Native American remains found at Santa Ana construction site will receive ceremonial burial

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Authorities respond to investigate after human bones were found beneath a sidewalk in Santa Ana on Oct. 27, 2020. (KTLA)

Authorities respond to investigate after human bones were found beneath a sidewalk in Santa Ana on Oct. 27, 2020. (KTLA)

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Two sets of remains of Native Americans found at a construction site in a Santa Ana neighborhood will receive a ceremonial burial, officials said.

Bones discovered in late October by city workers in the 1600 block of West Borchard Avenue were determined to be at least 100 years old and are possibly those of a member of the Gabrielino-Tongva tribe who once lived in the area, the Los Angeles Times reported Saturday.

It was the second time in recent months that remains were found by crews excavating for a streetcar project in the suburban area, prompting homicide detectives to begin an investigation.

As required by law, the Orange County Coroner Division notified the state Native American Heritage Commission.

The commission was then required to immediately contact the “most likely descendent” — often, a tribal representative with roots near where the remains were found.

In both the Santa Ana cases, the commission reached out to Gabrielino-Tongva Chief Anthony Morales as the descendent responsible for recommending a place and method of burial.

After researchers study the remains, Morales will find a suitable place to bury the two sets of Santa Ana remains in a traditional ceremony, held in a secluded area and attended by a small group of tribe members.

“Through prayer, through song, through reburial — that’s our healing,” Morales told the Times.

A Tongva village is believed to have once stood on the area where both sets of remains were found. With the Santa Ana River nearby, it was a logical spot to settle, Morales said.

For at least 10,000 years, the Tongva lived in the Los Angeles Basin, northern Orange County and the Channel Islands, including Catalina.

In Southern California, construction projects have sometimes uncovered large burial grounds.

During freeway construction in Long Beach in the 1950s, workers found the bones of about 100 Native inhabitants. In 2016, more than a half-century later, the remains were reburied in the same area, the newspaper said.

In Orange County in 2007, 164 Native American remains were found at a Huntington Beach construction site. Last fall in the county, some portions of the 405 Freeway widening project were delayed after workers came across ancient bones.

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