The California Native American Heritage Commission (NAHC) has opened an investigation into the dumping of construction debris and soil on the Native American sacred site of Puvungna, located on the California State University-Long Beach campus. A public hearing will be held at a later date, after which the NAHC will recommend mitigation measures to CSULB and may seek injunctive relief for the protection of Native American cultural resources under its jurisdiction.
In a notification letter to the university dated August 10, the NAHC writes that “the purpose of this investigation and the future public hearing is to determine whether the dumping of construction debris and soil on Puvungna is interfering with the free expression or exercise of Native American religion or may result in severe and irreparable harm to a Native American sanctified cemetery, place of worship, religious or ceremonial site, or sacred shine located on public property.”
Puvungna, a 22-acre parcel of land on the CSULB campus, holds religious, cultural and historical significance for the Juaneño Band of Mission Indians – Acjachemen Nation, as well as several other Tribal Nations. This 22-acre parcel of land is the most significant remaining undeveloped parcel of the Tribal group’s sacred land in Southern California. The site is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and on the California Native American Heritage Commission’s Sacred Lands Inventory. Puvungna continues to be an active site of religious worship for California Native Americans.
CSULB dumped soil and debris on this land in 2019. The Juaneño Band of Mission Indians, Acjachemen Nation – Belardes and the California Cultural Resources Preservation Alliance, Inc. are currently in lawsuit settlement negotiations with the university.
“We welcome this NAHC investigation as an effort to shine a light on what has happened at Puvungna,” said Mattias Belardes, Chairman of the Juaneño Band. “We hope this investigation will help bring justice to the Tribes and bring this matter to a conclusion by providing permanent protection for Puvungna.”
NAHC is a governor-appointed commission that identifies, catalogs, and protects Native American cultural resources, including ancient places of special religious or social significance, and ensures California Native American tribes’ access to these resources.