t ignore a united front of citizens who both support our nation’s bravest warriors and respect our nation’s original inhabitants.”