Strategic Desecration of a Local Sacred Native American Site

Santa Barbara sacred tribal land threatened

By Lori Denman

A sacred site of the Chumash people in the Santa Barbara area known to the tribe as Shalawa, is under threat. It’s a three-acre parcel that sits on what is commonly referred to as “Hammonds Meadow” and “Sea Meadow”. For life long monitor David Daniel Diaz of the Barbareno Indian tribe, it is a sacred spiritual site.  This is where his ancestors’ ashes are buried.

The Barbarenos contend that as being the first people of the land of Santa Barbara and Ventura,  that the Native tribes  have a legal and well documented right to protect land  which houses their sacred archaeological sites and burial grounds. They intend to  uphold the right to maintain the historic and cultural integrity of these sites. Defending them has fallen of the shoulders and become the life work of “monitors,” who are members of Native tribes which guard ancestral sites and sacred burial grounds.

Diaz’s native name is Yaminquan Kakin which translates as “Blue Wolf.” He is a native cultural expert and liaison in the Los Padres National Forest region of Southern California. Diaz began monitoring as a child, over seeing and protecting local tribes’ sacred burial and archaeological sites. He has been burying his family’s ashes on the Shalawa site since the late 1950s, and intends to continue to do so. 

He formerly lived on the land, in what was the basement of the Hammonds estate. The Hammond family lived there during the 1960’s.

In the 80’s, Wolf began to play an integral part in oversight, as he took on the role of a monitor for Shalawa. During this time, Shalawa was placed on the Federal Register as a recognized Indian burial ground and archaeologically significant site. The purpose of this designation is to preserve those sites and require them to remain untouched-unaltered is any way.

Since 1986, Shalawa has been afforded legal protection. No one is legally authorized allowed to develop the location. Altering the land in any way is a violation of Federal Law as well as being an offense to tribal cultural and religious tenets. Unfortunately as Blue Wolf and Barbareno head Markus Lopez recounted, the desecration of the burial sites started occurring in early 2000’s.

Wolf said, “I am amazed with how many government agencies including the Montecito Planning Commission, who actually have no legal jurisdiction over this active federally recognized archaeological burial site, still try to affect existing federal policy. They have no business doing that, or any authority to preside over tribal heritage right holding assets.”

Marcus Lopez, is the chairman of the Barbareno Chumash Tribal Council of Santa Barbara, and further underscored that Shalawa is on the list of federal protected sites of Santa Barbara. Lopez has been working with Wolf, striving to protect Shalawa and many other culturally significant sites from those who may intentionally or inadvertantly be violating the First Nation People’s right to maintain their cultural heritage assets.

“The way that we began to protect this particular location, is that we joined the Native American Heritage Commission,” Lopez explained to Citizens Journal. “The role of this commission is to identify the most likely descendants (MLDs) of the land. There is a Public Resource Code which ensures the protection of the remains of ancestors.”

“In 1985, the Chumash family went to Hammonds Meadow, the owners of the site, with a proposal that asked for no development,” he continued. “Within that, the mechanism began to create a set of policies for the future, that would protect Shalawa, which stretched from the beach area, all the way to the highway, more or less. Very few houses were there when Blue Wolf was a young child.”

The agreement to protect Shalawa was made in 1985 between the United Chumash Council, the Barbareno Chumash Tribal Council, and the Board of Supervisors in Santa Barbara. Documents have also been written by numerous parties  re-stating the law protecting Shalawa. You can find this via Santa Barbara County Resource Management Department; Environmental Defense Center in 1988; David Anderson letter to Frank Lemos in 2015; and Letter from John Ruiz of the United Chumash Council to Barbareno Chumash Council in 2016.

Today the situation Wolf sees happening is heartbreaking. The remains of his ancestors have at times literally washed away due to trespass and maintenance error or been desecrated by artifact hunters and other more well meaning entities.

