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Archeological Site Known to CalTrans Damaged Again

In the latest bad news for Indigenous people whose cultural resources have been horribly impacted by CalTrans' Willits Bypass, Big Orange's construction crews have damaged another known archeological site.

The incident took place on June 12th. CalTrans Associate Environmental Planner Timothy Keefe, who is based in the agency's Eureka office, revealed the incident in a phone call to Coyote Valley Band of Pomo Indians Historic Preservation Officer Eddie Knight, whose tribe has been closely involved in monitoring construction activities.

The damaged archeological deposit occurs in an area roughly 20 meters in diameter, on a parcel where CalTrans is carrying out “environmental mitigation” for the stated purpose of offsetting the freeway's environmental destruction. CalTrans' construction crews ran a ditchwitch across the site, so as to install a waterline (exact purpose unknown).

Even after Keefe and the construction crews realized they had just run machinery through a site they had previously identified as archeologically significant, but had not yet studied in any consequential fashion, they determined that work in the area should continue. In other words, rather than stop work and evaluate the damage, gather information from the archeological deposit that had been fractured by the fresh ground-disturbing, or even notify tribes to get their input on the situation, the construction team plunged ahead with installing a waterline in the trench.

Then, they backfilled it.

Keefe, the principal CalTrans archeologist on the project, gave the decision to fill in the site after running through it with a ditchwitch his blessing.

Tribal monitors were not present at the time, although the Coyote Valley Band of Pomo Indians has been adamantly requesting that CalTrans hire two more such monitors to keep up with the huge scope of work taking place on both the Bypass construction route and, as in this case, on the Bypass mitigation lands.

The way this incident played out once again speaks volumes for CalTrans' attitude toward working with Indigenous people, as with the agency's desecration last year of a site called “CA-MEN-3571,” which has been nominated for the National Register of Historic Places.

In that case, CalTrans' surveyors identified the site during field work in 2011. At the time, CalTrans recognized that the site, which is likely associated with the historic Little Lake Pomo village of Yami, was smack-dab in the middle of the Bypass destruction swath.

By the time Bypass construction finally kicked off in March 2013, someone employed by Big Orange had decided that CA-MEN-3571 was not located in the Bypass route after all. CalTrans partially excavated the area, then installed roughly 1,500 wick drains and piled on three feet worth of fill soil there.

Representatives of the Sherwood Valley Rancheria of Pomo Indians and Coyote Valley Band of Pomo Indians, and perhaps others, persistently questioned CalTrans representatives about this clerical decision. They wanted to make sure CA-MEN-3571 really was located outside the Bypass bootprint.

Lo and behold, CalTrans revealed in a blasé e-mail to Sherwood Valley Tribal Chairman Mike Fitzgerral in September 2013, CA-MEN-3571 was located in the Bypass bootprint all along. Only after creating a map of archeological sites impacted by the project, they claim, did they realize they were in error.

Yet, in accordance with the National Historic Preservation Act, CalTrans was supposed to have completed the map of archeological sites prior to beginning construction. In fact, CalTrans failed to mention the overwhelming majority of Native archeological sites in its environmental impact review (EIR) documents. CalTrans' 2006 EIR only mentions one Pomo archeological deposit.

In the case of the more recent incident, CalTrans contractor crews were not working not on the freeway route, but instead were carrying out so-called “mitigation construction” activities on some of the 2,100 acres CalTrans had purchased to “mitigate” for the damage to wetlands, oak trees, fisheries, and other legally protected natural resources. The particular unit of Big Orange's Willits-area land empire where the damage took place is located near the intersection of Reynolds Highway and Heast Rd, on land Big Orange's real estate arm purchased several years ago from the Frost family (Little Lake Valley ranchers).

According to the most recent information I've seen, this parcel is one of the areas where CalTrans plans to “create” wetlands by excavating soil from already-functioning wetlands – a so-called “Group 2” wetlands creation site.

The incident highlights the manifold problems with CalTrans' mitigation plan, which relies on excavation of 266,000 cubic yards of soil for the purpose of “creating wetlands.” All of this soil excavation, which takes place across an area of land much larger and more far-flung than the Bypass, will invariably further harm to Indigenous people's ancestral remains.

In April, the Coyote Valley Band of Pomo Indians passed a resolution calling on CalTrans to eliminate soil excavation as part of the Bypass mitigation, to eliminate the project's arbitrarily massive northern interchange, and to provide compensation for damage already done.

I will have more information on this story, as well as other developments with the Willits Bypass, in the print edition of the AVA that comes out on Wednesday, June 25th.

Contact Will Parrish at wparrish[at]riseup[dot]net.


  1. TERRESA MELENDREZ June 22, 2014

    Will, please give me a call, (707)467-7047. I would like to setup a meeting and ask that you could give me a basic info. cram on this Caltrans destruction on Native habitat. I appreciate it Friend!


  2. Lazarus June 22, 2014

    Is the purpose here to eliminate the bypass and return this area to it’s original conditions?
    Or is this to aid the State in seeing the ills of it’s ways and correct the situation so the bypass can proceed?
    Thank you

  3. Kim A June 22, 2014

    Since Caltrans is a government agency does this mean that the government is at it again? Taking over things that does not belong to them? Keefe and his employees made the executive decision to just go ahead with the project. How about everybody responsible for not doing their job, loses their job and is not eligible to be rehired with any government agency. Come on government agencies stop doing what you have done for centuries! Stop taking what is not yours and trying to sweep it under the rug.

