Archaeologist and Native Americans go head to head over Indian remains and artifacts. According to reports, the artifacts were excavated during a construction project in the San Fransisco Bay Area and then reburied at an undisclosed location.
Archaeologists say the burial ground and village site in Larkspur dated back 4,500 years and held a treasure trove of information about Coast Miwok life that should have been preserved for future study. The 300-foot long site contained 600 human burials, tools, musical instruments, harpoon tips, spears and throwing sticks from a time long before the bow and arrow, the San Francisco Chronicle reported Wednesday (http://bit.ly/1mEgxXu).
But The Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria, which made the decision to remove and rebury the remains and artifacts, say the items belonged to their ancestors, and how they are handled is no one’s business but the tribe’s.
“The philosophy of the tribe in general is that we would like to protect our cultural resources and leave them as is,” said Nick Tipon, a longtime member of the tribe’s Sacred Sites Protection Committee. “The notion that these cultural artifacts belong to the public is a colonial view.”
The development has scheduled to cover the site with multimillion-dollar homes. Construction began this month, but was preceded by an excavation conducted by San Francisco’s Holman & Associates Archaeological Consultants and overseen by the Graton Rancheria Indians, the Chronicle reported. The federally recognized tribe includes Native Americans of Coast Miwok and Southern Pomo descent and was deemed the mostly likely descendent of the remains that were found.
State law requires tribal consultation when Native remains are found or suspected and gives tribes considerable say over the final disposition of the remains and artifacts.
The artifacts at the Larkspur site included stone tools and idols apparently created for trade with other tribes, according to the Chronicle. The site also included a ceremonial condor burial.
“This was a site of considerable archaeological value,” said Dwight Simons, an archaeologist who consulted on the excavation. “My estimate of bones and fragments in the entire site was easily over a million, and probably more than that. It was staggering.”
Greg Sarris, chairman of the 1,300-member Graton Rancheria tribe, said the tribe traditionally reburies sacred objects because many of them are intended to accompany the person who died.
“Our policy is that those things belong to us, end of story,” Sarris said. “Let us worry about our own preservation.
Fascinating 4,500 Year Old Burial Ground Recently Excavated Sparks Heated Disagreement
The facts of this article were contributed by the Associated Press.