Navy Bombing Proposed for Salinan Territory

By Debra Utacia Krol


The U.S. Navy has been quietly planning to use one of the Salinan Nation's most sacred areas for a bombing range. Reports from environmental groups say that the Navy is preparing an Environmental Analysis (EA), one of the first steps in setting aside land for military use, for the Stony Valley. The Navy proposes over 900 bombing runs each year, dropping many tons of ordance over Stony Valley and surrounding areas.

Located in a remote part of Fort Hunter Liggett (FHL), in Southern Monterey County, California, Stony Valley was continually inhabited by the Salinan People for over 10,000 years before newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst purchased huge tracts of Monterey County land for a hunting preserve in the early 1900s. The U.S. Army later acquired 165,000 acres of Hearst property for a training base. Congress ordered FHL to be decommissioned in 1995, and several groups have wrangled over the pristine property ever since.

Plans for FHL include a national park, private development, a National Guard or police training facility, and recreation. However, none of these plans include the Salinans, who have been pursuing federal recognition for over ten years, and who maintain first claim to FHL lands. FHL lies in the old San Antonio Mission lands, which were pledged to local Indian tribes by first the Spanish, then the Mexican governments. In 1851, Salinan leaders were signatories with 500 other California Indian leaders to eighteen treaties with the United States; however, the California Constitutional Assembly, not wishing to lose out on the eight million acres promised to Indians in return for the rest of the Golden State, refused to send the treaties to Washington for ratification, and the Salinans lost their lands again.

The traditional lands of the Salinan People range from Dolan Springs in the north to Morro Rock in in San Luis Obispo County, and from the Pacific Ocean east to Peach Tree Valley in neighboring San Benito County. However, the lands in and around FHL are considered to be especially precious to the Salinans, also known as Jolon Indians, as the center of creation, and many sacred sites are sprinkled throughout the region. Also, FHL encompasses the site of at least eight traditional Salinan villages.

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