Restoring Harmony With Reburial of Native American Remains

December 14, 2008

Author: Tami Abdollah and Jason Song

Source: The Los Angeles Times,0,4321751.story

More than 15 years of acrimony came to an end Saturday when about 1,000 Native American remains that had been exhumed during construction were laid to rest and covered with white seashells during a sacred burial ceremony near the Westchester bluffs.

For Robert Dorame, a Bellflower resident designated by the state Native American Heritage Commission as the "most likely descendant" of the American Indians buried at the site, the day represented a peaceful conclusion to a painstaking project in which he supervised the blessing and bundling of the remains.

"The ancestors have been sitting in cardboard boxes in shelves on a trailer for a lot of years," Dorame said. "So you know, it's a great -- we use the word in our language awesko -- a rejoice. . . . We're happy it's finally come to an end."

Most of the remains were discovered after construction began on the Playa Vista luxury housing development, prompting negotiations and bitter fights among tribal representatives, developers and various local and state officials.

On Saturday, the remains were interred in a freshly dug grave as elders paid their final respects in a private ceremony. In the afternoon, the area was opened to visitors who scattered pieces of seashells over the site, which will soon be covered by native plant species including cactus.

City Councilman Bill Rosendahl, who represents the area, referenced the bitter past and peaceful ending when addressing the crowd of about 300.