In Honor of Indigenous Peoples’ Day, Friends of the Earth U.S. Stands Behind the West Berkeley Shellmound Cultural Heritage SiteThe organization urges protection of the Ohlone sacred site “as long as the rivers shall run”
WASHINGTON, D.C. – In recognition of Indigenous Peoples’ Day 2018, the board and staff of Friends of the Earth U.S. have issued a resolution supporting the full protection of the West Berkeley Shellmound and Ohlone village site in Berkeley, California.
The West Berkeley Shellmound and village site is the oldest known of many sites held sacred by the Ohlone Tribes, the original and continuous inhabitants of the eastern shores of San Francisco Bay. Buried for decades under a parking lot, the 5,000-year-old site was rediscovered in 2016 when developers broke ground for a planned real estate development. Local members of the Chochenyo Ohlone Tribe and the coalition of Ohlone Tribes quickly initiated a campaign to protect the sacred site, where the bodies of their ancestors remain buried amid shell bead offerings and other memories of pre-conquest life. Organizers of the campaign to save the West Berkeley Shellmound envision the two-acre site’s transformation into a public memorial and cultural center — the only monument of its kind in a region rich with such buried and forgotten histories.
Unfortunately, the current fate of the site remains in dispute as real estate interests clash with the vision of the Ohlone organizers and their supporters.
Friends of the Earth U.S., founded by Berkeley resident David Brower in 1969, today issued the following resolution:
Friends of the Earth Resolution in Support of the West Berkeley Shellmound Cultural Heritage and Village Site Taken in Honor of Indigenous Peoples’ Day 2018
Be it resolved on this Indigenous Peoples Day, 2018, that the Executive Committee on behalf of the Board of Friends of the Earth stands in support of the full protection of the historic West Berkeley Shellmound and Village Site. Friends of the Earth will lend its voice and its heart to efforts to protect and preserve this sacred site in the ancient village of Huichin, in keeping with the desires of the Chochenyo Ohlone people and the all of the Ohlone communities of the San Francisco Bay Area, the original inhabitants of this land who have lived and cared for this land continuously and are most definitely still here today.
As stated in Article 25 of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) adopted by the United Nations in September 2007 and further adopted by the City of Berkeley as municipal policy in 2015, the Ohlone people possess “the right to maintain, protect, and have access in privacy to their religious and cultural sites.” By resolution, Berkeley also affirmed the UNDRIP standard of “free, prior and informed consent of the Ohlone” specifically with regard to “any alteration planning for the Berkeley Shellmound sacred site.” As a longstanding national and international environmental rights organizations, Friends of the Earth supports full recognition of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and full implementation of its principles.
Further, In January 2016, the City of Berkeley passed a resolution formally recognizing the Ohlone peoples as the original inhabitants of Berkeley and committing to work in good faith with representatives of the Ohlone peoples today. Simultaneously, the City passed Resolution No. 67,353 recognizing that the West Berkeley Shellmound site is “held sacred by Ohlone peoples.” As an organization founded in and resident in Berkeley, Friends of the Earth is committed to supporting these resolutions and to the protection and ceremonial use of this important cultural heritage site, as long as the rivers shall run.
To learn more about the West Berkeley Shellmound, visit shellmound.org.