Although more than 40,000 students and faculty attend CSULB today, few know that the land was once an Indian village called Puvungna.
Settled for many hundreds, if not thousands, of years by native Americans, by 1972, Puvungna was all but forgotten. At least until the accidental discovery of the remains of an Indian boy were found by university construction workers that year, according to an article in the college paper, the Union Weekly.
Subsequent research by amateur and professional anthropologists determined that the original village probably spanned most of the hill now covered by the university, the veterans hospital, the remains of Bixby Ranch, as well as many hundreds of homes, a mobile village, a junior high school, and apartments. Today, all that remains is an undeveloped, 22-acre parcel on Bellflower Boulevard, just south of Stearns Street.
While it was rediscovered as an ancient burial site in the early 1970s, it wasn’t until 1979 that Puvungna was commemorated by American Indian students when they reburied the remains of the boy at Puvungna. The site has become a spiritual place for the modern-day Tongva, who believe their god, Chinigchinich, taught from the site.
Puvungna was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1974. Controversy arose in 1992 and 1993, when efforts to develop the grounds into a strip mall and community garden. The plan was strongly opposed by the Tongva, who subsequently founded the “Puvungna Sacred Site Struggle of 1993-1995.”
In 1995, then-CSULB President Robert Maxson vow to never disrupt the Puvungna. Unfortunately, eleven years later, tension resumed between the university and the Tongva when the newly-elected university president, F. King Alexander, no longer recognized the previous treaty.