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City Failing to Protect Indian Cultural Heritage

June 15, 2003

Re "San Juan OKs School's Athletic Fields," May 21:

Both houses of the California Legislature overwhelmingly supported legislation declaring the importance of preserving California's Native American sacred sites. But San Juan Capistrano council members ignored legislative guidance on cultural resources and took actions to develop and destroy a Native American cultural heritage site of unparalleled importance by approving a zone change for the Junipero Serra High School and aquatic complex.

The history of San Juan Capistrano will be a shameful one if we don't take all possible steps to save the ancient Juaneno village site of Putiidhem. The loss of the ancient village site would be a triple tragedy. First, Native Americans would be deprived of an important part of their heritage. Second, the enormous potential scientific value of the site would be lost. Third, the destruction of the site would represent the failure of federal, state and local governments to ensure the preservation of an irreplaceable cultural resource.

Our elected city officials have clearly failed to take responsibility for cultural resource protection. This site is all that remains in San Juan Capistrano of a Native American cultural and spiritual heritage that has survived for thousands of years in spite of attempts to erase it.

Claire Cesareo-Silva

Professor of anthropology

Saddleback College

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