Northern Chumash Indians file suit over Moro Rock

December 6, 2014
Solstice ceremony at Morro Rock

Solstice ceremony at Morro Rock

The Northern Chumash Indians have filed a lawsuit against the Salinan Indians in the latest skirmish in the ongoing battle over Morro Rock, a site both groups claim is sacred to their tribes.

In 2006, members of the Salinan Nation first received permission to climb Morro Rock through a memorandum of agreement between the tribe, state parks, and the Native American Heritage Commission. At the time, the Chumash argued that the site was sacred and solstice ceremonies should, instead, be held at the base of the rock.

On Friday, Dennis Balsamo, an attorney for the Northern Chumash Tribal Council, filed a writ of mandate seeking documentation proving the local Salinan Indians are historically or religiously tied to the ancient Salinan Indians and Morro Rock.

In 2012, several Salinan tribal members said John Burch, a Salinan Tribal Council leader, placed two sets of human remains he thought to be Native American atop Morro Rock.

Burch denied, in an interview with CalCoastNews, that he placed the remains on Morro Rock.

But tribal members, a Catholic priest and emails from the state of California say otherwise.

Father Larry Gosselin, with Mission San Miguel, said he blessed the remains after Burch asked him to do so. Tribal administrator for the Northern Chumash Tribal Council Fred Collins said he does not see Catholicism as being a Native American religion.

“It has created a lot of conflict in our community,” Collins said. “We look at John Burch as a splinter group of Salinans. Burch doesn’t respect Chumash territory.”

Burch’s group has fired back claiming Collins is not a descendent of the Northern Chumash.



  1. SmilingJack says:

    The faction of the Tribe that climbs the Rock does not represent the Xolon Salinan Tribe. The Xolon Salinan Tribe does not want a Casino at all. The ignorant comments of some grouping all natives together are just that, ignorant.

    (1) 1 Total Votes - 1 up - 0 down
    • givemeabreak says:

      What a joke. We back in high school used to climb the rock (go up the back way all he time)…………Sacred ground my ass! Of course this was all before the ol hippies sporting their useless bs degrees arrived from SFO.

      (-1) 1 Total Votes - 0 up - 1 down
  2. Pelican1 says:

    (-3) 5 Total Votes - 1 up - 4 down
  3. Jorge Estrada says:

    If they are not eligible for a casino there is no money to be had. Keeping it simple is the indigenous way! I hope my taxes are not funding this nonsense, Talking Bull for dollars!

    (5) 11 Total Votes - 8 up - 3 down
  4. RememberWhen says:

    “tribal members, a Catholic priest and emails from the state of California…” Sounds like the start of a good, yet bad, joke.

    (11) 15 Total Votes - 13 up - 2 down
    • Pelican1 says:

      You mean like….Two tribal chiefs and a priest go into a bar?

      (6) 10 Total Votes - 8 up - 2 down
      • hotgrandma says:

        Or there were two tribes: the
        White Feet who always told the truth and the Black Feet who always lied. If you meet a man on a trail and he says he is White Feet, is he telling the truth?

        (-4) 6 Total Votes - 1 up - 5 down
    • givemeabreak says:

      Or maybe a good movie?

      (0) 0 Total Votes - 0 up - 0 down
      • givemeabreak says:

        Better yet a zip line from the rock to the sand spit!

        (-1) 1 Total Votes - 0 up - 1 down
  5. taxpayer says:

    This is actually about who will get the mitigation money from the proposed marine sanctuary off Morro Bay. Follow the money!

    (13) 21 Total Votes - 17 up - 4 down
  6. Pelican1 says:

    I can picture it all…. a big sign neon and LED sign atop the rock, welcoming everyone to the Peregrine Palace & Rock Casino.

    (21) 31 Total Votes - 26 up - 5 down
    • jonhartz says:

      I thought that the power plant would be a great place for a casino, with a tribal zip line to it from the top of the Rock…

      (23) 31 Total Votes - 27 up - 4 down
  7. jonhartz says:

    Rich, this just illustrates the truth of historical land ownership: the first people in North America were violently displaced by latecomers, and so on. Until the last 200 years or so land was taken by force by the stronger party. Europeans came here with better technology and displaced the latest natives who had displaced those before them. Now, being more civilized than our forefathers, we reject this and we reject colonialism. Our defeated enemies prosper, still on their own lands. The idea that the first Europeans here did something uniquely horrible is nonsense. Just look at all the ancient empires in Europe and their fates. This business over the Rock is close to laughable.

    (26) 36 Total Votes - 31 up - 5 down
    • robert a says:

      I have to take issue with your historical conclusions and observations.

      There was no ‘land ownership’ in North America, the several hundred tribes didn’t even have a word for it; it’s a Euro concept. The first people lived here starting around 15 ,000 years ago (give or take), and there was no wave after wave of conquest, it was mostly migrations and weather patterns that altered the various populations of hunter gatherers.

      Although there were battles and skirmishes, enslavement and torture, it certainly was not on the level the Europeans organized and practiced warfare. South of the Rio Grande, the larger stable societies did engage in patterns of conquest and subjugation amongst themselves but, the smaller tribal groups of natives in the continental US did not.

      The Euro migration to NA, brought what the Euros always brought along with them; their technology, their microbes and their borrowed, pale, blue eyed god, as they murdered, stole from, enslaved and practiced eliminationism of anyone (who wasn’t a white Christian neo-Euro) who got in the way of ‘manifest destiny.’

      The genocide of the last 500 years, reduced the native population by 95 per cent and relocated the rest to what were then thought to be useless lands. The exploitation and stealing of native resources continued into the late 20 century. Native children were sent to BIA Indian Schools where their religion and language was beaten out of them. Sterilization of native teens continued as late as 1970, where teens who wanted to return to the rez from theharsh schools were offered the option of sterilization. Any of your recent ancestors been sterilized? Sounds pretty horrible to me.

      Now, I know that migrations and conquests are the course of history, and I’m not saying wallow in the guilt, but, let’s be clear eyed about history and not espouse denialism, revisionism and white paternalism, let’s know who we are and where we came from.

      If we are so enlightened now, and reject colonialism, let the BIA give back the money theystole and give Hawaii back to the Polynesians, too!

      But, it’s all good, they have gambling! That’s something to build a culture on.

      (-1) 5 Total Votes - 2 up - 3 down
  8. Pelican1 says:

    Isn’t this really about who gets to build the first casino atop Morro Rock?

    (26) 40 Total Votes - 33 up - 7 down
  9. Rich in MB says:

    And here I though only the evil white man caused problems….you mean the Native Americans fight among themselves also?

    (30) 40 Total Votes - 35 up - 5 down

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