Ann Marie Sayers
"We are from here. There are some elders that we have that are from the direct village site that we are discussing today."
--Ann Marie Sayers
Ann Marie Sayers, who was named the most likely descendant of the 6000 year old remains of the Ohlone child unearthed at the Knoll near Branciforte Creek on August 2, appeared Sunday at an Ohlone speaking event organized by the Save the Knoll Coalition held at Pacific Cultural Center in Santa Cruz. 200 people attended the event, which offered food, arts and crafts for sale, singing and music performances, and featured speakers Tony Cerda, Corrina Gould, Wounded Knee DeOcampo, Henry Dominguez, and Sayers.
This was Ann Marie Sayers' most lengthy public discussion of the issues surrounding the burial site that is currently being disturbed by the construction by KB Home, and her comments cleared up some points that many have been curious about.
She stated that there are indeed direct descendants of the Ohlone people who originally lived in the village that was located at the site, and she is in contact with them. Some members of the public have described the site, to the detriment of the Ohlone people, as part of an ancient history that should be discussed in terms of archeology and artifacts, as opposed to one that is set in a contemporary context and who's uses resemble more closely those commonly associated with cemeteries and a number of types of active sacred sites. People alive today have a long standing connection to the Knoll and the nearby field near Branciforte Creek.
Sayers mentioned her mother's views on the issue of burials, "My mother believed when a burial is disturbed, the spirit of that individual is wandering until that individual is re-interred ceremonially." This was the first time she has mentioned publicly that the desecration that had occurred at the Knoll could possibly be repaired ceremonially. For Sayers, the presence of her ancestors is not an isolated intellectual fact, it is something that can be felt, and it is important to her that people have prayed at the site, "I'm just really impressed with the native peoples and the non-native peoples who have come up to pray on the Knoll to acknowledge the people who were there, and who's spirits still are because you can feel them." Sayers recalled when she was first told that she was named most likely descendant of the person unearthed, "I was told it was a five to seven year old child; it just hits you, and goes inside of you, you feel it."
Sayers couldn't be more positive about her experiences with the support she has received from the community, saying, "Today is the best time for a California Indian to be living, since contact, and it is because of people like you, thank you so very very much."
She mentioned her frustrations with the process of interacting with the city, though: "I believe it was the Native Plant Society that brought a lawsuit against the city, and they were able to get this huge, immense area protected with a 50 foot buffer for a spine flower, but when it comes to our ancestors it's like we don't count, it's like we are invisible, but we're not, we're still here, and we still have a connection with where our ancestors were from."
She closed her comments with a statement of gratitude directed towards the audience, "I cannot tell you how much your presence to learn more about the original people on whose land we are on, how important it is to me, and for all the Ohlone peoples, for all native peoples, because we are still here."
To learn more about Ann Marie Sayers, visit the Indian Canyon Website. Indian Canyon is the only Indian Country located on the Central Coast of California. It is the land her family has lived on for generations, and that Sayers fought for to gain federal protection.
For more information on how to help protect the burials, see:http://savetheknoll.org/