Indigenous Peoples and Human Rights

September 9, 2008

UC Berkeley: Grandmother oak fed to wood chipper

UC Berkeley feeds grandmother oak to wood chipper, destroys sacred grove and jails tree sitters

By Morning Star Gali
Photo by Brenda Norrell
Dear friends of the Memorial Oak Grove,
Today, after 648 days, the treesitters and the University of California reached an agreement that brought the Oak Grove treesit to an end.
The treesitters agreed to come down voluntarily, and University representatives agreed that they would make a public statement that the University will create new ways for the community to be involved in land use decisions going forward. What form precisely that will take is yet to be determined.
It is up to the community to ensure that the format is substantial, and that the community is involved in the beginning, brainstorm phases and on an ongoing basis with land use.
The University representatives and treesit supporters agreed that confrontations are in no one's best interest, and it is a mutually shared interest for real cooperation to take place.
The supporters of the treesitters have made a request for bail funds... please visit: on "donate"or if you'd rather send a check, make it out to "Oaks Arrestees Defense Committee" and mail it to....Oaks Arrestees Defense Committes1610 North Normandie Avenue, #210Hollywood, California, 90027
Many brave souls are in jail right now, including the four treesitters who surrendered to the UC Police (Huck, Mondo, Shem, and Ernesto), as well several ground supporters who were arrested today.
Also, Native American leader and organizer Morningstar Gali requested that UC Police honor a prior commitment they made to allow the Native Community to enter the remains of the grove and place tobacco at the stump of the Grandmother Oak once the treesitters come down. Thus far, UC Police have refused to respond to this request. If you agree that UC Police should allow the ceremony to happen, please call the office of Chief of Police Victoria Harrison at 510-642-1133 to express your views, or send an email to
Furthermore, treesit supporters want the stump of the Grandmother Oak returned to the Native community so that they may create drums and other religious artifacts. If you agree, please state this desire as well when you contact Chief Harrison.
The Memorial Oak Grove is regarded as a sacred place to Native American people and is documented as such by UC Berkeley's own Anthropology Department. There is evidence of 2 shell mounds sites in the area, with 19 ancestral remains found within them. Along with UC Berkeley's attempt to develop on a sacred place, they are guilty of housing over 17,000 sacred remains and objects. UCB currently holds the largest human remains collection in the United States of which it is not in compliance with the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA)
Morning Star described the importance of this area, when the destruction began last week.
"I brought my five year old daughter and two month old son out today to bear witness to the massacre of sacred life," said Morning Star Gali of the Pit River Tribe and co-chair of Advocates to Protect Sacred Sites. "The cops responded by yelling to move them behind the median. I asked if they would stand by as complacent if it was their grandmother’s gravesites being desecrated. I want my children here to witness the destruction of sacred life and how important it is to protect it. I wanted them to witness the cops, arborists and UC Officials that participated and cheered as the trees came crashing down from bulldozers. This exhibits the ongoing Human Rights abuses committed by the University. They refuse to comply with NAGPRA by holding 13,000 of our ancestors remains hostage, they illegally reorganized NAGPRA with no tribal consultation and now they continue to desecrate sacred burial grounds."The Memorial Grove is a native Coast Live Oak ecosystem. Native oaks support the most complex terrestrial ecosystems in California. The California Native Plant Society CNPS has stated that the Memorial Oak Grove is “an important gene bank for the Coast Live Oak.” Every one of the oaks in the grove should be protect by law and the Berkeley Coast Live Oak moratorium forbids cutting mature Coast Live Oaks in Berkeley. UC refuses to recognize the law. The grove is also part of a National Historic Site. The Stadium and landscape is a memorial to Californians who died in World War I.
The treesitters say that they sincerely thank you for your love, your time, your letters, your food, your water, your witnessing, your words, your presence. We know many of you contributed deeply to this campaign in many ways, and many of those contributions have gone unrecognized and unseen. So know that whether your participation was visible or not, the treesitters say that your support for them -- and most importantly, for the trees -- is deeply appreciated.
This email list is obviously winding down, although it is possible that something new that relates to community relationships with UC could be created. Stay tuned for that.
If you're curious what ground supporters are up to now, you can reach them at 510 938 2109. And again, ground support says a way to help out those who have done so much is to visit:
Your friends from the Oak Grove

Photo: Long Walkers gathered with the grandmother oak for prayers at the beginning of the Longest Walk in Feb. 2008/Photo Brenda Norrell

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