Amah-Mutsun comments on the issue of Coyote Valley development proposals

(Attached is a copy of a letter from Valentin Lopez, Chairman of the Amah-Mutsun Tribal Band, regarding development in Coyote Valley. It’s important to recognize the cultural implications as well as the environmental implications from misguided development in Coyote Valley. -Brian)

January 4, 2007

Mr. Daryl Boyd

Planning Services Division

200 East Santa Clara Street

San Jose, CA95113-1905

Subject: Coyote Valley EIR

Dear Mr. Boyd,

I am writing this letter on behalf of the Amah Mutsun Tribal Band (AMTB). The AMTB is comprised of the descendents of Missions San Juan Bautista and Santa Cruz. CoyoteValley represents the transitional territory between the Amah Mutsun and the Muwekma tribes. Together, these tribes represent the indigenous people of Santa ClaraCounty. The purpose of this letter is to express four concerns regarding the CoyoteValley development plan.

Our first concern pertains to the recognition that numerous Ohlone communities historically lived along the waterways of CoyoteValley. If County staff reviewed the historical maps of CoyoteValley, you would find that much of CoyoteValley was inundated with water much of the year. In a recent report by the San Francisco Estuary Institute (SFEI) on the historical ecology of Coyote Creek Watershed, they pointed out that CoyoteValley represents the single largest remaining wetland habitat in the South Bay Area. They also indicated the historic existence of numerous plant species in this area that were critical to the local Ohlone communities. The Amah Mutsun Tribal Band has developed a number of recommendations pertaining to such cultural habitats, one of which is that all construction should be no closer than 300 feet from a natural waterway. It is common, especially in such a heavily populated area, to encounter human burials very close to watersways. For the CoyoteValley development plan, we ask that the 300-foot requirement be implemented using historical maps that show the waterways prior to first contact. In the event this request cannot be honored, we request that a Native American monitor be employed for all underground construction work that occurs within the historical floodplain, and extending out to the 300-foot boundary limit. Furthermore, we ask that only monitors certified by the Society for California Archaeology’s Native American Program be employed.

Our second concern is that the CoyoteValley development plan presents south CoyoteValley as representing “open space.” We feel this is incorrect and grossly inappropirate. Much of the south CoyoteValley is occupied by small ranchettes. These ranchettes should not be considered open space. Privately owned properties such as these have far less protection and present far fewer opportunities for habitat restoration and enhancement, and protection of cultural resources than does publicly owned open space. Our Tribe requests that the City of San Jose provide a clearly written and legally defensible definition of open space and implement that definition in the CoyoteValley development plan. This definition should include provisions to ensure the survival of all existing wildlife in the areas defined as open space, as well as provisions for protection of cultural resources.

Our third concern is that there do not appear to be adequate protections built into the Plan to preserve the Native American village site we visited with County staff. It has been our experience that when the boundries of a cultural site are delineated only by the presence or absence of “hard” artifacts (i.e. stone, bone, and shell), the elements of the cultural landscape that were required to sustain the focal site are ignored, and most often developed. The Amah Mutsun would like the City of San Jose to recognize that when Native American artifacts are encountered, the surrounding landscape associated with those cultural resources should be included in the site designation. We have found that the methods employed by SFEI to reconstruct these historic habitats are sufficient for this purpose. We request that the City of San Jose consider applying protective measures to the full cultural landscape of this Native American village site.

We would also like to work with the City of San Jose on the MatalanVillage site. We feel that this area represents a tremendous educational opportunity for the City and County. We would like to work with the City on the development of a cultural resource center here, including a simulated Native American village, a Mutsun/Muwekma history center, an arts, crafts, and gift center, a fire pit with theatre for story telling, tool making activities, etc. and onsite housing for several tribal members to provide 24/7 security. All structures should be built outside the village site area, as we do not want any construction to occur on known Native American sites. Our tribe would be pleased to work with City staff on the planning and capitol campaign for this cultural center, and can provide technical expertise on the development of exhibits and curricula for this facility. This site should also be available to our tribes’ for dances, feasts, and other ceremonial events.

Our final point concerns other village sites that exist in the CoyoteValley. We request that no construction project be approved for the fenced site that we could not access during our visit. It is critical that this site be adequately surveyed and consultation with Native Americans take place before project approvals are made. Finally, there are other cultural sites that have been lost to construction. We ask that no additional construction be within 300 feet of a know site. For these areas we recommend that a park be built on the site and that the park give recognition to the indigenous people.

In closing, we would very much like to work with City staff on protocols between the Tribe(s) and the City of San Jose to deal with the inadvertent discovery of remains prior to approving any construction project. As always, we are available to meet with you to discuss any or all of these comments. Please feel to contact us at your convenience.


Valentin J. Lopez, Chairman

Amah Mutsun Tribal Band

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.


You are leaving the Green Foothills website to go to our Protect Coyote Valley website.

Continue on to PCV Petition