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San Antonio

Indigenous Peoples Day — San Antonio's American Indians Protest Handling Of Human Remains At Alamo

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Norma Martinez / Texas Public Radio
Ramon Vasquez, member of the Tap Pilam Coahuiltecan Nation, is backed by protesters as he updates the media on the recent discovery of human remains at the Alamo. Oct. 14, 2019.

The archaeological team at the Alamo announced Friday that human remains were uncovered at the site. On Monday, a group of Native Americans gathered across the street from the Alamo to provide their own perspective on those remains.

  The Alamo is undergoing a half-billion dollar renovation scheduled for completion in 2024.

Not so fast, said Ramon Vasquez, executive director of American Indians in Texas at the Spanish Colonial Missions, and member of the Tap Pilam Coahuiltecan Nation.

“I did an open records request,” Vasquez said. “These remains were found in August. And they’ve continued to find them since then. You’re in a cemetery. My goodness, why be surprised that you found human remains?”

The Alamo used to be a Catholic mission before it became the cradle of Texas Liberty.  The Valero Book of Burials reports more than 1,300 early settlers and indigenous peoples were interred on Alamo grounds between 1703 and 1885.

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Credit Norma Martinez / Texas Public Radio
Construction taking place at the Alamo. Oct. 14, 2019.

The Texas Historical Commission this year designated the Alamo a “Historic Texas Cemetery,” a largely symbolic title that doesn’t guarantee preservation of human remains, which if discovered, would slow down the project.

Speaking across the street from the Alamo, Vasquez said that’s exactly what needs to happen.

“We need to just stop,” he said. “We need to stop right now and reassess the situation. You’re digging on top of a cemetery. You’re going to find remains.”

The Tap Pilam Coahuiltecan Nation last month sued the Texas General Land Office, the nonprofit Alamo Trust, and the City of San Antonio. The group wants the Alamo site officially declared a cemetery. They also accuse the state of ignoring federal laws that would allow lineal descendants a say in ongoing preservation efforts at the Alamo.

The case receives its first hearing either the week before or the week after Thanksgiving.

 

Norma Martinez can be reached by email at norma@tpr.org and on Twitter @NormDog1.