Public Comment

Bright Light of Epiphany Shines Through the Trees

By Katlin Moore
Thursday July 17, 2008 - 09:56:00 AM

In responding to Michael Stephens’ July 10 letter, “The Tree Sit Saga,” in which he criticizes my July 3 commentary, “City Must Continue Lawsuit Against UC,” I would just like to say that Mr. Stephens’ glaring rationality helped me to see the folly of my views, and I have now come around to his way of thinking. 

Mr. Stephens took me to task for asserting that the Memorial Stadium oak grove is a Native American burial ground. In believing it to be so, I must admit I was swayed by a document written by UC professors Alfred Kroeber and Robert Lowie. These two founders of California anthropology identified a skeleton found at the Memorial Stadium excavation site as “an adult male Native American between the ages of 25 and 30.” I was also influenced by a collection of archaeological reports published from 1907 to the mid 1950s, which describe 18 Native American skeletal remains unearthed within a 400-yard radius of Memorial Stadium. Richard Schwartz, our accomplished and longtime Berkeley historian, has said, “We don’t know the parameters of the burial site, but let’s find out before we blaze ahead [with the proposed construction] because once it’s gone, it is lost forever.” 

But even in the absence of such evidence, it would be my inclination to respect the wishes of today’s tribal leaders. These leaders have stated their opposition to the destruction of the oak grove and have deemed it a sacred place…for whatever reason. Our indigenous peoples have historically and unjustly lost and suffered a great deal, and the very miniscule-least I can do is to give support to their modest requests, and to honor what remains of their culture. 

But as I explained, Mr. Stephens brought about a change of heart in me, and now I realize that I should try to be more like UC Chancellor Birgeneau, who recently refused to meet with tribal leaders who were asking for the release of the 13,000 Native American remains stored in the basement of the Phoebe Hearst Museum. Apparently, it is the UC way to disrespect Native Americans, both past and present. I guess I need to get with the program. 

In my Stephens-inspired epiphany, I now understand that absolutely nothing comes before, or should ever take precedence over the possibility of creating an enhanced football experience. A new concrete sports training facility sitting on top of those bothersome trees would most certainly provide this. I therefor plan to contact the Sierra Club to let them know that their desire to preserve the grove is misguided and that football surely must come before their petty environmental concerns. In this manner, I will also call the California Native Plant Society and the California Oak Foundation. I will inform these eco-do-gooder organizations, that their efforts to protect and preserve an ecologically invaluable grove of healthy, gene-producing coast live oaks is not as important as producing football-generated profits for corporate entities posing as institutions of higher learning…such as UC Berkeley. 

At $120 million, it is of course expected and assumed that the proposed sports training facility will create some sort of super-winner type of athletes. This makes total sense, as everyone knows—that lifting weights inside of a new building makes one much stronger than lifting weights inside of an old building. 

I will also contact Frank Buckles, the last surviving World War I veteran, to let him know that his stated opposition to the destruction of the grove should be recounted. I will inform him that white, upper-middle-class Cal alumni driving in from Moraga for an enhanced football experience are vastly more important (and profitable) than honoring his service, and the memories of his 95 comrades in arms who made the ultimate sacrifice. 

Any fool can look around the UC campus and see that there is an annoying excess of irreplaceable, old-growth groves of coast live oaks. On the other hand, there is a dire shortage of man-made concrete structures. Especially now, with the earth succumbing to carbon emissions and global warming, more than ever, we need more buildings and less mature trees. 

I feel much better now that I have learned how an enhanced football experience, is worth any price, no matter how great. 


Katlin Moore is a Berkeley resident.