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.


If anyone thinks this lack of respect for burials is something (and it is), just wait until the Copeland’s Chinatown development gets rolling in SLO. The procedure there will be scraping thin levels of soil off the Mission dormitory site and logging anything turned up, then removing yet another layer, and repeating until nothing is found. 100% disruption.

native man

This day and age I can’t belive all the racism. The Chumash people are not trying to get a casino they are trying to protect their ancestors. There are several groups of Chumash people and only one band, the reservation in Santa Ynez have a casino


I say call the Coastal Commission…….wait until they waste all of our tax dollars here in MB dismantling the MB Sewer Plant. There is GOLD in them there sand dunes!!!!!!


This is not really a story of IF native american remains would be found, but WHEN…and WHAT to do when remains are discovered.

It is well understood through past intensive studies performed by Far Western Archeological (in 2004) that there are areas in Los Osos (areas with locations that are considered confidential in order to preserve and protect these areas) that remains would be found.

During the processing of the County’s Sewer Project CDP with the Coastal Commission, the CCC approved the protocols (developed by the County and the local Native American community) for the handling of any found artifacts.

Protocols include the use of on-site personnel to monitor all project excavations for such remains; and when remains are found how to handle / re-intern them.

The CCC agreed that the sewer project is a necessity; and that in the process of building the sewer that native american artifacts would unfortunately be disturbed (hence the establishment of the handling protocols). The County has been following the adopted protocols.

In short, the County and the local native american community are doing their jobs in a manner as agreed upon in advance.


They want to bury the remains deeper and then run the sewer lines on top of them! Huh, I can’t think of anything more disrespectful. I’m not Indian but I sure wouldn’t want someone doing that to my great grandparents. I can’t help but think about how the descendants who buried the deceased found a beautiful, natural, quiet, peaceful place to bury their loved ones. Never would they have imagined this sewer pipe idea as a companion to the cemetery.

As to those who spew animosity towards the Chumash. They lived here long before any of us did and this was their land.I repeat, IT WAS THEIR LAND, is there no respect what so ever? Sewer pipes running through their grave sites, euh?


Yet the sewer plant will be adjacent to the cemetery right outside of town….


Tell the Chumash they can have a casino in Los Osos and the cemetery will be dug up in a heartbeat and the sewer would be in place in a week.


Only in Los Osos. Not sure if they will ever get there sewer. As for the Chumash, its hard to have sympathy when the federal government has allowed that paticular goup to become rich beyond there dreams with casinos that no one else can have, and now we will have to stop the sewer project, and even change the name of local sports teams so as to not affend even when it should be an honor. No one currently alive has oppressed the “Native American”. Every single ethnicity has been oppressed or worse at some point in history. This should be treated as any other ethnicity and the remains should be moved and lets all move on.


Yeah FineWine, the same federal government that committed untold atrocities against the native american population. In my opinion they deserve every nickle they get from their casinos – and the best part about it is that the State of California has no control and can’t suck them dry like the rest of us.

PS, I’m not Chumash or any other ethnic group – just a good ole white boy.


“Native Amercans” committed untold atrocities against “Native Americans”. Thats the truth, they did for the 10,000 years. all of the advanced “Native American” tribes Incas, Aztecs, and Mayans all committed human sacrafice. Mostly from peoples they kidnapped from other tribes. I put “Native Americans” in Quotes because the truth is they came here from Asia too. Life didn’t start in the Americas.


Actually, there is now some disputation to that belief.

Carral, on the Nazca plains in Peru is older than any previous known civilzed human city.

Before that, humans were grunt-like nomads living in trees.


This statement in the article says it all: “In the same area, an intact burial was discovered and reburied about 10 feet away in 2004.” So, they already knew they shouldn’t be digging there.


Imagine for a minute how many of these sites are purposely overlooked by the ditch diggers in an effort to keep their ditch-digging on schedule.


Far Western is being paid almost a million dollars to survey AND monitor this project. They are doing just that.

They have a responsibility to follow procedure and protocol as Identified in the EIR (cultural resources) when discovery of remains are made.

native man

Pelican1 the problem is they were not following procedure. They were throwing human remains on the street then picking them up. Then when they were asked to stop after an intact burial was discovered they continued work. That is the issue.

Jorge Estrada

Looks like three cherries for someone, Jack Pot, casino language for Indian pay day.


I was actually think three lemons…a better payoff that leaves a sour taste in your mouth…


If what Cavanaugh said was true, they’ll will probably be asked to modify the project by adding more monitors and or hold daily cultural resource meetings with the workers.

Often times if any unearthed material looks unusual or suspect, the work is stopped and a monitor is summoned.

For almost a million, they can afford to have plenty of monitors on site.

native man

There are two groups of monitors. One that is backed by the Chumash community and want to preserve the burials, and try to find away to avoid them. The other group is actually employed by Far Western and wants to re bury the remains under the pipe or remove them all together which is not acceptable


A number of years ago I contracted work with Lei Lynn and CRMS to survey and monitor cultural resources for a landfill closure project. We ran into the same situation with differences among the specialists.

Lei Lynn was very clear regarding specific protocol and eventually everyone agreed to a process that would facilitate the successful completion of the project.

The key was…cooperation.

native man

Lei Lynn’s group is the problem they were down in the ditch themselves digging up artifacts with their bare hands


Apparently, Lei Lynn needs to reigned in, as she seems to be pissing off the majority of the Chumash.

FW has historically done outstanding work, and I’m confident they will continue to do so on this project.

native man

There are actually two different groups of monitors. One is backed by the Chumash community and wants to try and find a way to not disturb the burials. The other group are direct employees of Far Western and want to clear the site as fast as possible, this group is responsible for the destruction of some of the largest sites on the west coast.


Hi Jorge,

Can you explain how the Chumash can hit the “jack pot” over finding the burial site?


1 2 3