May they rest in peace | August 14, 2009 | Danville Express | |

Danville Express

Perspective - August 14, 2009

May they rest in peace

As we have noted in recent news stories, the construction site for the new gymnasium at San Ramon Valley High School has become more of an archeological dig as the remains of two dozen Native Americans have been exhumed, and more are expected.

The discovery of human remains was first made July 8. Since then workers have used special tools to carefully unearth these peoples from the past; they are estimated to have lived from as recently as 250 years ago to as far back as 2,500 years. They were buried at depths as shallow as three feet and as deep as eight feet, indicating that this land was a burial ground over a long span of time.

The remains are believed to be members of the Bay Miwok tribes, who had a village near the site. The bodies are found buried in small oval depressions, legs drawn up to the chest and arms folded into their sides. This flexed arrangement is what we know today as the fetal position. As details emerge, these people begin to come more alive to us, so to speak. We can begin to imagine those who cared for them arranging them gently into what was assumed would be their final resting place.

Archaeological technicians are documenting the remains, which will be studied before they are prepared for reburial in the Ohlones Indian Cemetery in Fremont. A Native American representative has been named by the Native American Heritage Commission to oversee the removal of the remains and their re-interment.

The high school gymnasium that was torn down in June was built in 1939. During the ensuing 70 years this was the site of countless athletic games, rallies, performances and other fun activities, oblivious to the burial ground below. After the remains have been moved to a more peaceful spot, it is important for us to honor their years under the ground at the high school. Perhaps a plaque or some other kind of commemorative can mark the spot so we can pause a moment to remember those who lived and died in the Valley before us- and the discovery of their remains in 2009.