Ancestors Final Journey Home
CSULB becomes the first university to support a reburial of Native American ancestral remains on a campus.
“As an alumnus of California State University Long Beach and first student to graduate with an American Indian Studies degree from CSULB, I am proud of my school for listening to our Indian Nation representatives and Indian Studies faculty and students for giving appropriate rest and protection to these ancestors so that they may fulfill their journey. This has been the only time that a University has given of its campus for repatriation and establishes a strong precedent for other institutions who have made their footprint on top of, and obtained research dollars from, Native American graves. I know that this repatriation has gone a long way to repair relations and create a strong bond between Indian Nations in Southern California and the University,” said Shannon Keller O’Loughlin (Choctaw), Alumnus and former member of the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act Review Committee, lawyer, and Chief of Staff of the National Indian Gaming Commission. (Ms. O’Loughlin’s views and opinions are her own and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Indian Gaming Commission.)
Ancestors Final Journey Home
In 1953, Long Beach State Anthropology Professor, Dr. Ethel Ewing, was called to investigate a report of human remains and artifacts unearthed during the construction of the Los Altos Shopping Center. What was encountered was a cemetery linked to the ancient village site of Puvungna, the spiritual center of the Gabrieleno-Tongva tribe. What was once the expansive traditional land-base of the tribe, became economic fodder for land developer, L. S. Whaley, and his Los Altos Realty, Inc. in a post WWII urban setting. This scenario has repeated itself throughout the decades, as Southern California Indian cemeteries and sacred sites have been disturbed and destroyed as a result of uncontrolled development.
Universities, and other public institutions, have become repositories of Native American ancestral remains that were abandoned by a system that participated in salvage excavations and failed attempts to maintain the dignity of human remains while being used for research. After generations of ancestors physically confined within institutions, the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act of 1990 implemented a change that would return the dignity and integrity to these individuals/ancestors.
In 1994, the ancestors of the Village of Puvungna were repatriated under the Native American Graves and Protection Act of 1990. Since then, there has been a concerted effort by culturally affiliated tribes, including the Gabrieleno/Tongva and Juaneno/Acjachemen, to rebury their ancestors on campus, the closest location to their original resting place.
It has been a long drawn out process, often a conflicting and unfriendly setting, through multiple CSULB presidents, finally finding resolution with the support of CSU Chancellor Tim White, interim President Don Para, Provost David Dowell, and with the support of CSULB President Jane Conoley, and her current administration who have embraced the reburial.
On July 23, 2016, the reburial ceremony was quietly held on campus, members of ten local tribes, including the Gabrieleno/Tongva, the Juaneno/ Acjachemen, and members of the Chumash tribe took an active part in the reburial ceremony. The ceremony took place on campus at a site collectively chosen by a collaboration between university and tribal representatives. After osteological investigation, the final count of individuals whose remains have been reburied increased from the original 21 to representing about 100 ancestors.
CSULB takes position as the first academic institution to complete a Native American reburial under NAGPRA on their campus. However, this reburial was not the first on campus. Prior to NAGPRA, in 1990, an ancestor was reburied on campus after it was unearthed during the installation of a sprinkler system. AIS Program Director, Craig Stone was a student at CSULB at that time and attended the meeting with then CSULB President Steven Horn in 1978 which resulted in the first reburial of an ancestor at CSULB in 1979.
The recent major reburial process was incorporated into the educational setting across campus linking eleven courses in an unprecedented three-year collaboration. The courses included are from American Indian Studies, Anthropology, Art, Design, Environmental Science and Policy and Recreation and Leisure Studies at CSULB with the consistent support of Vice President, David Salazar. The excavation was overseen by Dr. Sachiko Sakai, Cogstone Resource Management, Cindi Alvitre and supported by the CSULB Physical Planning/Facilities Management and their Staff.
A major role for many aspects of the reburial was performed by current NAGPRA Coordinator, Cindi Alvitre, who coordinated and oversaw the preparation of the ancestors for reburial by students, tribal community members, and scientists to correct a historical wrong.
Louis Robles, Jr., the Chairman of the Committee on Native American Burial Remains and Cultural Repatriation at CSULB is the son of the late Lillian Robles who along with Xoxa Hunut, Jimmy Alvitre, Jimmy Castillo, Anthony Morales, Rebcecca Robles, Cindi Alvitre, Rhonda Robles, Dwight Manuel, Georgiana Sanchez, Jan Sampson, Eugene Ryule, Jerry De La Moira, Craig Stone, Deborah Sanchez, Gloria Arellanes and many others, were actively involved in this on-going effort to rebury the ancestors.
It is with great pride that we announce the completion of this effort to rebury the ancestors at CSULB on the eve of the 2016 celebration of California Native American Day.
 https://www.nps.gov/nagpra/ The Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA) was enacted on November 16, 1990, to address the rights of lineal descendants, Indian tribes, and Native Hawaiian organizations to Native American culture. The Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA) was enacted on November 16, 1990, to address the rights of lineal descendants, Indian tribes, and Native Hawaiian organizations to Native American cultural items, including human remains, funerary objects, sacred objects, and objects of cultural patrimony. The Act assigned implementation responsibilities to the Secretary of the Interior.