After 23 months, a settlement agreement has reached an end in a lawsuit brought by the Juaneño Band of Mission Indians, Acjachemen Nation – Belardes and the California Cultural Resources Preservation Alliance, Inc., to protect sacred Native American land next to Long Beach State.
Puvungna, a sacred plot of Native land that once stretched far inland from Bolsa Chica, is now 22-acres of undeveloped land west of the university, according to “Long Beach State: A Brief History,” by Barbara Kingsley-Wilson.
CSULB is built on top of this Native land, and its administrations over the years have made multiple attempts to make use of Puvungna without the permission of the Native American communities.
In 1993, Native Americans won a court battle to protect Puvungna from commercial development after campus officials announced plans to build a mini-mall on the sacred site.
More than two decades since winning the lawsuit over the mini-mall, the Native American communities once again sought to protect their land after construction companies began dumping trash-laden dirt on Puvungna on Sept. 20, 2019.
The dirt was being relocated from the construction site where Parkside North Dormitory is being built.
The university moved forward with these actions on Puvungna, a National Register of Historic Places-listed site, without prior consultation of tribal groups.
In October 2019, JBMIAN-Belardes filed the lawsuit in hopes of establishing a memorandum of understanding that would require the university to consult with the tribal groups before making any further decisions regarding the 22-acre plot of land.
Now as a result of the settlement, permanent protection has been granted to Puvungna, which is listed as a historical and cultural site on the CSULB campus that is sacred to the Juaneño Band, the Gabrielino and other Southern California Tribal groups.
“This agreement honors the land and it honors the people who have been fighting to protect Puvungna for 30 years,” Juaneño Band Chairman Matias Belardes said. “This victory honors our history and it protects our religious and cultural practices on Puvungna into the future.”
The settlement agreement requires the university to record a Declaration of Restrictive Covenant which prohibits the university from developing or damaging the land and allows tribal groups to use it for their ongoing traditional activities.
The restrictive covenant prohibits certain activity including:
- Constructing temporary or permanent structures or improvements such as parking lots, classrooms, or retail buildings.
- Depositing construction debris or materials.
- Installing landscaping other than certain native plants.
- Applying Roundup or similar pesticides to the land.
- Storing or staging construction equipment.
- Parking vehicles; operating motorcycles, dirt bikes or mountain bikes.
- Operating heavy machinery.
- Installing improvements that restrict or prohibit access to California Native American Tribes and affiliated groups using the land for cultural, ceremonial or religious purposes.
For Rebecca Robles, a culture bearer with the Juaneño Band of Mission Indians and Acjachemen Nation, this is the beginning of a new era.
“We look forward to the restoration of our sacred Puvungna,” Robles said. “It is a time of healing, a time of social justice for Acjachemen and Tongva people. We look to the future to continue our culture and sacred traditions and fulfill our promises to the coming generations.”