Community Commentary: More than 'kitchen waste' in historic land

That Ed Mountford referred to the archaeological resources on the Goodell property as "kitchen waste" is understandable since Mountford has a project pending before the California Coastal Commission on land that is immediately adjacent to the Goodell site, and it is in his best interest to attempt to diminish the importance of the site.

However, Nancy Wiley, the archaeologist responsible for digging the 16 pits on the site, has a different take on what might lie below the surface. She has stated in public that there is a 100% chance of finding the unique artifacts referred to as cogged stones and a high likelihood of finding more burials. She has also said that the Bolsa Chica Mesa is really all one site. Wiley reported this information in 2010 in a talk to the Pacific Coast Archaeological Society. However, for decades prior to that, she said the site was too disturbed to be significant. In environmental impact reports (EIRs) and other documents, she has reported that prehistoric remains did not exist in the area.

What did she find after the grading started? One hundred sixty burials, tens of thousands of beads, cogged stones and other artifacts have been found on the site, according to the Coastal Commission staff report. She reported in an internal memo, which the Bolsa Chica Land Trust received, that over 100,000 artifacts had been collected. She described how she was wrapping the women in red burlap, the men in blue, and that children had a color of their own. These were not bone fragments she dug up on the Brightwater property; these were people.

The Native American Heritage Commission, in a letter dated April 4, 2008, acknowledged that the site is probably a cemetery and that Native American cultural resources at the site have been understated. Understated? I'll say — from too disturbed to be significant before the housing was permitted, to over 100,000 artifacts after the permits were granted.

Brightwater, Goodell and the Ridge may all be different names, but they all hold part of the rich human history on the Bolsa Chica Mesa, a human history that started 9,000 years ago. So much of this history has been lost in coastal California that I, for one, am very happy to see that the Coastal Commission now understands the importance of the sites at Bolsa Chica.

CONNIE BOARDMAN is a Huntington Beach councilwoman and the president of the Bolsa Chica Land Trust.

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