Since I just posted on the topic of repatriation issues in the Bay Area, I got a tip to a current column running in a local news source, SF Weekly on this issue. Ron Russell, the author of the piece, published it under a week ago and it documents the almost incestuous situation caused by one particular individual here in the Bay. This piece ties really well into what I was writing about the other day. It documents a situation how natives are taking advantage of the laws and ethics that relate to NAGPRA and human remains.
The person that Russell documents is Andrew Galvan. He’s got ties to a native American, named Liberato that was baptized at Mission Delores over 200 years ago. He’s a curator of the Mission now, but also a MLD. MLD stands for Most Likely Descendant, and since he claims Ohlone identity, he is one of the people that oversees situations where human remains are found in an archaeological context.
He also works with his father, maintaining and operating a Ohlone cemetery in Fremont, California. This operation is run under Ohlone Indian Tribe, Inc. But don’t confuse that with his other company, Archaeor Archaeological Consultants located in Ohlone College. Archaeor is a company that serves tangentially to Galvan’s role as a MLD. In otherwords, if human remains of probable Ohlone descent are found at a construction or archaeological site, Galvan offers services on behalf of Archaeor to remove, clean, and rebury the remains.
Most of the remains are reburied at the Fremont, California cemetery site operated by his other company, Ohlone Indian Tribe, Inc. And while he claims the cemetery is a nonprofit operation, he does charge an exorbitant amount which raised my eyebrow. Some of his clients claim he charges $60 an hour to clean the skeletons and each skeleton takes about 12 hours. That’s around $720 a skeleton.
Here are some prices that he has charged in the past. He’s quoted the East Bay Regional Park District $58,000 to do his thing on 12 skeletal remains recovered from a regional shoreline park in 2002. In the ’90’s he quoted Stanford University ‘several thousand dollars’ to relocate 2 skeletons found on the campus.
I’ve explained how as an undergraduate I worked on an archaeological site and some field experience in Ethiopia. During these experiences, I’ve done a lot of washing of bones and artifacts. And let me tell you, it doesn’t cost that much. It is not a very high tech operation. All it requires is a bucket of water and a old used tooth brush, and some menial labor. I’ve spent lots of my life washing bones and artifacts and do not understand why it costs Galvan so much to do this. Maybe he’s using some magical water? Who knows.
I even question if it needs to be done. If any Ohlone read this blog, please explain to us why it is culturally ethical to wash bones that are exhumed only to be reburied? It seems over the top and unnecessary. Andrew, if you read this, feel free to tell us why you do this because I want to know about this practice.
And also correct me if I’m wrong, but my understanding of Ohlone, and almost all other repatriation and reburial tradition is that they dictate the remains be reburied as close as the original burial site as possible. So why then is Galvan reburying these remains at his cemetery in Fremont? Could it be that he wants to milk out some more cash?
The article quotes Galvan a couple times stating there’s not charge to use the space at the cemetery, but clients disagree. Al Kaplan, a pizza owner in my old hometown of Danville, said Galvan charged him to rebury the bones found on his restaurant property into an Indian cemetery in Fremont. Fishy business practice if you ask me. I think this is why Stanford decided to reject Galvan’s quote for several thousand dollars, and proceed to rebury the remains in an undisclosed area close to the site they were discovered.
Galvan is also very selective about who he lets into his cemetery. In 1999, Lawrence Thompson, an Ohlone and a barber died. His son, a truck driver, expressed that his father’s wishes were to be buried at the Ohlone Cemetery. But Galven denied him. Yeah that’s right, he denied him. Galven told Thompson junior that the cemetery was full… but then somehow he found room to charge Kaplan with the remains found at his pizza parlor 6 years later. I’m really disappointed that Galvan’s rejected Thomspon’s father’s wishes. Very strange, and very self serving if you ask me. Galvan shows that he’s not really interested in fully serving Ohlone interests if he’s going to reject barbers, father’s of truck drivers but then accept business from property owners, the government, academic institution, and the like.
Galvan’s not really loved in his Ohlone but at the same time he’s treated with deference. Most Ohlone are submissive, or at least they seem to be. It seems like they’ve reserved their rights to Galvan, since he’s got a history degree, ties to a baptized Indian, a archaeology consultancy, and effectively a lot of their ancestors in his graveyard. His cousin, Rosemary Cambra expressed some contention in the piece but it wasn’t really charged enough.
I’m actually really concerned about this. While there are more MLDs than Galvan, his triple play… his archaeology consultancy, his position as an MLD and spokesperson of the Ohlone, as well as his cemetery gives him a lot of power. One person does not need so much control over repatriation issues in the Bay Area. One person should not be charging this much to effectively wash bones…. a job that undergraduate students are given school credit to do.
Several other clients also claimed they were morally persuaded by Galvan to take up his services. The author of the piece, Russell, subliminally paints Galvan as a sleaze bag… and I’m beginning to think he is. It seems like he’s doing little to serve the Ohlone, damaging the academic potential, and taking advantage of business owners and people in construction. Like I indicated above and in my previous post, these are the types of people that there should be checks and balances against.