By Laura Prishmont Quimby, U.S. Army Garrison Presidio of MontereyNovember 20, 2018
In a ceremony without precedent, senior leadership from the U.S. Army Garrison Presidio of Monterey and Army National Military Cemeteries hosted four sovereign Native American tribal nations at the Presidio Cemetery where the remains of 17 Native Americans and more than 300 associated funerary objects, discovered on the Presidio between 1910 and1985, were reburied on Oct. 22, 2017.
The ceremony represented the culmination of two years of coordination, in accordance with the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act, between Presidio, Office of the Assistant Chief of Staff for Installation Management, U.S. Army Installation Management Command, ANMC, Office of the General Council, Picayune Rancheria of Chukchansi Indians, Tule River Indian Tribe of the Tule River Reservation, Table Mountain Rancheria, Santa Rosa Indian Community, Santa Ynez Band of the Chumash Mission Indians of the Santa Ynez Reservation, and the Monterey-area state-recognized Ohlone/Costanoan-Esselen Nation.
This was the first time in Army history that ANMC has authorized the burial of repatriated Native American remains in a military post cemetery, and it will serve as an example for other installations in circumstances similar to Presidio's, as burial in a post cemetery guarantees long-term protection of the reburial site with zero impacts to military training areas and future sites for mission expansion.
Prior to the ceremony, the Army and tribes drafted and signed a reburial agreement, another "first" for the Army, thus requiring close coordination between Presidio, OACSIM, OGC and ANMC.
The remains were buried with honors in a private ceremony closed to the public at the request of tribal leaders. Louise Miranda Ramirez, chair of the Ohlone/Costanoan-Esselen Nation, presided over the ceremony.
"This is my family," Ramirez said, referring to her ancestors. "This is where I come from. Without them I could not be here."
The remains, along with offerings of sage, tobacco and glass beads, were lowered on a redwood plank under a flag raised to half-mast. Taps was played at a respectful distance. But the plaintive notes of the flute set the tone for the ceremonial rites.
Among those present to show their respects were Karen Durham-Aguilera, executive director of ANMC; Luis Alejo, Monterey County supervisor District 1; Mary Adams, Monterey County supervisor District 5; Mary Ann Carbone, mayor of Sand City; Ruben Barrios, chairman of the Santa Rosa Indian Community; and Joseph Garfield, council member and spiritual leader of the Tule River Reservation.
"This cooperative effort has resulted in appropriate respect being rendered to these long-departed American Natives and is now the model for other U.S. Army installations across the country," said Col. Lawrence Brown, garrison commander for the Presidio of Monterey. "These remains have found their final resting place in hallowed ground and now take their rightful place among the honored to be protected throughout history."
Laura Prishmont Quimby, MA, RPA, is cultural resources program manager and deputy cemetery responsible official, U.S. Army Garrison Presidio of Monterey.