Santa Clara County Erects Solar Panels on Ancient Burial Grounds

Santa Clara County obliviously built a bunch of solar panels over an Ohlone burial ground this summer. Contractors might have plowed through ancient human remains had it not been for a local journalist alerting the county to its glaring oversight.

Willow Glen Resident reporter Julia Baum found out about the site’s significance earlier this month by following a tip from a former Caltrans engineer who oversaw the Highway 87 widening in the early 2000s. He told her that the field between Capitol Expressway and Branham Lane was protected because of its history.

Baum asked county officials if they knew about the bones beneath the solar farm that broke ground back in June. The county apparently had no clue. One official even shrugged off the claim because he could find no public record to confirm it.

Baum kept digging.

She checked in with San Jose State anthropologist Alan Leventhal, who told her that—yep, sure enough—Muwekma Ohlone human remains from 400 to 1,700 years ago were unearthed on the six-acre site back in 1973.

Kirk Girard, who heads up the county’s planning department, admitted in Baum’s follow-up story to a lapse in due diligence. It doesn’t appear that contractors disturbed any remains, but with some trench work underway it could have been a different story.

The county will now work with the Muwekma Ohlone tribe and an archeologist to monitor the project. If workers come across any remains or artifacts, work will stop.

Over the centuries, California’s indigenous tribes were decimated by ethnic cleansing and state-sanctioned genocide.

“The local indigenous people’s community has been oppressed to the point of near extinction,” county Office of Human Relations Director Delorme McKee-Stovall wrote in a Facebook post in response to Baum’s article. “And yet there is still the steady march that continues to diminish all evidence of their extraordinary history in this region. Absent allies, more sacred sites will be disturbed, destroyed and wiped from history.”

Jennifer Wadsworth is the former news editor for San Jose Inside and Metro Silicon Valley. Follow her on Twitter at @jennwadsworth.


  1. It’s apparent that, despite being a bastion of tolerance and compassion, Office of Human Relations Director Delorme McKee-Stovall is incapable of relating to the plight of the tens of thousands of homeless Americans who came to California in desperation – only to find themselves unwelcome by aboriginals who, besides displaying outright hostility, offered these often destitute men, women, and children neither support nor services. Was it because these newcomers’ skin was of a different color, that they spoke a strange language, or was it the fear they brought with them strange cultural practices?

    Whatever it was that motivated the aboriginals to make the newcomers feel so unwelcome and imperiled that they took to arms and banded together in fear, it sure as heck wasn’t the love of diversity or cultural tolerance that Ms. McKee-Stovall is paid to preach. It’s enough to make me wonder what the human relations director really thinks of this state’s displaced aboriginals, if she doesn’t think enough of them to hold them to a standard she equates with common human decency?

    Can’t xenophobia come in the color red?

    • Delorme McKee-Stovall, the director of a “b to the s” county agency that functions as a champion of diversity, found some moral justification to praise as “extraordinary” the culture of an indigenous population that shared not a single one of the values promoted by the agency she heads. Native Americans were not welcoming of strangers, especially those who came in mass with the intention of staying, a stance directly opposite that promoted by Ms. M-S. The natives she admires expressed their objections through violence, even when the newcomers were too few in number to pose a valid threat. This raises a question: what is it that Ms. M-S really believes? Why the double standard? Her agency came into existence for the express purpose of claiming the moral high ground so as to suppress the political influence of local nativists (who had the temerity to think their culture and values worth protecting). By her willingness to defend and praise this state’s indigenous xenophobes she exposes herself not as a moral crusader, but merely another taxpayer-compensated, Leftist political operative.

  2. Synopsis: nothing took place and no remains were disturbed. Although that could have happened. Probably not, though, because the site was deeply covered with fill dirt when the highway was built. And the solar project only involves limited 3-ft excavations.

  3. These are my ancestors and the fact that our people were not even notified until after the fact is hurtful. I do not see any cemetaries with solar panels being built. Regardless if the remains were not touched it was not right the way this all happened. #OhloneNation#Respect

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