On a bright Saturday morning in late November, about 25 Native Americans from the Gabrielino/Tongva San Gabriel Band of Mission Indians gathered to bless a piece of land where many of their ancestors will finally, after many years, get a proper burial. 

While Andy Morales, the son of Chief Anthony Morales, prepared the earth by leading chants, burning sage, and spreading a bit of tobacco on the green grass, two Catholic bishops and a chaplain observed and respectfully prayed along with the indigenous people.

“This day symbolizes the coming together of the Native American and the Catholic religions,” said Andy Morales, as he started leading the ceremony and chanting. “That shows strength and unity and it’s also a day of healing for our families and our ancestors.” 

The land in question, located in the Queen of Heaven Catholic Cemetery in Rowland Heights, will now become the permanent site for the reburial of the tribal ancestors thanks to a series of protocols signed earlier this year by the tribe and the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. 

A similar ceremony had occurred a week before at the Good Shepherd Cemetery in Lancaster for the Fernandeño Tataviam Band of Mission Indians. Both were presided by Auxiliary Bishop Edward Clark, episcopal vicar for the Our Lady of the Angels Pastoral Region.

It was an issue of justice and it was a long time coming, said Clark. 

“Both tribes appealed to the archdiocese because they had no place to rebury their ancestors that get unearthed because of construction or when federal law required museums and universities to return remains to the tribes,” said Clark. “They made an appeal to Archbishop José Gomez and he promised that he would find them a place.” 

Full story at Angelus News.