Burial ground disturbed underneath Bay Bridge

The Bay Bridge’s deadly S-curve was built hundreds of feet above a Muwekma Ohlone tribal burial ground, and spirits whose bodies were unearthed and placed in storage are said to be restless.

The Ohlone were the first people to inhabit the Bay Area, where their burial grounds and other sacred sites are frequently unearthed.

At least 26 Ohlone skeletons were discovered between 2002 and 2004 in a burial ground at Yerba Buena Island, which was subsequently excavated to clear a path for a new Bay Bridge east span.

The east span replacement project has suffered billions of dollars in cost overruns and a decade of construction delays that could force motorists to navigate the temporary S-curve — a dogleg where the speed limit drops from 50 mph to 40 mph — until 2014. A truck driver was allegedly traveling at 50 mph when his pear-laden truck flipped Nov. 9 off the recently installed S-curve and plummeted to the former burial ground, where he died.

The California Highway Patrol responded by aggressively policing the speed limit and Caltrans placed addition striping, signs and other features on the S-curve, helping to slash the curve’s high accident rate.

Bodies unearthed at the Ohlone burial ground were treated differently depending on which government owned the land where they were discovered.

Bodies found on state-owned land were appropriately ceremonially reburied elsewhere on the island, according to tribal spokeswoman Ann Marie Sayers, who led the ceremony.

But skeletons found on adjacent Coast Guard land were placed in storage because the tribe, which is recognized by California, has not been recognized by the United States since the 1930s.

Remains found on Coast Guard land at Yerba Buena Island could only be legally repatriated to the Ohlone people and reburied if the U.S. Department of Interior formally recognizes the tribe, according to Coast Guard spokesman Dan Dewell. The remains are stored securely, he said.

The remains of tens of thousands of Ohlone people excavated from various places, generally on federal land and placed in storage, could be ceremonially reburied if the tribe wins federal recognition through a lawsuit filed in 2003, according to Sayers.

“It creates confusion in the energy and frequency when they’re not at peace or in the spirit world,” Sayers said. “There are burials that want to be reinterred — they want to go back to the spirit world. When there are accidents on the Bay Bridge, it doesn’t surprise me at all.”


Ohlone homeland

Counties that were part of the Muwekma Ohlone until the 18th-century arrival of the Spanish Empire:

  • San Francisco
  • San Mateo
  • Santa Clara
  • Alameda
  • Contra Costa
  • Napa*
  • Santa Cruz*
  • Solano*
  • San Joaquin*

* Portion of the modern county was Muwekma Ohlone homeland

Source: Muwekma Ohlone Tribe

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