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.

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

All human remains should be respected and if relatives are available, they should help decide what should be done to mitigate the situation.

With that said, I’d like to point out that there is no such thing as a ‘Native American’. All humans came to this continent by land or sea. No one living here is a so called native, unless all who are born here are also ‘natives’. This has been a misuse of the word ‘Native’. I’m not disrespecting those with ancestors that have been on the continent longer than others, but no one was a ‘native’.

And you know this how?

Having worked with Far Western quite often in the past, I have found them to be knowledgeable, ethical and professional. I find the characterization of them to be suspect. In addition the information presented here is incorrect. When human remains are discovered the county coroner notifies the Native American Heritage Commission (NAHC) who assigns the Most Likely Descendent (MLD). That individual has the sole authority for determining the disposition of the remains. The MLD may wish to consult with other Native Americans; however, there is no requirement to do so. If the Chumash have a problem with the decision the MLD has made they may wish to speak with the MLD about it. If they have an issue of which MLD was assigned they have the opportunity to discuss it with the NAHC. It is important to remember that Far Western has no say in either matter but is merely the facilitator that ensures the laws are followed. If the Chumash don’t like the laws they have the opportunity to work to change them. If any wish to be included on the MLD list for their territory, they may apply with the NAHC and when their turn comes they can make the decision. I dislike having any company or individual mischaracterized in this manner based on little information and that which was supplied is incorrect.

I thought this comment sounded way too slick so I looked into it further. After a little research and analysis, it becomes clear that the law and procedure described were created with the objective of helping developers to do whatever they want while creating the ILLUSION that Native Americans are being respected and given control over the handling of their cemeteries and archaeological resources.

ONE person is assigned to safeguard and protect the remains of the ancestors of thousands of descendants, and the only thing those other descendants can do if they are not happy is to try to have someone else appointed, or try to get the law changed.

Swell. Even if those who objected to the process managed to get a new person assigned, or get some legislator to sponsor a change to the law, it wouldn’t help much. By that time hundreds of graves would already have been desecrated. Clearly the deck has been stacked against the Native Americans, and it will likely remain that way unless this scam is revealed for what it is – a way to keep people out of the way of developers.

The whole thing is not only unfair. It flies in the face of logic, common sense, and basic decency. Suppose you have lived in this area for a long time, and many of your relatives and friends are buried in a local cemetery. Some developer wants to move the cemetery in order to build a shopping center. An agency chooses ONE person with relatives buried in the cemetery make all the decisions regarding the disposition of all of the burials, and nobody else whose loved ones are interred there has anything to say about it. Obviously, this is NOT a good idea.

Interesting choice of words. I don’t know how my comment was “slick”. I was just telling people what the law is. I didn’t make the law. In fact these laws didn’t even start to exist until the 1970s when people were sick of watching developers bulldoze through sites without being required to stop and think. This law like most environmental laws have no teeth because there is no support from the public; native americans are part of that public. Even people who break the law rarely ever get prosecuted. I would suggest a little more research before you jump to conclusions because you are blaming the wrong people. It is not as simple as you think. So many people, including native americans have misused the laws for their own ends that draconion measures like procedure have been required to keep things as fair as possible even though it falls far short… and yes, people can change laws but they cant just sit and complain about them, they have to do something about it.This law has been around for 23 years, plenty of time.

In a side note, local cemeteries are not protected by laws other than the graves have to be moved if someone wants to develop there. Three generations of my family are in one graveyard and I have no rights if someone wants to move them. In addition my great (+) grandfather and uncle who died in the war of 1812 are sitting in a museum in Illinois. I have no rights to bury them or even see them even though I can prove through dna I am related. If I were a Native American I would have rights to these remains if I could prove descendency. So no the laws arent fair. I have been working for four years to change the ones affecting me.

btw… one person does not make the decision for all descendents… the list rotates and anyone who can prove descendency to a territory can put in an application to be on the list.. The list provides one main person for each incident because decisions by committee seldom get made. It does not prevent consultation wih other tribal members. Usually the constant bickering between native american groups and within tribes is the biggest hindrance. DNA analysis could eliminate alot of these problems but few native americans are willing. Those that do are generally interested in learning about their ancestors, migration patterns, tribal areas…. interesting thought.

So only you can speak of the scriptures?! Who nominated you God? So you can rip everyone else that doesn’t agree with you to feed your EGO problem and hide your fear by spouting religious confusion. Must be really uncomfortable constantly trying to hide all that fear. If you’re the only “anointed one” to decipher the Bible, how is it you’re such a mean spirited person? No happiness inside? If you really had faith, you would be a truly happy person and not have the need to put other people down in order to feel superior and cover your insecurity.


On the previous page, you never answered me in where you get the authority to interpret the “specific passages” that I have brought forth relative to this story, other than what they literally mean, of which you obviously disagree. Until you do, your outbursts of reaching conclusions in which you wish to reach are childish in nature.

Seriously, just know when to quit, okay?

Thank you.


Ted is a tool, just ignore his B.S.

Denny’s Grand Slam,

You’re calling the biblical passages that I bring forth relative to the stories at hand, BS?!!! You are but another example of an atheist, or even worse, a heretic, that abounds within this forum. How does anyone say that one is to ignore the direct word of the Hebrew-Christian God, like you’ve done!

Jack is hiding because he can’t address my posting to him, as he has done many times before after drawing first blood, and I suggest that you do the same to save what face you have left with your ever so inept posts here at CCN.

Ted the tool,

It’s time you return to your hole…..thanks for proving just how much you don’t know……

Keep the up your pathetic rants, they’re pathetic therefore a perfect extension on you! Get a life

Enough bickering.

I’m stating you are both judge and jury apparently when you don’t know anything about me. I fail to see what you think you’ve proven. There are many natives today that believe in God and have not abandoned their culture. Whether a native knows The One as God or Creator, that’s their choice but makes them no less native.

If those remains were so darn important, why not keep track of where you put them in the first place? My family has a long time tradition that when someone dies, we put them in the ground and drop a big-ass rock on top with the person’s name and some important dates. That way if anyone ever gets the idea of digging there, they’ve got a pretty good idea of what they were getting into beforehand.

“Any destruction of a site is not good for the Chumash community.”

How can someone say this with a straight face when he or she didn’t even know the remains were there?

What a brilliant statement. I’m sure you know where the 5,000 year old remains of your ancestors are.

I’m sure you don’t mean to proceed in telling me what MY faith system means or about my own heritage. You seriously need to get a clue. Your comments on here are some of the most unpopular of any. Why don’t you go to a religious forum and try to tell some real Believers what they think and know. I’m sure your comments would be just as unpopular there.


The only one that needs to get a clue is you, since within this thread you tout the fact that you’re a “native”, “that you’re a Salinan and that you understand exactly what other natives have to deal with”, yada, yada, yada. But, yet you abandoned your Salinan native faith of your ancestors by slapping them in the face by joining the ranks of Christianity, whereas history shows they tortured your people in the late 1700’s! Like I stated before, your ancestors must be spinning in their graves!

Now, why don’t you remove yourself to a California Native forum where it’s alumni all left their ancestral faith to be a member of Christianity, and because of this fact, you all can be embarrassed together?

My comments are only unpopular when the opposition like youself cannot address them in a logical manner, as you have shown herein.

YOUR QUOTE: “Why don’t you go to a religious forum and try to tell some real Believers what they think and know”

CONCLUSION: You’re stating that any religious believer at Cal Coast News are not real believers or Christians, therefore, that includes you!

Thank you for helping me prove my point.