Members of the Gabrielino-Tongva Native American tribe are excited about the possibility of seeing the remains of several of their ancestors returned to their burial grounds after a meeting with Los Angeles city officials and representatives of Playa Capital.
A meeting of the California Native American Heritage Commission at UCLA Law School January 25th brought Los Angeles officials, the developer and the tribe together for the first time since an appellate court ordered Playa Vista to halt construction of the second stage of its planned residential and commercial complex last year.
In the first phase of the development, an ancient Gabrielino-Tongva burial site was unearthed in 2004, despite pleas from the tribe not to disturb the burial ground.
Los Angeles City Councilman Bill Rosendahl, whose district includes Playa Vista, helped to broker an agreement with Playa Vista to assist the tribe in having its ancestors returned to their resting grounds again by this summer. Playa Vista officials had lobbied for much later dates, ranging from 2009 to 2011.
“I was very encouraged by Mr. Rosendahl’s words, because he was so adamant about putting our ancestors back in their sacred burial ground,” said Robert Doarame, who has been designated most likely descendant of the tribe by the California Native American Heritage Commission. That designation comes with the responsibility of determining the final resting place for the remains of his Native American ancestors, of which approximately 400 were removed during the excavation process in Playa Vista’s Phase I.
“It was an excellent meeting, said Rosendahl, who in previous interviews had pledged to find a way to return the Gabrielino-Tongva remains to their ancestral grounds. “My efforts will be to facilitate the process of having these sacred artifacts and remains returned to their burial grounds in the safest and most respectful way possible.”
Rosendahl was moved by the presentation Doarame gave when he told the commission that Playa Vista officials had denied monitors from his tribe the right to see his ancestors during the excavation process.
“He spoke with such incredible anguish and pain,” the councilman recalled. “This is a huge move in the right direction, and I’m glad that I can be a part of this healing process.”
George Milstein, Playa Vista’s legal counsel, agreed with the accelerated date to find a final resting place for the Gabrielino-Tongva remains, said Rosendahl.
Rosendahl, Doarame, representatives of Playa Vista and an archeologist, Donn R. Grenda of Statistical Research are planning to meet in Playa Vista Friday, February 8th, to consider alternative burial sites for the remains, and to determine where they were initially interred.
“This is very good news for us,” said Doarame.
“I’m very hopeful that this will be a win-win situation for everyone, “Rosendahl added.
The 400 remains, along with the artifacts, are currently being housed in a trailer owned by Playa Vista.