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American Indian bones found at Danville high school construction site

Expert says skeletal remains could be up to 2,000 years old

Human skeletal remains of as many as 20 American Indians from the Bay Miwok tribe have been uncovered at the construction site of a new high school gym in Danville, a representative of the tribe said Wednesday afternoon.

According to Andrew Galvan, who has traced his ancestry back to the Bay Miwok tribe that once lived in Contra Costa County and who is recognized by the state as the Most Likely Descendent of the remains, the remains could be anywhere from 250 to 2,000 years old. They include the bones of adults, children and infants.

The burial site was first discovered July 8 when construction crews digging the foundation for a new gym on the San Ramon Valley High School campus uncovered the remains of one person. An archeologist working with the Contra Costa County coroner's office examined the bones and determined that they were indeed American Indian remains.

Since then, the remains of as many as 19 more people have been uncovered at the site, Galvan said.

Under California law, when American Indian remains are discovered, the property owner is required to bring an archeologist and a representative from the tribe that the remains most likely belonged to onto the site to oversee their removal.

Galvan's job is to monitor the construction site to make sure that the remains are treated with respect and dignity as the archeologist removes them. The bones will then be taken to an undisclosed site and re-buried, Galvan said.

He said he was not opposed to removing the remains from the site, but wants to make sure they are handled appropriately.

"My ancestors did not have a written language," Galvan said. He said that from what he has learned from the oral tradition, there was no prohibition against removing remains from one site and burying them in a different place.

"It's a matter of being respectful," Galvan said.

Terry Koehne, spokesman for the San Ramon Valley Unified School District, said that the discovery of the remains would most likely delay the construction of the new gym, which was scheduled to open next summer. The bones, however, were found in a relatively small area within the site and crews have been continuing to work on other parts of the project.

The job site is a construction site and, for safety reasons, is not open to the public, Galvan said.

Caitilin McAdoo, Bay City News

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