Wolf explained a greater threat. There is a group of people who are not following the law as it exists – the 501c3 called “Channel Islands Restoration”. They call themselves a “conservation” group. Yet, to the Barbareno Chumash Tribe, this conservation claim is a disguise, masking the fact that they want to take over the Chumash sacred land for their own use, as a park. They have  begun to desecrate this sacred Native land. Last year, they applied a weed killer which eliminated the foliage growing on the burial site, as well as many of the animals and insects inhabiting the area. This was not just a violation of Federal Law, but also an offense of Chumash religious tenets with regard to their relationship to all that lives on the site.

Lopez and Wolf have discovered that the Santa Barbara Board of Supervisors held a meeting discussing Shalawa, and their tribe was not invited. This raised suspicions.

“At the last Montecito Planning Commission meeting, the commission approved the desecration,” claimed Wolf. “I asked Linda (an acknowledged descendant) who had consented to the passage, which led to the desecration, why she had agreed.  Linda responded: ‘We have no money, we can’t afford to maintain it, so we allowed it.’  She obviously was placed under a misconception that the MLDs would have to personally foot the bill for expenses to preserve the site.

Lopez discovered that Channel Islands Restoration, the Parks Department of Santa Barbara and the County of Santa Barbara had already conducted a meeting and business with the 501c3 (Channel Islands Restoration). They also found out that the Homeowners Association for Sea Meadows, the multi-million dollar development neighboring Shalawa, appears to have created or otherwise been instrumental in developing, Channel Islands Restoration.

Wolf was shocked by the motives of all parties involved and by the illegal actions. He said, “I was overwhelmed politically because I thought, does the Parks Director actually have more say over a County Board of Supervisors than the Chumash people in this jurisdictional conflict?” 

“Apparently, the Parks Director was misleading us all along,” Wolf added. “He led us to believe that nothing was going on, but there was quite obviously something happening behind the scenes.”

Since the tribe was not invited to this meeting, and in light of the obvious present day desecration of Shalawa, Lopez sent a letter to Das Williams who is on the Board of Supervisors of Santa Barbara County. Within the letter, Lopez inquired about a recent meeting discussing Shalawa, and asked why the Chumash tribe was not invited. He stated in the letter that he would like to “create a dialogue with your office regarding any discussions, plans or actions pertaining to Shalawa,” as well as the agreement dated in 1985.

In addition to the actions of Channel Islands Restoration, the Housing Authority and unpublicized meetings of the Board of Supervisors, another group is interested in altering Shalawa. That group is the Santa Barbara Natural History Museum, as Channel Islands Restoration, is now involved with the Natural History Museum, led by Jon Johnson,” Lopez explained.

Wolf and his people have some questions. Is anyone, any government official, responding with restraint towards the groups aiming to desecrate and destroy the federally protected site of Shalawa? So far he has not received a response.

Is the Coastal Commission acting to put an end to their illegal infringement? No response. 

Is the Housing Commission of this particular community of Montecito responding with apologies or stopping their blatant desecration? Not yet. 

Why is the desecration ongoing? The neighbors of Shalawa, also part of the Housing Commission, apparently claim to not approve of how the land looks as it is covered with weeds and  overgrowth.  Wolf asserts that in a letter to the Parks Department the Housing Commission appears to have donated funds to Channel Islands Restoration, which after that, began to illegally apply the pesticides, endangering the protection of the First People’s ancestral remains and both the archaeological and biological integrity of the location.

Wolf and Lopez continue to fight for a parcel of land that is conspicuously, under Federal protection.  They resist as others with no legal right to alter or affect this burial site continue to desecrate it. 

 

Photos by David Pu’u

Lori Denman has been a professional journalist since 1996. She has worked as associate editor for the Los Angeles Daily News TODAY Magazines and has freelanced for LA Weekly, Surfline.com and more. 


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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Lori Denman
Lori Denman
7 months ago
Ken Owen
8 months ago

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: http://www.cirweb.org.

Ken Owen
Channel Islands Restoration

Penelope Bianchi
Penelope Bianchi
8 months ago
Ken Owen
8 months ago

THANK you Penelope for standing up for the truth! The column was loaded with lies and uninformed speculation. I appreciate you seeing though the bull and posting the restoration plan. Here is my response as the CIR Executive Director:

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: http://www.cirweb.org.

