Chumash cemetery unearthed in Los Osos
March 21, 2013
Members of the Chumash community want sewer collection system excavation halted in Los Osos where Native American remains were unearthed at what is believed to an ancient cemetery.
Chumash leaders are asking that the area remain intact until the size of the cemetery is determined and solutions to avoid destruction of the area are investigated. They said they do not want the sewer project stopped; they want the excavation of their cemetery to be reevaluated.
“We are going to ask the county and the coastal commission to review their policies to help assist us in protecting our ancestors,” Gino Altimarno said.
Far Western Anthropological Research Group was awarded an $898,105 sole source contract to survey the entire project. In order to protect cultural resources, an archeologist and most likely descendants are also on site.
In this case, the most likely descendent are employees of Far Western and the archeologist is married to one of its principals, said Cavanaugh, a Chumash who was on the site.
“They were shoveling dirt with human remains on the street and then picking up skull fragments and grave items off the street,” Cavanaugh said.
Far Western project manager Pat Nicolson said she did not want to comment on the allegations.
The county broke ground for the new sewer collection system on Oct. 8, and the first two burials were found on March 11, another on the March 12 and a fourth on March 13. In the same area, an intact burial was discovered and reburied about 10 feet away in 2004.
Of the five burials, two include intact skeletal remains and the others had portions of bones and artifacts, Cavanaugh said.
Following the discovery, Far Western Archeology decided to do a rapid reburial with plans to excavate the graves, dig below and rebury the remains below the sewage pipelines. Members of the Chumash community strongly voiced their opposition placing the execution temporarily on hold.
“Any most likely descendants need to be respectful of our ancestors and not destroy them for any reason,” Marcus Lopez said. “Any destruction of a site is not good for the Chumash community.”
Members of the Chumash community said they would like the decision to be inclusive of their community and not determined by several descendants with a financial stake in the decision.