California Property Owner and Tribe Dispute Uncovered Burial Ground

December 15, 2012

Human remains were uncovered on November 29 while workers leveled dirt to plant pistachio and almond trees on private land in Hanford, California, reported the Hanford Sentinel.

The Tachi-Yokut Tribe says the remains are part of a burial mound and wants them reburied, preferably in the same spot they were dug up from. The tribe would like the area fenced off and preserved, cultural specialist Lalo Franco told the newspaper.

“They really have done a lot of damage to this particular [burial] mound,” Franco told the Hanford Sentinel. “We don’t want any further disturbance.”

The California Native American Heritage Commission has even asked the city to step in. Dave Singleton, a program analyst with the commission sent a letter to Hanford City Manager Darrel Pyle dated Monday, December 10.

“Of urgent concern … is the apparent failure of the landowner and his construction crew to halt the project, due to the discovery of the [human] remains, in compliance with California Health and Safety Code 7050.5, which requires that no further excavation or disturbance take place at the site,” Singleton wrote. “We urge the city to enforce this law and to cooperate with the parties in reaching a resolution of the issues in this case.”

Because the mound is on private property, Mario Zamora, an attorney for the city, said there isn’t anything the city can do. He told the newspaper the city may be willing to act as a mediator between the tribe and Donald Souza, the land owner.

Franco told the newspaper he was insulted on November 30 by a worker when he went to the site and asked them to stop digging. He said one of the workers told him that “all of the Indians should have been shot a long time ago.”

Joe Camara, a spokesman for Souza, said he wasn’t aware of the insult, but said he is willing to work with the tribe but hasn’t been able to get in touch with tribal members.

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