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Stereotype of the Month Entry

Another Stereotype of the Month entry:

Who are you calling extinct?
Development neglects tribe

LA Daily News

They have an office in San Fernando, their own Web site and a membership roll of 740. They are the Fernandeņo Tataviam band of Mission Indians.

But an environmental impact report for a 1,400-home housing development outside Santa Clarita found the tribe to be extinct, drawing criticism from Indian groups.

"If the traffic section of an EIR, if the preparations of the traffic section were to say that the I-5 Freeway didn't exist, no one in their right mind would say that the traffic analysis was complete," said Angela Mooney D'Arcy, director of cultural resource programs with the Wishtoyo Foundation, an American-Indian group.

"And similarly, any cultural or archeological assessment that claims the tribal nation for whom this area is important is extinct couldn't possibly be a qualified archaeological or cultural report."

Rudy Ortega Jr., tribal administrator for the Tataviam band of Indians, said developer Newhall Land knows the tribe exists because it is working with them on another project involving Tataviam cultural sites.

"For us at first, when we discovered this error, many of the tribal representatives were kind of shocked to hear that," he said, "but (we) knew that it was a mistake and that Newhall would correct it as well."

The Landmark Village project would have 1,400 homes and is part of the huge Newhall Ranch project planned for west of Santa Clarita along State Route 126. The project was discussed at Wednesday's Regional Planning Commission meeting.

In addition to the Wishtoyo Foundation's criticism of the EIR, the California Native American Heritage Commission also submitted a letter to the Planning Commission arguing the Tataviam had been overlooked.

Marlee Lauffer, spokeswoman for Newhall Land and Farming Co., said the part of the EIR that calls the Tataviam extinct was based on a report written in the 1970s. But Newhall Land has been working with Ortega and his tribe, she said.

"The bottom line is that under the state regulations, which we have always followed, we pay a lot of attention to making sure that we respect sites of archaeological significance," she said. "And we will have a tribal consultant on hand as activity commences at Landmark, that will be someone for the Fernandeņo (Tataviam) tribe."

On various projects Newhall Land has undertaken over the years, the company has come across Indian farming tools, pestles and other items it has turned over for safekeeping, she said.

The EIR indicates in an appendix that the Tataviam once lived in the project area. But it continues, "Some controversy exists in reference to this attribution, as the Tataviam are now extinct and were effectively so prior to the initiation of systematic anthropological studies at the turn of the century."

The EIR also states that the last speaker of Tataviam died in 1916, and that members of the tribe were absorbed through intermarriage.

Related links
The "vanishing breed"
Stereotyping Indians by omission

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