Response to article: “Strategic Desecration of a Local Sacred Native American Site”

 

 

By Ken Owen, Channel Islands Restoration

It is very unfortunate that Lori Denman in her column, “Strategic Desecration of a Local Sacred Native American Site” never bothered to contact any of the agencies that were repeatedly accused of breaking federal law in her article. Contrary to the many demonstrably false statement in the story, the goal of the project at Shalawa (Hammond’s Meadow) is to protect the archeological resources while planting it with native vegetation that will hold the soil in place, be less fire prone and will attract wildlife. As opposed to being shut out of meetings, Chumash representatives were involved in discussions about the plan from the beginning, and leaders of the Barbareño Band of Chumash Indians (BBCI) spoke in favor of the project to the Montecito Planning Commission.

Contrary to “altering the land,” the plan (https://cirweb.org/hmp/overview) calls for several measures to be taken that archaeologists commonly use on sacred sites to protect them from erosion and other disturbance.  This includes capping the meadow with impenetrable fabric, that is buried under several inches of sand and soil. This will happen with Chumash monitors present to make sure there is no disturbance of the natural soil.  As things stand now, shells and other items from the site are washed away with every big rainstorm.  Capping the site will prevent this from happening in the future. 

The assertion that David Diaz and Marcus Lopez were not informed or invited to meetings on the project, is completely false.  The project team met with Supervisor Das Williams once regarding the project.  The Supervisor’s office made several attempts to contact Diaz and Lopez weeks before the meeting, Channel Islands Restoration made several attempts as did the BBCI Chumash.  All mail, phone calls and emails were ignored by Diaz and Lopez.  Two public meeting on different days were held at the Meadow.  These meetings were publicized in local papers and by the County.  Diaz and Lopez were specifically invited, but they failed to show up.  In actuality, as the plan was being developed, we worked closely with Frank Lemos, the closest descendant of the site to develop the plan.  Leaders of the BBCI Chumash also commented on and helped develop our plan.

Although it is asserted in the article that Channel Islands Restoration (CIR), a community non-profit, wants to “take over” the land and use it as a park, this is utterly ridiculous. No one wants to develop a park at the meadow, not the County, not the BBCI Chumash, not the nearby homeowners and certainly not CIR.  Before CIR started working on the site, non-native, invasive weeds filled the meadow, drying out in summer and creating a fire hazard.  The Montecito Fire Department sent two letters to the County warning about the fire hazard. In the past, the County maintained the weeds by using heavy mowing machinery, which justifiably brought complaints by Chumash people. Now that CIR is maintaining the site, we have been using a less invasive organic weed killer made from citrus oil to control weeds.  Contrary to what was said in the article, It is not against the law to kill weeds, even on an archeological site, as long as no soil disturbance takes place.  Once the capping of the site is completed, native plants grown from locally collected seed will be planted in the soil cap.  These plants will attract wildlife and will not be as dense as the weeds, creating less of a fire hazard. 

Another utter falsehood that appeared in the article is that CIR was somehow created by the local homeowners and that the Homeowners Association (HOA) is paying for the project.  CIR has been in existence since 2001 (long before we started working at the Meadow) and we have worked on nearly 100 projects on the Channel Islands and adjacent mainland. Although the HOA is supportive of the project, they have not contributed any funding for it in any way.

I can’t blame anyone from being outraged after reading Lori Denman’s column, because it only presents one point of view and leaves out the reality: far from desecrating Shalawa, a coalition of local conservationists, Chumash people and County government is actually working hard to protect the site from erosion, abuse by the public, wildfire and is working to attract wildlife to the Meadow.  Please view the Hammond’s Meadow plan here:https://cirweb.org/hmp/overview and the Channel Islands Restoration web site here: www.cirweb.org

Ken Owen, Channel Islands Restoration

Related Column: Strategic Desecration of a Local Sacred Native American Site   

The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official position of Citizens Journal.


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