American Indian Studies Department voices concern against Palomar Administration

A Palomar faculty department spoke out last month against the administration’s handling of an ongoing conflict with local American Indians.

Construction on Horse Ranch Creek Road began last year to provide access to Palomar’s future satellite campus in Fallbrook. In Jan. 2011, as construction crews started moving ground, human remains and artifacts were unearthed on the site. Upon examination, it was determined the San Luis Rey Band of Mission Indians were the “most likely descendent” (MLD), according to a news release from Palomar President Robert Deegan.

While a temporary restraining order filed by the Native Americans was pending in court, the school held off on the construction for nearly a year. After the court denied the protester’s lawsuit, and the school gained approval from the county and Army Corps of Engineers, the school resumed construction on the site while exercising sensitivity to artifacts and the site, according to Deegan.

The American Indian Studies department released a letter in response to the administration’s decision to continue construction despite the findings of human remains and artifacts.

“AIS is dismayed you failed to recognize the 40-year history of our department and our connection with sovereign local tribal governments as the valuable resource it is,” according to the letter signed by the American Indian Studies Department.

The critical letter explained the department’s frustration with the fact that Deegan had not included its department members in any discussions regarding Horse Ranch Creek Road.

The department staff said they understands that Deegan had no legal obligation to include them, but the AIS department Chairwoman Patricia Dixon wrote that she believes “it could have made a difference.”

“The letter was to help the community to understand that we can make a public statement to our president and our school at large,” Dixon said.

The department has announced they will be holding a teach in on April 25 located in MD-157  regarding the Tom-Kav village and the issues surrounding it.

In response to the letter, Palomar President Robert Deegan scheduled a meeting with the AIS department on March 27.

At the meeting, Deegan extended invitations to AIS for any future meetings regarding the site. Before speaking to Deegan, the department had no idea when or where the meetings were being held.

“Our meeting was good in that it provided clarification for both sides,” Dixon said.

The meeting between the department and Deegan clarified  that Palomar had no control over road placement and the construction of the road is Palomar’s legal responsibility, as stated in the purchase agreement of the 86 acre property.

Once bone fragments had been discovered, by law the property owner was legally obligated to discuss the matter with the MLD, implying that Palomar may not be the one at fault here. In this case, the road falls outside the property owned by Palomar and was worked out in a deal with Pardee homes.

“Sometimes people have to respond to the reality of the law and not to the higher principles of morality— which happens,” Dixon said.

A letter from Deegan to the “Campus Community” was released on April 5. It suggested possible “construction adjustments” such as, “filling the remaining data recovery holes by hand with shovels” and “limiting the number of earthmoving equipment working in the area.”

The letter ended by stating that, “the College will continue to meet its legal obligation of Horse Ranch Road, while pledging to work cooperatively with the Native American community.”


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