  4. George H Freeman June 22, 2014

    I am a descendant of the Little Lake Pomo who were relocated to the Round Valley Indian Reservation.
    I have worked as an federal conservation officer and part of my experienced classified me as a archaeologist technician. I have made inquiries about the possible destruction of arch sites in the By-pass project and was told lies by Cal Trans.
    I and other archeologists and anthropologists have complained to Cal Trans all for naught. Whom ever is allowing this or knowingly proceeding with project is a criminal offense under statutes of federal law. Somebody should be held accountable?

  5. C.Swan June 23, 2014

    Begin forwarded message:)

    ==> Dear friends of local tribes, Little Lake Valley and SOLLV!!!
    Willits is being honored

    With the American Indian Movement (AIM) Spirit Runners

    This Thursday the 26th of June.

    The Spirit Runners come to Willits to protest the desecration and destruction of Little Lake Valley ancestral villages and wetlands by Caltrans. This is the culmination of a 500 mile American Indian Spiritual Marathon
    On June 12th Caltrans desecrated another ancestral site, flagrantly ignoring protocols yet again!

    Please come this Thursday and bring your support!
    You can meet the runners at 12:30pm at Evergreen Shopping Center to join them (run, walk, bike or drive behind them) as they proceed down Main Street, turn right on Commercial Street and gather at the City Park opposite the Willits courthouse. Cheer the procession on anywhere along the route!

    There will be a ceremony and speakers at City Park beginning around 2:00 when the runners arrive there.

    Please bring some food to the park for the runners and their supporters!!!
    contact Ellen Faulkner 485-5867

    [Local Tribes have joined others in calling for downsizing the northern interchange. This simple change would avoid ancestral sites and curtail the need to desecrate more sites on mitigation lands.
    Please see for more information.]

  6. Jim Updegraff June 24, 2014

    Talk, talk doesn’t mean anything to Caltrans. Just look at the Bay Bridge fiasco. Legal action is the response they understand. The affected tribes need to get going on taking legal action against Caltrans.

  7. Chris Hardaker June 24, 2014

    This is something to keep in mind while listening to CalTrans’ engineered excuses about this second illegal archaeological cover-up (literally).

    June 12th was four days after June 8, the day the Pomo Elders were given permission to pay their respects and their prayers at the first site, after about a hundred people participated in a ceremony in the wetlands.

    Isn’t it extremely cynical and insulting for CT to turn around just days later and commit the same kind of wanton destruction and cover up? Just after the prayer ceremony by the Elders? That’s pretty cold and meanhearted, if not culturally vindictive, and also terrible PR.

  8. Jim Updegraff June 24, 2014

    As I commented previously the only message Caltrans will understand is legal action including monetary damages.

  9. Lazarus June 24, 2014

    I see no one has my answer……or is unwilling to say it out loud. Perhaps it is below the intellectual prowess that extrudes from these hallowed pages…..

    “Is the purpose here to eliminate the bypass and return this area to it’s original conditions?
    Or is this to aid the State in seeing the ills of it’s ways and correct the situation so the bypass can proceed?
    Thank you”

    • Will Parrish June 24, 2014

      Read my 24 previous pieces on the subject, and you’ll get a pretty clear answer.

      • Lazarus June 25, 2014

        Mr. Parrish,
        My question is simple, why the need for a primer, Is it or is it not?

  10. Rick Weddle June 25, 2014

    re: “…cynical…pretty cold…mean hearted…,” as applied to the performance of CalTrans…
    Golly! Maybe you haven’t heard that BigArnge, like the oilygarchies it serves, is actually a synthetic organism without the equipment for either a heart attack or a brain transplant (more’s the pity!). Implementing this artificial critter’s programs are carefully selected and highly rewarded UNhumanized homo-sapiens, life-like appendages as the ‘interface’ twixt the Juggernaut and us. We’re best not lulled by these convincing bio-mimics into expecting anything like real Human response, ever. Are you shocked at being so ‘steamrollered’ (or ‘railroaded’) in broad daylight, and by ‘our’ own govt. agencies? I assure you, this is most definitely not a new story to those of North America’s First Nations; ask ’em.

  11. Jim Updegraff June 25, 2014

    In response to (Mr. or Mrs. or Ms) Lazarus I would say whether or not the bypass is built is not the issue. The issue is Caltrans’ wilful desecration of Native American sacred land. It is particularly offensive when when one looks at the deliberate merciless extermination of Native Americans in Mendocino County by the early European Anerican settlers.

    • Lazarus June 25, 2014

      Jimmy, Jimmy, Jimmy……Please, the likes of Mr. Parrish, you and others never touched the Native American issue until it became haplessly apparent that was about all you had. All you had to maintain a presence in the rants and raves condemning CalTrans, the State, and anyone else in authority. You and the likes of you are no different then the Tea party crazies who dress up in old cloths, hold the Constitution in one hand and the Bible in the other while packing a 9mm Glock under your shirt……As a Native American I personally am offended by your use of my race to promote your agendas….Ginning up the tribe for this…? I can think of many more issues far more relevant than a few pieces of charcoal in the valley……The idea the tribes spent significant time in that place is insulting. Anyone who has lived around LLV knows the valley flooded in the rainy season…….Home was on higher ground, something the defenders of the tribe seem to have bypassed….
      This is exactly what it appears to be, a ruse designed to exploit the Natives to further the agendas of the cause… hopeless and hapless as it is……
      We do agree on one thing, CalTrans does exactly what they want, and there is nothing you and the others can do about it…sorry for your pain.

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