Posted: October 3rd, 2010
Lillian Robles at Puvungna
The late Lillian Robles, a holy woman of the Achachemen/Tongva people, started the Annual Ancestor March.
Dear Lillian Robles, nee Valenzuela, was oppressed and depressed by plans to build a strip mall on the last 39 acres of Puvungna, the sacred spot of the Native American religion of Southern California. Yes, the rest was taken up by CSU Long Beach; and yes, what is now Long Beach, the spiritual home of the Tongva faith, was taken up and desecrated by foreign settlers. Still, what is now Puvungna represented a bridge to what once was, the paradise of California.
She had listened to the law, which is slanted to greed: the “best and highest use.” She felt that such law disrespected the sacred sites, but didn’t know what to do. Lillian was in a quandry: how could she save something of the old ways, how could she appeal to the people to respect the Ancestors? She pondered long and deeply, praying for the right path.
Dear Lillian had a vision, that night, an answer to her quandry: “SLEEP ON THE LAND.”
You or I might ignore such an injunction: after all, it seems crazy.
But dear Lillian believed, and told her husband Louie what she had to do.
Lillian went to Puvungna, or at least the last few meadows, and did sleep on the land.
Lillian became extraordinary by following the difficult path, the path of righteousness. Despite all the efforts of the developers and their evil minions, dear Lillian (and her supporters) prevailed.
To this date, Puvungna is described as those 39 acres that were saved. But today, greedy eyes are on those placid acres: now, Puvungna is in almost as much danger as it was when Lillian and the Ancestors saved it for our local Tongva — and for our own descendants.
To keep the spirit alive, Lillian inititiated the “March for our Ancestors,” to remind us of what’s at stake. The march includes the following sites.
Each year’s march starts at the ancient 9,000 year old village of Panhe in San Clemente, at San Mateo Campgrounds, in San Onofre State Beach. Lillian’s family — Louis Robles, Sr., Rhonda Robles, Rebecca Robles, and Louis Robles, Jr., helped lead United Coalition to Protect Panhe to save Panhe and San Onofre State Beach, working with The City Project and diverse allies. Visit www.savepanhe.org
Putiidhem, the ancestral village of the Achachemen (Juaneño) people, who were enslaved to build the Mission San Juan Capistrano. This is now unfortunately part of a Catholic for-profit school named after Fr. Serra.
Newport Beach, at the Back Bay, where 600 bodies were removed and destroyed to make way for a housing tract, just off Jamboree and Santa Barbara.
Bolsa Chica, which became an example of what could be saved — but the village of the Cogstone People on the Mesa was and is being desecrated by the developer Hearthwell Homes and the City of Huntington Beach.
Heron Pointe (Hellman Mesa) where the Hellman heirs’ plan to build a “golf course in the wetlands” was defeated by a lawsuit against the Coastal Commission forcing it to follow the law. Today, ORA 264 is forever saved as a burial ground and prayer ground to honor the Ancestors buried there; homeowners honor and protect the bioswale and graves as well as the “Ancestor walk” and conversation pit.
Puvungna in Long Beach, just north of Pacific Coast Highway on Bellflower Boulevard.
Participants on the Ancestors’ walk bring potluck food and curiosity.
The “California Bear Dancers” emulate the bear dances of old, which takes the sins and troubles of the community on the dancers. The Bear People are very important to the psychic health of all of us.
The more attention and people, the less the greedy eyes of the developers will focus on this last meadow, the heart of what Puvungna meant.
Thank you to Doug Korthof, seal-beach.org, for his loving words.
Images of Lillian Robles used with the permission of her family and may not be reproduced without their express authorization.
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