CSULB under fire for dumping dirt, trash on sacred Native American grounds

Sunday, October 6, 2019
CSULB under fire for dumping dirt, trash on sacred Native American grounds
Heaping piles of dirt from a construction site canvas the 22-acre plot of sacred Native American land on the Cal State Long Beach campus, known to the Acjachemen nation as "Puvunga."

LONG BEACH, Calif. (KABC) -- Joyce Stanfield-Perry sifts through mounds of dirt on her tribe's sacred grounds, finding a manhole cover and PVC pipe.

Heaping piles of soil canvas the 22-acre plot of sacred Native American land, known to the Acjachemen and Tongva nation as "Puvungna."

"Puvungna is a sacred site to the Acjachemen people," said tribal manager and Cultural Resource Director, Joyce Stanfield-Perry. "It's a place where our identity is rooted in and this place is under attack."

Cal State Long Beach is dumping surplus soil from an adjacent construction site on campus onto the land that is bordered by Beach Street and Bellflower Boulevard.

"My understanding is there is some concern among some stakeholders, but the university's planning is based on the consultation of advisors," said Jeff Cook, CSULB's spokesperson.

Stanfield-Perry said the university is in violation of public resource codes, and though leaders from other tribes may have been consulted with, the Acjachemen nation was not.

"Putting dirt on a sacred site is not necessarily a bad thing to do if it's done with consultation and approval of the nations," said Stanfield-Perry.

The Acjachemen nation is indigenous to Orange County, Los Angeles County, northern San Diego County, and eastern Riverside County. Stanfield-Perry said there is an estimated 6,000 members. Several tribes use the land for

ceremonies and gatherings.

"Our concern is that it's becoming a dumping ground and a sacred site cannot be a dumping ground," she said.

Although Stanfield-Perry would not confirm that the 22-acre site was a burial ground, she did say that she was concerned that heavy equipment was driving over the remains of her ancestors.

"In our traditional tribal territory, 99% of our ancestral sites have been destroyed," said Stanfield-Perry.

School officials claim the soil is being monitored for artifacts and remains.

The project, which is constructing student housing at the university, it predicted to be completed in 2022. The university remains proud of their contributions to the Native American community.

"This university had the first American Indian studies program in the CSU that launched 50 years ago," Cook said. "Most recently, we shed what many consider a divisive and perhaps hateful symbol: our former mascot."

The Acjachemen tribe is hosting its annual Ancestor Walk on Saturday, October 5. CSULB said they will smooth the dirt to accommodate the event.

Stanfield-Perry said the tribe plans to take legal action against the university.

"The university has a responsibility and we're just asking them to adhere to it."