CA tribes sue transportation departments for alleged destruction of sacred sites

November 2, 2015
Construction Dive

Dive Brief:

  • Two Northern California Native American tribes have filed a federal lawsuit against the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans), the U.S. Department of Transportation and the Federal Highway Administration to stop construction of a $300 million highway bypass through historic tribal lands until an agreement can be reached on how Caltrans handles archaeological finds, according to KGO-TV.
  • The Round Valley Indian Tribes and the Coyote Valley Band of Pomo Indians claim Caltrans work crews found and destroyed more than 30 historic and sacred sites in the course of their work over the last two years. Tribes want Caltrans to consult with them on bypass construction and conduct a new environmental study, as well as pay for damages at various archaeological sites, including a former Native American village, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.
  • Caltrans said it impacted one site due to a mapping error but denied all other claims in the lawsuit. Tribe attorneys said Caltrans continues to find Native American artifacts and possibly human remains and grave sites, which Caltrans also denies.

Dive Insight:

"Caltrans' ground-disturbing activities are devastating ancestral Native American sacred and cultural sites," said attorney Phil Gregory, who is a lawyer for the tribes. However, Caltrans officials said they have consulted with the affected tribes through all processes of the bypass project.

"We have been working closely with state and federal agencies throughout this project," Caltrans spokesman Phil Frisbie told KGO-TV. "We have not destroyed any villages or cultural areas on this project, and we have been working diligently for the last almost two years with all three local tribes."

KGO-TV called the lawsuit the "latest blow to a troubled freeway project," which transportation officials aim to complete in November 2016... (To read the entire article, please click HERE)