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JOANNA CLARK, San Juan Capistrano

The Acjachemen Nation settled this area 12,000 years before our European interloper ancestors invaded and decimated the indigenous Native populations of the Americas with their germs, guns, and steel and stole their land to subdivide and sell.

Their history includes being uprooted from their village home of Putuidem and the surrounding area by Spanish missionaries and brought to the Mission site, treated as a lesser form of a human. They were forced to build the Mission, renamed the Juaneños Band of Mission Indians, and adopt a strange new faith. Following the American occupation of California in 1846, the “claims of Indians who had acquired land in the 1841 formation of (the San Juan Pueblo) were similarly ignored, despite evidence” substantiating the Juaneños’ claims.

To further complicate their lives and dehumanization, the Governor of California called for the extermination of the indigenous population in 1851, and over the next 20 years, 80% of California’s Native Americans were wiped out. Between 9,000 and 16,000 were murdered in cold blood—the victims of a policy of genocide sponsored by the state of California and gleefully assisted by its newest citizens.

In 2003, cultural genocide continued, when the City Council approved the building of Junipero Serra High School on land sacred to the Acjachemen. Today, their sacred burial ground is a soccer field.

In 2016, the City Council approved the Putuidem Village Cultural Center, and after numerous reviews and concessions, the City Council approved plans and specifications for the Center on May 15, 2018.  Then, less than a year later, on April 16, 2019, the new City Council voted to table the project until the community has had an opportunity to provide input on what it would like to see in the Northwest Open Space area.

Enough! The sacred sites and lands of the Acjachemen descendants have been plundered, desecrated, and devoured by development over the past 243 years. It is time to end the cultural genocide and build the Putuidem Village Cultural Center; a place where we can all come together and learn.

Editor’s Note: The quote about the Juaneños’ claims to land was an excerpt from the book “Conquests and Historical Identities in California, 1769-1936,” written by author Lisabeth Haas.

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