Soon after I returned from Arizona, I had the opportunity to attend a ceremony hosted by the City of Napa. The city mothers and fathers of Napa, in all their materialistic wisdom, had allowed a foreign airline company to build condominiums next to land that was well-known to be an ancient burial ground. No one had ever done any type of excavation there despite is being common knowledge that it had been a burial ground. When the airline wanted to expand the condominiums, they wanted to build them on the burial ground. Human bone was found in eight different places during the core testing process, and still that did not deter them from proceeding. Due to the outcry from the locals, the accepted solution to the problem was to tear up the existing tennis courts to build the condos on that land, and then cover the burial ground with five feet of soil, and then build tennis courts over it. Thus, “protecting” the burial ground from being disrupted.
Quite a big deal was made about the sanction that the project had from the local Indigenous population, and the City and the airline held a “ Wappo blessing ceremony” the day before construction was to start. Because Mike worked in the construction industry, he was able to get tickets for the three of us to attend. Amidst a lot of champagne and hors d’oeuvres sat the movers and shakers of Napa. And one Native American. The ceremony was performed by this man. He was from Santa Rosa, forty miles away and on the other side of the Mayacamas hills, and claimed to be a descendant of the Napa Valley’s indigenous Wappo. When he stood up to speak, he announced that he was a practicing Baptist and didn’t know much about the ways of the people who lived there first. He prayed in the name of Jesus Christ, and as he put the bone fragment in the ground, he said that it didn’t make any difference anyway, because all the Native Peoples would be re-united at the Resurrection.
I stayed for as much of this as I could stand, and then made a very big deal of my leaving, saying it was a travesty against the Wappo People, and taking my son and husband with me. I was so completely upset by the utter disregard for the culture for the sake of money, that I could barely contain my anger.
That evening, after everyone left the area, I returned. My husband sat, with our son, in the car parked in the lot across the street and kept watch. I climbed through the fence that surrounded the area, and I sat where the bone had been put in the ground and began to do ceremony. I prayed and I cried as I watched the smoke from the sage I burned go towards the sky. Mostly, I said I was sorry, so completely sorry.
When I felt that it was finished, I sat there and began to wonder if what I had done was the “right” thing. I wondered if I had done the ceremony correctly. I wondered if I had transgressed somehow and insulted the spirits that were there. My fears were allayed when rain began to fall gently upon me… from a clear blue sky.