Is CSULB really on an Indian burial ground?
DIG investigates the background of the 22-acre lot that once was inhabited by American Indians
Published: Monday, March 3, 2008
Updated: Saturday, April 9, 2011 18:04
Later, the university entered into a lawsuit with Gabrielino-Tongva Indians who were represented by the international American Civil Liberties Union, according to Alvitre, who, with her family, occupied the land for a brief period.
A study was commissioned by the university to verify whether or not the site was once occupied by the Gabrielino-Tongvas, but was strongly opposed by the indigenous group as well as archeologists at the school. According to Ruyle's website, the ACLU obtained a preliminary injunction preventing the dig. Later, an appellate court denied the school the right to sue, according to Alivtre, because the school didn't have legal standing.
Soon after the legal dispute between the university and the indigenous people was dismissed, President Robert Maxson assumed the role as president of CSULB and vowed not to disturb the site.
"When I went to Long Beach State as president there was a plan to build a strip mall on the land which is called Puvungna at the entrance to the university. I didn't think that was an appropriate use of that land," said Maxson, who is now living on a small island between Seattle and Vancouver, Canada. "I said as long as I was president we would not build anything on that land. However, I would not make any decision that would tie the hands of future presidents. That would be a decision that he or she must make."
After Maxson left the university, his promise to the Gabrielino-Tongvas went with him. After he had retired from the position, President F. King Alexander assumed the role without making the same agreement, but Alvitre assures that the relationship between the university and the Gabrielino-Tongvas has been a cordial one, saying that the university has never interfered with the group's activities on the land.
"There's a continuing conversation," Alvitre said in her office. "We're all aware of it," she continued referring to the land.
The land has remained in an awkward limbo, between university ownership and its indigenous history for sometime. While the university recognizes the land bordering the Bellflower entrance as the "22-acre lot," students and staff often call it by the indigenous term: Puvungna.
Because of the precarious relationship the indigenous people and the university have with the land, the 22-are lot has been left largely neglected. While the land is on university property, it also remains a historic site on the National Register of Historic Places.
In the California Indians anthropology class last semester, a student asked Alvitre why there hasn't been an effort to landscape the area, and Alvitre noted that the land is neither entirely the universities, nor entirely that of the Gabrielino-Tongva Indians, so it's neither fully maintained by the university or the Gabrielino-Tongvas.
As it remains, there are two major landmarks on the land, left there by the indigenous community: a memory stick painted with a bundle of sage, a Christian cross, and plastic red and pink mittens, as well as a cross with four long pieces of cloth hanging from its limbs, red, white, yellow, and black - the same vague blur of colors Cassandra Vitale remembers seeing five years ago.
President Alexander was not available for comment regarding this article.
Andrew Franks and Stephen Sabetti contributed to this report.