Activists protest against CSULB attempting to develop on sacred Native American Land

Protesters call on CSULB to protect Puvungna land during September 27, 2020. Photo by: Nick Eismann | @nick_eismann

Puvungna, a 22-acre piece of land, is the last remaining undeveloped sacred Native American land within the region. Now the land is occupied by Cal State University Long Beach who has constantly pushed for its development. 

For years, CSULB has been trying to develop the sacred land, even classifying it as “unused university property.” 

To many, this land holds a significant history and a lot of meaning as it was once a gathering site for the Acjachemen and Tongva people as well as an ancient burial ground.

Puvungna was especially a sacred site to the Tongva people who are the indigenous people of California. The Tongva referred to this land as their “place of emergence” and to the place where their lives began.

The Tongva people have been fighting to protect this land from development since the 1960’s and in 1974, it was added to the National Register of Historical Places. The university has challenged this designation, claiming that they were not consulted when the application was filed.

“We don’t have much left… Where can we go? Where is our space?” Said Anna Christensen, a supporter of the Tongva people. 

As stated in an email sent to CSU Long Beach “decision makers”, organizers stated, “Denying the history and presence of Puvungna is deeply rooted in the racist mentality of the colonizer who declares the right to displace and erase.” 

Many fear that the university is trying to “cap” the site. A process where cultural resources are considered protected which will open the door to further development. 

University officials have already tried a similar tactic back in the 90’s when they first tried to develop the site. Despite the multiple protests and cries to stop the development, they still filed a “Negative Declaration” which stated that there were “no cultural resources” on the land.  

Archeological evidence proves that more than a dozen Puvungna village sites are spread out over a 500 acre area on or around the campus. Most of the sites have been lost to development.

The recent dumping of dirt on the sacred land sparked protests at CSULB back in September.

Local indigenous groups claimed that they were not consulted of the dumping which led to a legal challenge by the tribe. This halted the dumping in October of 2019. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, legal proceedings have been halted and the dirt is yet to be removed from the sacred site. 

Natives have made their demands clear: clear the site of trash, debris, and dirt, establish a “memorandum of understanding that preserves [the] sacred land” and improve communication between university officials and tribes affiliated with Puvungna. 

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