Construction vehicles on Puvungna upset the Native American community, who was not notified, last Friday.
According to an email sent by Craig Stone, director of American Indian studies, a company contracted by the university dumped dirt from the construction site of the new Parkside North Dormitory on the 22-acre parcel.
The piles of dirt can be considered hazardous since they have wires, pipes and construction debris protruding from them, according to Stone.
“Currently, earth from the Atherton Street construction project has yielded a large amount of soil that will be stored on campus,” Stone said in the email. “What you see now on the 22 acres is the storage of earth from other parts of the campus.”
The day before the vehicles were spotted, Stone said he was told that there would be no activity on the site. He also said that this was the third time that Long Beach State had not consulted the Native American community, despite the university saying it would not happen again.
Stone said any construction at Puvungna requires an Environmental Impact Statement as well as a consultation with representatives from the Native American community. Jeff Cook, chief communications officer for the university, said there is no current construction happening at the site.
“I would disagree with [the] implication that construction is occurring on the 22-acre parcel north of Beach Drive and east of Bellflower Boulevard,” Cook said. “Rather, excavated earth from the nearby student-housing project is being placed on the site.”
President Jane Close Conoley said a parking committee is considering adding 500 temporary parking spots in the area near the Earl Burns Miller Japanese Garden. The suggestion is still under review and has not been finalized.
Dhushy Sathianathan, vice provost for academic planning said that there are no plans for permanent construction at the site, but the temporary parking expansion, which will be a dirt lot, is being assessed.
“We are hopeful that our master planning process will yield a vision for this area of our campus that is responsive both to the evolution of our university as well as the meaning that some stakeholders have ascribed to this land,” Sathianathan said in a statement.
Members of the Native American community have expressed displeasure with the situation. Michelle Castillo, who is part of the Acjachemen tribe, said that she was at Puvungna preparing for the annual Ancestor Walk and Bear Ceremony when she saw the construction vehicles.
“I told an elder that it felt like I was at a funeral,” Castillo said. “It was a shock.”
Castillo said she has worked on the land for years and has bonded with it; she considers it the heart of the university. Ancestors have been buried on the land, some not too long ago, she said.
Puvungna is one of the most sacred things that the community has, and Castillo said it should be respected at all times.
“It’s almost like you’re suffocating the spirit of a sacred site,” Castillo said.