Native American tribes visit a 'sacred place' in Fairview Park

Representatives from two Native American tribes visited Fairview Park on Saturday as a reminder that their ancestors inhabited the bluffs there for thousands of years.

At the end of Pacific Avenue in Costa Mesa, the group's leader, Rebecca Robles, explained why they were there.

"We want them to know our story," she said. "We want them to know our plight."

She stood where Costa Mesa City Council had considered installing a parking lot but last month instead approved creating only a turnaround.

But less than a week after that decision, city officials began receiving warnings that the plan could encroach on a culturally significant Native American site that stretches along Fairview Park's bluffs.

"They failed to consult with the tribes," Robles said.

Robles leads an annual pilgrimage visiting six Orange County sites that are important to two tribes: the Tongva, also known as the Gabrielino, and the Acjachemen, also known as the Juaneño.

For the first time in its 17-year existence, the pilgrimage visited Fairview Park.

"This is the first time we've come to this site because we always thought this site was protected because it's in a park," Robles said.

She and about 25 pilgrims walked quietly along the parks' bluffs for 400 yards before stopping at a sign reading, "this bluff was home."

Joggers and bikers passed by while the group gathered in a tight cluster and sang an ancestral song.

"This is the eagle song, and we ask that it strengthen us," Robles said before launching into a verse that gained volume each time it was repeated.

Robles ended the ceremony by telling each member of the circle to leave a piece of tobacco and sage as an offering.

Small red ties were left as evidence of the tribes' prayers.

"This place is sacred," Robles said. "This place shouldn't be developed."

As the group walked back toward Pacific Avenue, Sylvere Valentin, an Irvine-based archaeologist who has worked to publicize Fairview Park's historical significance, explained there's no Native American site in the county or in neighboring Los Angeles that rivals the one in the park.

"For Orange County, that's it," he said.

Tribes inhabited the site at Fairview Park for at least 9,000 years, Valentin said.

The small group that visited the site to remember their ancestors is facing a familiar plight, according to Robles.

"We're up against developers that have multi-million dollar funding resources," she said. "The advantage that we have is that we're here. We haven't forgotten who we are."

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