Native Americans Are Not Artifacts, City Council Told

Ruben Aguirre, member of Tongva Nation and a descendant of the original occupiers of the Bolsa Chica upper mesa, told the Huntington Beach city council what he thought of the record of California Coastal Homes (previously known as Hearthside), the developer that  won city council approval to build 22 homes on a 5 acre parcel, one of the last two remaining spots of undeveloped but sacred Native American land located on the mesa, part of the Bolsa Chica wetlands ecosystem located in the city near Warner Avenue and Pacific Coast Highway.

Digging for artifacts on the Bolsa Chica mesa
Digging for artifacts on the Bolsa Chica upper mesa in 2001. Photo: Scientific Resource Surveys

The public hearing attracted hundreds of opponents and council members received 664 communications regarding the project, at least the vast majority of which were opposed. Nobody spoke in favor of the project at the except city staff, the developer and the city council majority of 5, who voted for the project. The vote included changing the parcel’s 26-year-old open space-park zoning designation to residential and exempting the developer from completing a rigorous Environmental Impact Report, which opponents say is required under state law.

The Surf City Voice will being reporting on this story periodically.

Ruben Aguirre’s comments are printed below and his city council presentation can be seen and heard in the video.

“I am here for my ancestors. That’s why I’m here. This gentleman, developer, you know him by name now, he had our ancestors prisoners for I forget how many years, in trailers and boxes. Now, I think any of you that would have your ancestors in boxes or in trailers, stored as artifacts, you would not stand for. When it comes to greed and money, that’s all they worry about, these developers. You as a council have the right, and you know in your hearts if it’s right or wrong, when there’s development or anything you have to do to take care of our wetlands, all the open space out there. I go over there and I pray, constantly. I am waiting for one of them to come and tell me I can’t pray there. I would like to see that for them to stop me from praying. That’s our sacred place, sacred land for all Native Americans that can come there. And its cogstones and its burials.  Where’s all these things? Where are they? Who has all of them? Where are they? Who has them? What right do they have? Because they found them or because this archaeologist, these grave robbers, grave diggers—and I will say it right out and I will say it in front of them: that’s what they are. And to make excuses, or this developer pays their own archaeologist, so they’re going to lie. You know, they keep on digging and bringing out remains, funerary objects; but it’s all artifacts, so they take them to museums, like I say, they put them away, you know? We are not artifacts. Native Americans are not artifacts. We are human beings just like everyone else here.”

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2 thoughts on “Native Americans Are Not Artifacts, City Council Told”

  1. Let me guess, if the bolsa chica property was turned into a casino and all proceeds dedicated to the tongva nation, this woman wouldn’t have a problem paving the whole thing.
    get over it.

    1. The speaker is a man, as the name indicates. Let me guess, if the government stole your land AND paved over the graves of your parents so a developer could build homes–or a casino–and paid you nothing, not even respect, you wouldn’t care.
      — Editor

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