VOL. 12, NO. 74

California State University, Long Beach February 15, 2006

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. News  

Professor recounts Puvunga history

By Vince Scott
Online Forty-Niner
Contributing Writer

The passionate discussion of Puvunga and Native American history in the Southern California area is a robust discourse that lay bare the dignity, humanity and a heart felt hope for the future of the Tongva Nation and Cal State Long Beach, according to Professor Cindi Alvitre.

“ This area should be a national ceremonial place for all Native Americans,” Alvitre said.

She said Puvunga should be on par with Mecca as a place where all Native Americans would have a national place of spiritual worship.

A lecturer of American Indian studies at CSULB and a member of the world arts and cultures department at UCLA, Alvitre has been a cultural and social activist for many years, battling social injustice with the likes of Kwume Ture (Stockely Carmichael), and Nobel Peace Prize winner Rigo Berta Menchu. Her feelings about Puvunga can be characterized as a missed opportunity for the university and the surrounding community.

“ This is a great opportunity to teach our children, to make kids aware—to have some type of convergence with the scholastic, the spirit and sense of community,” Alvitre said.

Although Native Americans have been buried on the grounds, Puvunga is not strictly a burial site.

“ This is a sacred center that’s filled with ceremony and prayer,” Alvitre said.

There are christenings and solstice gatherings with singing by people of all faiths.

“ What a better place for children to hear stories and to feel the love in life,” Alvitre said.

She said during a conflict over the site in the early ’90s the Tongva people were interrogated by attorneys hired by the school.

“ Our people were made to prove who we were like we invented the tale, like anyone could actually prove being a direct descendant to someone after hundreds of years, especially given the history of our treatment in this country,” Alvitre said.

Alvitre personally knows about the cultural ties of Pugunva.

“ My grandfather delivered hay to the Bixby Ranch and never spoke above a whisper as a sign of respect when he transverse these grounds,” she said.

She related the story of Wiyot and Chinigchinich and beginning of the Tongva spiritual history, which took place at this very site.

“ It’s not right that we should have to constantly renegotiate who we are,” she said.

Alvitre considered the early ’90s administration as being greatly concerned with economic development, an attack the Tongva were able to resist because of people like Alvitre’s mother, father and others who slept and ate right under the trees to ward off the bulldozers and demolition of the grounds by the administration. President Robert C. Maxson promised no further development as long as he was president to end the conflict, and Puvunga remains listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Alvitre does not seem overly concerned about any new development because of the incoming president, who is not bound by Maxson’s promise.

“ It’s his job to know all the facts, to find out whats going on, to hear all sides. I’m sure at some point I or some folks from my department will be meeting with Alexander, if they haven’t done so yet,” she said.

She said she is more concerned about enriching the lives of students and the community.

“ We need to find new strategies that we can teach our kids to help solve our social ills and Puvunga could be the centerpiece for that at

CSULB,” she said. “That’s how I teach, I don’t stand in front of the class constantly lecturing, giving multiple choice tests. I send my students out to collect history, to own it, become a part of it, to see where they fit in that history.”

Alvitre said the Native American population in Southern California is the largest in the nation. The Tongva traditions have been handed down through the generations even if they are a group of people with no land.

“ These are not mere customs we are concerned with, regarding these 23 acres, customs die out, these are traditions, traditions remain and are celebrated for generations.”



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