Sacred Sites: Viejas Band of Kumeyaay Indians Needs Prayer to Save Imperiled Burial Grounds From Ocotillo
The good news is that there has been progress in protecting a burial ground and ceremonial site from a dam project. The heartbreaking news, as the Viejas Band of Kumeyaay Indians terms it, is that the Ocotillo Express Wind Energy Facility has been approved by Imperial County officials, and digging has begun.
Thus the Viejas Band of Kumeyaay Indians respectfully asks for prayer to help local authorities find a new location for the wind project and for the return of the soils that have been taken away as the project has progressed. The tribes also seek reassurance that such desecration will never happen again.
Continuing their two-year-long fight, the Viejas and other Kumeyaay Bands will hold a traditional Mourning Ceremony in the Ocotillo Area at 7 p.m. on June 23, lasting through the following morning.
“The tribes will grieve for what has been lost and bring attention to efforts to save what is left of the area where the ancestors are laid to rest,” the Kumeyaay said in a media release. The Ocotillo and other projects “would forever alter the cultural landscape of the Kumeyaay Nation.”
Several other proposed public-energy projects that would harm Viejas’ territorial lands include the Sunrise Powerlink Project, Tule Wind Project, Eco Station Project and the Imperial Valley Solar Project.
The Ocotillo Wind Express Facility is the most troubling project at the moment, given the work being done and the desecration wrought, as well as the scale of the project.
“The so called "Refined" Project would include 112 industrial-sized wind towers up to 460 feet high, 42 miles of new roads, 81 miles of undergrounded fiber optic cable, a 31-acre substation and switchyard, operation and maintenance building and other infrastructure such as parking, ponds and laydown areas that were not part of the NEPA and CEQA documents,” the Kumeyaay said. “The project Right of Way is across about 12,000 acres of federal public land and is surrounded by designated wilderness, Cultural Preserves, Areas of Critical Environmental Concern and shares a 5-mile border with Anza Borrego Desert State Park.”
Prayers have worked on some fronts, as the Viejas Band expressed gratitude for progress on the Padre Dam site.
“Over this last year, with your help, we made much progress towards protection and repatriation of a burial ground and ceremonial site on Padre Dam Municipal Water District property, which sought to develop a reservoir and pumping station on the site,” the band’s media release said.
“Settlement of the litigation is close at hand in which the site would be restored, protected in perpetuity and the land repatriated to the tribe,” the band said. “Viejas is deeply grateful for the support it has received from the local community, governor of California, Native American Heritage Commission and the courts, which have sided with the band on many different levels.”
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