Day 1: Tom-Kav, Luiseño Indian Sacred Site (Campo Santo): Stop the Desecration!

mari - Posted on 24 February 2012

M Villaluna


Yesterday, a group of indigenous elders and tribal citizens stopped bulldozers from further damaging their sacred site, Tom-Kav. The San Luis Rey Band of Mission Indians also filed a lawsuit and a temporary restraining order on Friday against Palomar College in San Diego County Superior Court in Vista.  With these two important events a caravan left from the San Francisco Bay Area and Santa Cruz to Tom-Kav to support and defend this sacred site.


I left with this caravan to do what POOR Magazine does best… observe, report, and support. In 2008, I walked on the Longest Walk 2 for sacred sites and for the healing of our Earth.  I decided that I would do this again, to go and support indigenous peoples protecting their sacred sites.


With less than 30 minutes notice, I hopped in a very crowded car with 4 guys and off on our 10 hour road trip we went.  The end of the road trip was worth it, we came to Tom-Kav, where Wounded Knee asked permission from the Native American Monitors watching the site if we could perform a ceremony. Prayers and songs were exchanged. I even sang a song for the ancestral spirits of this land.


I interviewed PJ, one of the Native American Monitors and Merri Lopez-Keifer, an attorney for her tribe.  I asked Merri to explained the cultural significance of this scared site, “"Tom-Kav is a sacred site Luiseno people, its part of our creation story, where we learned that we are mortal and that death is a part of who are. A Village site that have been occupied by Native Americans, pre and post european contact, we lived here died here and practiced our spiritual cultural beliefs. There are approximately 14 burials here."


This land is filled with lemon, avocado, grapefruit, and orange trees. I noticed in the background how there was a house built on Tom-Kav, I asked different tribal citizens whose house it was. They all responded it was the house where all the farm workers live.  I asked PJ to further explain the history of the fruit and the farm workers upon Tom-Kav.


PJ explained that he has been a Native American Monitor for Tom-Kav for over a year, and how he found out the oranges are Sunkist owned. He told me how this sacred site is known as the avocado belt in the farming industry. He stated, “The two most destructive forces to (sacred) sites in Southern California are any type of produce groves and golf courses.” I then thought of how often I think of if fruit is organic but how little I wonder if it grows on a sacred site and is destroying that site by being a foreign plant in that area.


Lastly, Wounded Knee asked one of the farm workers to build a sacred fire. The sacred fire was lit and the sharing stories started to happen. I spoke with the farm workers after they built a fire for the people in our caravan. I asked Ric, from Santa Cruz who knew Spanish to help me with translation. We explained what was going on with the site and why we came down, and how they felt about sacred sites. I quickly learned the word for sacred site in Spanish is campo santo. They talked about the Campo Santos in Mexico and how they said in Mexico respecting burial grounds is very common. They thought they the land their house is on should not be bothered. We also talked about that if this road that Palomar College is going to put in goes through the orchards will be gone and so will their house. I looked into one of the farmworker’s shiny eyes that looked like it was holding back tears, and he said, “Well, then I won’t have a job and will have to move.” He also marked with distaste for his job and house but marked how he need this for his economic survival.


Tom-Kav is a place that is filled with so many layers, of the farm workers living and working there to a College desecrating it, to Sunkist making profit off foreign trees to that land and to of course the first peoples of this land protecting a place where their story starts. I wonder what I’ll learn tomorrow?


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we as a people are nourished by every plant and honored to produce for ourselfs and produce for all


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