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2 Tribal Groups Unite to Advise on Ranch Site


Two Native American groups decided to join forces Tuesday to advise Thousand Oaks park officials on the development of a ranch parcel where archeologists unearthed evidence of an ancient Chumash cemetery.

After a 90-minute meeting, Native American leaders also said that city officials had answered many of their questions about why the city concluded last week that bones found on Lang Ranch were not part of a Chumash burial ground.

Chumash leaders said they hope to work in concert with Conejo Recreation and Park District officials from now on to ensure that the eight-acre ranch site is protected.

"We want to get together as a united group and tell the park district where we want this to go," said Leo Valenzuela, chairman of the Oakbrook Park Chumash Indian Corp. "This meeting clarified what went on up to now. And now we want to look forward."

At the session, called by Councilman Frank Schillo to look into the allegations of possible wrongdoing, city and park officials said they made no effort to conceal the significance of bones found at the site in 1990.

"After talking to everybody, I realized that everyone had a different idea of what was out there," Planner Greg Smith said.

Smith told the Chumash leaders that a partial human skull was found. He also said that William Clewlow, an archeologist who studied the site four years ago, had found other mammal bones and artifacts that indicate a strong likelihood that the land is a Chumash burial ground.

After the meeting, Chumash leaders said they hoped only grass and trees would be placed over the land where the artifacts were unearthed.

But Tex Ward, park district general manager, said he could not guarantee that park facilities would not be built on the land.

"There is a lot that goes into the design of a park site," Ward said. "It's too soon at this point to say what will go where."

Ward told half a dozen Native American representatives that there will be a series of community and public meetings before any plans are complete.

By that time, Chumash leaders hope to have a unified proposal for the land, Valenzuela said.

"I've had enough of the divide-and-conquer atmosphere," Valenzuela said. "What we need to do is fall back and see what we can accomplish together."

Valenzuela said he and his supporters would meet with Richard Angulo and other members of the California Indian Council to chart plans.

Another issue raised at the meeting was the allegation that no city or park representative had notified the county coroner and the California Native American Heritage Commission about the bone find four years ago.

Angulo said he called the heritage commission. And Smith reported that Clewlow said he should have notified the coroner, but did not.

Schillo said he was satisfied with the meeting's outcome. "I think we cleared up a number of issues that had been cause for concern," he said.

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