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UC Announces Plans for Archaeological Survey

By Richard Brenneman
Friday February 23, 2007

UC Berkeley officials announced Thursday that they will conduct an archaeological survey at the site of the Memorial Stadium oak grove. 

The announcement came two days after Native American representatives gathered at the site to protest plans to build a $125 million gym next to the stadium—which sits directly atop the Bay Area’s most earthquake-prone fault. 

Marie Felde, the university’s executive director of media relations, said the university would conduct a survey at the grove, and at all other southeast campus locations where excavations are planned as part of a major new construction campaign. 

“The timing is not yet determined,” she said. 

Meanwhile, at the same time Felde was sending an email response to a reporter’s queries, campus police were conducting their second raid of the grove site, hauling off the personal belongings of the supporters of protesters who have taken to the trees in hopes of stopping the university’s plans to ax the stand. 

“It’s outrageous,” said Ayr, one of the activists who has been caring for the tree sitters ensconced in platforms high above the earth where tribal representatives said Tuesday that they believe some of the their dead ancestors may be buried. 

Police and campus grounds crew staff gathered all the protesters’ belongings both from locations within the grove and from the sidewalk along Gayley Road, where Ayr said protesters had been told previously that they could use as long as they didn’t block pedestrian traffic. 

“Right now, we’re doing a cleanup here at the oak grove,” said Sgt. David Roby. “We’re picking up everything on the ground.” 

No arrests had been made, and no citations had been served, he said. 

It was the second time campus police had made a clean sweep of the grounds, gathering up the gear of protest supporters and hauling it off in a dump truck. The first raid was made before dawn Jan. 12. Tuesday’s raid came in the early afternoon, four days after campus cops arrested Zachary Running Wolf Friday, the former Berkeley mayoral candidate who launched the arboreal protest Dec. 2 when he took up residence in a redwood on the morning of the annual Big Game with Stanford. 

According to the police website, he was picked up on a charge of failure to appear to answer charges of vandalism, but Running Wolf said Thursday the actual charge was probation violation. 

The activist had been arrested and charged earlier for defacing stop signs in the area by stencil-painting the word “driving” beneath the octagonal signs’ STOP. 

Though he had been served at the time of Friday’s arrest with an order to stay off campus for the next 14 days, Running Wolf returned for a press conference and ritual held at the grove with other Native Americans, including representatives of the Ohlone nation, who once lived along the East Bay. 

Wounded Knee, an Ohlone leader, began events with a prayer and call for the university to halt construction plans at the grove. “They are here,” he said. ”We know, the Indian people, that our ancestors are here.” 

Fred Short, an American Indian Movement activist, joined in the call, as did Ohlone activist Corrina Gould. 

Just how many burials may have been unearthed during the construction of the stadium remains an open questions. 

A university press release issued Monday said that, despite the “several” skeletons mentioned in a contemporary news account, they had records of only one burial found during construction of Memorial Stadium—and that they don’t known if the bones belonged to a Native American. 

In the prepared statement, unnamed “university officials” also said the discovery and the location weren’t included in environmental documents for stadium area construction because of a state guidelines barring disclosure of Native American burial and cultural sites. 

The statement said nothing about other burials discovered nearby during construction of the university’s Faculty Club in 1925 which were identified at the time as Native American by University of Washington archaeologist Leslie Spier, who had been called in to examine the remains by the university, according to an article in the June 21, 1925, San Francisco Examiner. 

Despite prior discovery of human remains, Monday’s statement did not call for an archaeological survey prior to construction—unlike the city, which did require a survey at 700 University Avenue prior to approval construction at that site. 

The statement did cite the project’s Environmental Impact Report, which called for a survey in the event any artifacts are discovered after construction commences. 

The release quoted Dr. Kent Lightfoot, curator of archaeology at the university’s Phoebe Hearst Museum of Anthropology, who said a partial skeleton had been discovered during stadium excavations, though there “is no indication from the records that this isolated skeleton is part of a larger archaeological site.”