Native American Remains Unearthed During Excavation on BART Silicon Valley Extension Project

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    NEWSLETTERS

    It happened two years ago, but the world is just getting word of a historic discovery made during work on the Silicon Valley BART extension project. Damian Trujillo reports.

    Excavation workers uncovered the remains of Native Americans and a trove of prehistoric artifacts during construction on the Silicon Valley BART extension two years ago, in a discovery that's only now coming to light.

    In all, archaeologists unearthed the remains of 17 Native Americans -- probably members of the Ohlone tribe -- during excavation that began back in late 2012, the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority announced Friday.

    Along with the remains, a number of prehistoric artifacts were found at the worksite on Lundy Avenue, just north of Berryessa in San Jose.

    The extension project is in its second year of construction, but VTA didn’t reveal until Friday that work was temporarily halted on the BART-to-San Jose extension project. That’s the protocol whenever excavators find Native American remains.

    VTA Board Chairman Ash Kalra said the Silicon Valley is home to many sacred burial grounds, primarily those of the Ohlone Nation.

    “This is going to happen when you’re digging deep in a project,” Kalra said.

    Kalra said the find was kept under wraps out of respect to the Ohlone tribe. He said the initial discovery was made in 2012. That’s when construction temporarily came to a halt until the local Ohlones were notified, and the remains were respectfully removed.

    “Part of that protocol is, once the remains are identified, particularly if they're Native American remains ... that they don’t publicly announce it,” Kalra said. “They first inform the tribe.”

    VTA worked with the Native American Heritage Commission in Sacramento to make sure the protocol was followed closely.

    Today, construction continues in the region rooted in Native American history. Attempts to reach leaders of the Ohlone Nation in the South Bay were not immediately successful.

    Crews broke ground on the BART-to-San Jose extension in April 2012. Most of the construction is expected to be completed by 2016. System testing is expected to begin in 2017.

    The new line is scheduled to begin passenger service in 2018, but BART officials say it could open earlier with accelerated construction schedules.