Campus, Long Beach, News

CSULB agrees to cease dumping dirt onto Puvungna

Following a lawsuit filed against Long Beach State in 2019 over the dumping of construction-related debris on Puvungna, campus officials notified the Native community Thursday that it would cease any further dumping of dirt on the sacred site.

“We started to file an injunction, but the university voluntarily stopped,” said Rebecca Robles, Culture Bearer, also known as an Elder. “Our injunction was going to be filed on Friday, and they notified us Thursday that they weren’t going to dump any more soils on the site.”

Members of the Juaneno Band of Mission Indians, Acjachemen Nation-Belardes and California Cultural Resources Preservation Alliance, Inc. filed the lawsuit in October of 2019 against the university after dirt and debris was dumped on Puvungna, a 22-acre plot of indigenous land once spanning 500 acres. 

In September of 2019, construction crews began to dump dirt, including debris, rebar, wires and trash, onto Puvungna as part of their work in building the Parkside North Dormitory

“The relocation of excavated earth ended over a year ago on Sept. 28, 2019,” Jeff Cook, CSULB’s associate vice president for strategic communications, said in an email. 

The lawyer representing the Native community received confirmation Thursday, Nov. 19 from the university’s lawyer that CSULB had agreed to stop dumping construction materials on the land, so the injunction was never filed. However, the original lawsuit remains ongoing. 

“There was cement, there was construction debris, there was wire,” Robles said. “We don’t drive cars on the site, it’s a burial site, there are ancestral remains on the site, it’s a protected site.”

Heavy machinery was used to relocate the debris from from construction on the Parkside North Dormitory onto Puvungna in September of 2019. Credit: Anna Christensen.

CSULB was one of many developments built on top of Puvungna, leaving the Tongva and Acjachemen peoples with just the existing 22-acre parcel of land located parallel to parking lot G2 on campus. 

Robles’ mother “worked to preserve sacred sites” and started the Ancestor Walk and annual Ceremony and Pilgrimage 23 years ago to honor the history and culture of the indigenous communities who have been native to California for thousands of years. 

“She was instrumental in preserving Puvungna in 1993, when the university tried to develop a mini mall,” Robles said. “We’ve been here all these years, and nobody even knows we’re here. We’re written out of history.”

Lauren Berny, assistant video editor, and Madalyn Amato, editor in chief, contributed to the reporting of this story. 

Information regarding the dumping of dirt was adjusted to better reflect the actions of the university on Nov. 23 at 3:32 p.m. and on Nov. 25 at 1:49 p.m.

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