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Native Americans Protest Grove Plans

Tuesday February 12, 2008

As many as 300 Native Americans and their supporters marched on Sproul Plaza Monday morning after a gathering at the Memorial Stadium Grove. 

The rally marked the start of a protest by tribal people that will carry them across the country in an environmental protest that also targets the treatment of native remains and sacred sites. 

In Berkeley, protesters addressed university building plans and the school’s collection of Native American remains. 

From the steps of Sproul Hall, veteran American Indian Movement (AIM) activist Dennis Banks called on UC Berkeley to return the boxed skeletons of thousands of American natives held at the school’s anthropology museum. 

“Thirty years ago I was here asking the same thing of the university,” he said. “Sad to say, today there are more dead Indians here at the university than there are live ones.” 

Calling the practice of collecting human remains a continuation of centuries of war against native people, Banks said that when he dies, he may have someone “pin a note on my back to say to the diggers and to say to the anthropologists and archaeologists, ‘Kiss my royal ass.’” 

The crowd responded with a cheer. 

Monday’s events began on Alcatraz Island earlier in the day, and marchers will follow two routes as they cross the country, meeting up again in the nation’s capital. The grove was the second stop, followed by the march to Sproul Plaza. 

The next stop for the march is Sacramento, where a rally will be held Tuesday noon at the State Capital building. 

The Longest Walk 2 follows 30 years after the original event, and Monday’s gathering featured two veterans of the original walk: Wounded Knee DeOcampo and Tawna Sanchez.  

Veteran Memorial Stadium Grove protesters Ayr and Marcella Sadlowski were joined by Zachary Running Wolf and other Native Americans at the grove earlier in the morning, and UC Berkeley officials opened the gates enclosing the grove to allow Longest Walk participants to make ceremonial tobacco offerings to the oldest trees at the site, dubbed Grandmother Oak. 

UC Berkeley wants to build a $125 million high tech gym and office complex at the site, but treesitters took to the branches in protest 437 days before Monday’s events, and they remain in the trees despite two fences UC built around the grove and frequent arrests of protesters. 

One arrestee last week was Sadlowski, a UC Berkeley student, who was taken into custody Thursday when she appeared at the campus police office to negotiate grove access for Monday’s marchers. 

Running Wolf is leading in the arrests category, with more than a dozen and several stays in Santa Rita Jail. 

UC Police maintained a low-key presence during Monday mornings actions. 

The greatest disruption came not from authorities, but from a Birthright Israel rock concert sponsored by the campus Hillel group. 

While Native Americans complained of the overpowering sound of the rock bands, David Azulay, a manager for the band Israelity, said he blamed campus officials for allowing two conflicting events at the same time.