William Hicks
William Hicks
8 months ago

1. What “organic” herbicide is being used to control non-native plants?

2. Considering that salt spray is a naturally occurring aspect to being next to the ocean, why would you choose to mitigate something that will change back to a saline condition with the first active flow of the surf?

Penelope Bianchi
Penelope Bianchi
8 months ago

I consider this extremely irresponsible journalism. No research was done. Scare tactics used. Shame on you!
There is a wonderful, organic and careful restoration going on. Publicly documented and shared.

https://static1.squarespace.com/static/57fbc997cd0f68460a6a0b9b/t/5cb75cb3ec212d8ba4a1b043/1555520979937/Hammond%27s+Meadow+Preservation+Plan+2019_April+1_reduced2.pdf

This is the kind of project we pray for.
You need to publish a retraction.

Penelope Bianchi
Penelope

Penelope Bianchi
Penelope Bianchi
8 months ago

This is a ridiculous claim. It is erroneous and egregious. Shame on this news outlet for publishing this.

I was very involved with the development from the beginning. 30 years ago. Charlie Munger was very careful and committed to preserving this meadow as a sacred Indian burial ground. It is presently being renewed and revived using native plants. It was degraded into a weed and invasive plant infested mess. It is being restored to a place fitting for the sacred Indian burial ground that it is. It is a treasure that is being restored to what it was.

Please see this: https://cirweb.org/hmp/overview

mikel mcintosh
mikel mcintosh
8 months ago
Reply to  Debra Tash

No where in this article does the word opinion even appear. Obviously presented as fact and for one purpose, to stir up the un informed and create
drama

Blair Whitney
Blair Whitney
8 months ago

This new article has no point of view from Channels Islands Restoration
https://cirweb.org/hmp/overview
Are you sure they used hazardous pesticides? Did you ask them? What is their response. I thought good journalism is to try to show two sides of an issue, and get the other sides response to the journalist questions?

Ken Owen
8 months ago
Reply to  Blair Whitney

Blair: your confusion is warranted! The article is full of lies and uninformed speculation. For instance, the weed killer we use is made from citrus oil and is used on organic farms. Here is the rebuttable I sent to the Citizens Journal:

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: http://www.cirweb.org

William Hicks
William Hicks
8 months ago
Reply to  Blair Whitney

A foolish question Ms. Whitney. All pesticides are hazardous to at least their target. The question should be, is there non-target species that are negatively affected.

I spent a large portion of my working years as a Pest Control Adviser answering such one sided questions.

Jack Finnegan
Jack Finnegan
8 months ago

I live in very close proximity to this Sacred site and these individuals that are out of touch with the land are making a very heinous and ignorant , spiritually bankrupt mistake .
First of all this is a community treasure and to unilaterally place pesticides on this property that is directly north of an eco system in the ocean is insane behavior . Did they do an EIR before they took it upon themselves to disperse pesticides on this property ? I think this is completely hazardous and very risky to children , pets , marine life and any other natural inhabitants of this eco system . I am an activist and this is appalling . I’m also a writer and this particular site has a mystical , historical role that is wildly very powerful . This is a sad disconnected blind spot given the recovery that our community is handling after the mudslides .

Ken Owen
8 months ago
Reply to  Jack Finnegan

Jack:

I am sorry you feel so strongly that we are making such mistakes. I will admit that we’re not perfect, but please consider that CIR came into existence to preserve our native lands. We are working with the Barbareño Band of Chumash Indians (BBCI) on the project, and they are just as devoted to the sacred site as are other Chumash.

To be clear, we are not poisoning the ecosystem, because we are using ORGANIC weed killer make from citrus oil (that’s used on organic farms). Please read my response to the article below, and perhaps it will give you a little bit different point of view. Again, I am sorry if we have not always handled the project to you satisfaction, but our heart is in the work, and we believe that the result will both protect the site more than it is now.

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: http://www.cirweb.org

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: http://www.cirweb.org