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‘Lost Village of Encino’ Excavation : Indian Tribes to Demand Reburial of Ancestors

Times Staff Writer

Leaders of three Indian tribes, saying that archeological excavation of the “Lost Village of Encino” had desecrated the graves of their ancestors, planned to meet with state and local officials today to demand that human bones found on the site be given a ceremonial reburial in a state park on Ventura Boulevard.

Leaders of the Chumash, Gabrieleno and Fernandino tribes have pledges of support from Los Angeles City Councilman Marvin Braude and state Sen. Alan Robbins (D-Van Nuys), according to Charlie Cook, hereditary chief of the southern Chumash tribe.

Spokeswomen for Robbins and Braude confirmed that they will support the Indian demand that skeletons and bones found on the site, near Ventura and Balboa boulevards, be reburied by the Indians at the nearby Los Encinos State Historical Park.

Cook, a Thousand Oaks construction worker, said he had information that evidence of at least 10 burials had been found by archeologists on the site, in addition to charred bones from an unknown number of cremations.

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Cook said that when a delegation of about 30 Indians from all three tribes went to inspect the site two weeks ago, archeologists barred them from entering and would not answer their questions.

Joel Shine, vice president of First Financial Group Inc., the company planning to erect a 13-story condominium and office structure on the site, said the builders had planned all along to turn over the remains to Indians for reburial. He said Cook was engaging in a dispute between the Chumash and Gabrieleno tribes over who would be in charge of the burial.

He said the state Native American Heritage Commission had approved the company’s plans.

A team of about 75 archeologists and assistants, working under a 1970 state law that requires an archeological survey at construction sites with potential historical significance, found remains of an Indian village last July. They announced in October that it had been confirmed as the “Lost Village of Encino.” The announcement mentioned the skeletons of two Indians.

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Father Juan Crespi, who reached the San Fernando Valley with a Spanish expedition in 1769, described in his diary a village of about 200 “very friendly tractable Heathens.”

The exact location was lost with the passing of time until its discovery on the site where Poppy’s Star, a restaurant, was torn down several years ago. Archeologists said the village was inhabited for more than 3,000 years.

Cook said that about 50 Indians are expected to attend the meeting this morning in the state park, site of the Los Encinos Adobe ranch house built in 1849, with representatives of Braude, Robbins and Mayor Tom Bradley.

“I’m afraid that if these remains are not taken care of properly, they will wind up in storage somewhere or in somebody’s collection, for so-called scholastic reasons, for archeologists to study them,” Cook said.

Cook said the Chumash believe that part of a person’s spirit stays in the earth where the body is buried, and it is a violation of their religious beliefs to separate the remains and the spirit. To do so causes misfortune for those responsible and to any Chumash who does not do everything possible to return the bones to their original resting place, he said.

Cook said he would prefer to have the bodies returned to the graves where they were found and the concrete foundations of the building poured over them “so that no one could ever disturb them again.” But the park, less than a block away, is close enough to satisfy Chumash religious beliefs, he said.

The reburial should be accompanied by a complicated Chumash religious ceremony from which non-Indians are barred, he said, requiring construction of a sweat lodge for ritual purification, participation by several medicine men and “several days of prayer.”

The protest is the latest in a series of disputes in recent years between scientists and Indian groups. The Indians have complained that university and museum collections of Indian bones represent a desecration of their ancestors’ remains.

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In 1981, the director of the state Department of Parks and Recreation ordered that his agency’s collection of the remains of 872 Indians, dating back as far as 3,200 years, be returned to Indians for reburial. He also ordered the return of all items found with them--pots, beads, musical instruments, tools and other grave goods.

The order, affecting one of the best-known collections in the West, set off a storm of protest from archeologists and anthropologists, who said the state was destroying an irreplaceable source of evidence of how human beings lived in California before the Spaniards arrived.

Representatives of all three tribes planned to attend the meeting, Cook said, because the archeologists found evidence that ancestors of all three occupied the village simultaneously. The village was in the border area between the three tribes.

Cook criticized the California Native American Heritage Commission for appointing only a Gabrieleno, Fred (Sparky) Morales, to oversee the dig on behalf of Indian interests.

Archeologists Chester King of Topanga, who visited the site as a private consultant, and Mark Robb of California State University, Northridge, said that the site was probably inhabited by at least two tribes. They said they saw evidence that the inhabitants both cremated their dead, usually a Gabrieleno custom, and buried them intact in the Chumash fashion.


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