The Kumeyaay Indians have reached an agreement with Mission San Diego de Alcala that will scrap plans for a meeting hall on a disputed mission site, an elder for the tribe said Wednesday.
"It's settled," Kumeyaay elder Clarence Brown said after Indian negotiators approved the latest proposal by the Roman Catholic parish.
The Kumeyaay will formally announce the agreement today once both parties sign it, Brown said. The two truckloads of Indian remains taken from the site will be reburied there in Catholic and Kumeyaay ceremonies Friday and Saturday, he added.
The agreement is similar to the compromise proposal by the office of the state attorney general, which rules out construction on the site "for the foreseeable future," Brown said. Another source close to the negotiations confirmed that wording. The Kumeyaay had previously demanded that the site remain undisturbed "in perpetuity."
The settlement, which follows three weeks of negotiations, also calls for the diocese to give the Indians two months' notice before applying for any development permits for the site, Brown said. And the mission has reportedly agreed to designate a part of the lot as a cemetery. A source close to the talks confirmed these provisions, as well.
'Certainly Good News'
"If the Kumeyaay Indians have accepted our offer, then that's certainly good news," said parish spokesman William Finley. The mission had not been notified of the Kumeyaay decision as of Wednesday afternoon, he said.
Msgr. I. Brent Eagen, who heads the meeting hall project, could not be reached for comment Wednesday. Kumeyaay officials said they would not respond to further queries until today's announcement.
The settlement follows a month of controversy over diocese plans to build a meeting hall on a site that contains historic ruins and human remains. And, although it represents a setback for the 10-year-old proposal, the hall's ultimate fate remains unclear.
A parish committee formed by Eagen to find alternative sites for the building met for the first time Tuesday, said committee member Janet Bartel. But the parishioners worry that archeological ruins and human bones will also be found on other prospective sites, Bartel said.
Layer to Obscure Ruins
Under the new accord, a layer of earth will once again obscure much of the ruins, believed to be those of an early mission church, sources said. Only one of the pits excavated on the site did not contain human remains and could thus be left open, said Joy Massa, chairwoman of a committee of preservationists opposing the meeting hall. Massa said her group supports the Kumeyaay demands.
The agreement also raises questions about the hearing on the controversy before the city council Monday. Last week, a City Hall aide said the hearing would proceed regardless of an accord between the Kumeyaay and the diocese because historic preservation issues were not addressed in the negotiations. But a Kumeyaay source said Wednesday that the agreement alters the tribe's role at the hearing.
Before the agreement, preservationists had been preparing a lawsuit against the city and the diocese aimed at barring construction on the site. Massa said last week that such a lawsuit may still be filed, even if an accord is reached, in order to force the mission to release archeological data.