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Indians Lose Round in Bid to Save Archeological Site

December 18, 1986

Representatives of two Indian groups and an archeologist lost an appeal in Los Angeles Superior Court on Tuesday for a restraining order against the state, Los Angeles County and a developer they say may be planning to develop a 40-acre site in Topanga Canyon that is rich in Indian archeological sites.

Superior Court Judge Robert I. Weil denied the request by archeologist Chester King and representatives of the Tongva Gabrielino and Chumash Indians, but scheduled a hearing for Jan. 14 on their request for an injunction.

The suit was brought by King, a consulting archeologist who lives in Topanga; Charlie Cooke, identified in the suit as hereditary chief of the Chumash; Rudy Ortega, identified as appointed leader of the Tongva Gabrielinos, Lynn Gamble and Samantha Gann. It named the county, the state, the state Native American Heritage Commission and Summerhill, a land development firm.

The suit said Summerhill owns a 406-acre plot in Topanga Canyon that includes about 40 acres containing an "important and known archeological site" that is "a place of special religious and social significance to Native Americans." The Indians who lived on the site were Chumash and Gabrielinos, the suit said.

The site, about five miles south of Ventura Boulevard, "is very well known among archeologists" and includes the remains of several Indian village sites and a cave containing Indian pictographs, King said in an interview. The site has been examined by archeology students from UCLA and the University of California, Berkeley, over the last 40 years, he said, but research is still incomplete. The site probably contains an Indian graveyard, he said.

The suit said that Summerhill had indicated in a bankruptcy suit that it plans a "substantial" development on the site, and the company has obtained an order to evict Gann, who rents a house on the property.

The suit charged that the county, the state and the Native American Heritage Commission failed to fulfill their responsibilities to protect an archeological site.

Representatives of Summerhill could not be reached for comment.

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