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DWP archaeologists uncover grim chapter in Owens Valley history

Researchers believe that bullets, musket balls, cavalry uniform buttons and Native American artifacts found in Owens Lake point to the massacre of 35 Paiute Indians by settlers and soldiers in 1863.

June 02, 2013|By Louis Sahagun, Los Angeles Times

Great Basin, the DWP and local tribal leaders are trying to strike a compromise that would spare the site from disturbance. It also would avoid a showdown in court between requirements of the federal Clean Air Act and laws that protect historical artifacts: the National Historic Preservation Act and the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act.

One alternative under discussion would ban construction on the massacre site and have the DWP mitigate dust on roughly 350 acres of land elsewhere in Owens Valley.

DWP spokesman Joe Ramallo said the utility believes the site, as well as other land where archaeologists have found artifacts, should not be disturbed by mitigation efforts. He said the department's proposal would "protect these areas, improve habitat, control dust and save water and our customers' money."

Great Basin air pollution control officer Ted D. Schade said the DWP and his agency are making progress.

"For the longest time, Great Basin has had a hard time even having a rational discussion with the DWP," Schade said. "This discovery has opened up relations that are more fruitful.

"You don't come across massacre sites very often," he said.

louis.sahagun@latimes.com

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