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Caltrans historian Elizabeth McKee, who was not involved in the matter at the time, acknowledges that there was "dissatisfaction with the way the communication was conducted." But she insists that, in the end, Caltrans followed many of Cambra's suggestions in dealing with the remains.
As it turned out, Caltrans reburied the 13 skeletal remains in the summer of 2004 on state property near where they were found, but Cambra was unable to attend because on the day of the reburials a suicide jumper caused the Bay Bridge to close.
Yet there's another twist to the discovery. In the same month in 2004 that the reburials took place, workers unearthed a further 18 skeletal remains at the village site. But because the second set of remains was found on federal property (at the island's U.S. Coast Guard station), different rules of repatriation applied, and there was no prescribed role for a Most Likely Descendant.
In fact, the Coast Guard is storing the bones at an undisclosed location and is apparently still unsure about what to do with them. As SF Weekly has learned, Rear Admiral D.G. Gabel wrote to Secretary of the Interior Dirk Kempthorne in June seeking guidance in the matter.
The extent of the archaeological finds on the island has never been publicly disclosed. But they are outlined in a "white paper" prepared by Caltrans earlier this year and shared with academic researchers. McKee declined to provide specifics about the discoveries, citing a provision of the state's public records law that exempts archaeological finds from public disclosure.
When pressed, she referred this reporter to none other than Andrew Galvan, who she says has consulted with Caltrans regarding what was found on Yerba Buena Island and who she — initially, at least — assumed was appointed as the Most Likely Descendant. "If Andy doesn't have any objection to disclosing what was found then you might check with him," she said, before later calling back to say that it was Cambra, and not Galvan, who was the MLD.
To the extent that his consulting firm dominates the area's Indian reburial market, Galvan is unapologetic. Acknowledging that his family's role with the cemetery has helped to make him a go-to player among developers eager to unload Native American remains from development sites, he insists there's nothing unfair about it.
"That place [the cemetery] was essentially abandoned," he says. "It was overgrown, and people were coming in there from the time I was a child, hauling away dirt — and graves — to build roads. My family helped put a stop to that, and that's something I'm proud of."
For her part, while she doesn't like it, Cambra says she's resigned to what she perceives as the deferential way the Misson Dolores curator is treated with respect to Ohlone remains, and, for now at least, is biding her time about the cemetery.
If and when the Muwekma Ohlone gain federal recognition, however, that could change. "There will have to be a day of reckoning about what's going on down there," she says, "and I think Andy knows it."
Meanwhile, Galvan — and the cemetery — are staying busy.