Wana the Bear v. Community Construction, Inc. – 180 Cal. Rptr. 423

Case Name: Wana the Bear v. Community Construction, Inc.
Plaintiff: Wana the Bear
Defendant: Community Construction, Inc.
Citation: 180 Cal. Rptr. 423

Issue: Whether the burial ground, which was excavated by the defendant, achieved a protectable status as a public cemetery under the 1872 cemetery law by virtue as its prior stats as a public graveyard.

Key Facts: The defendant excavated a property to develop a residential community. The property had been used by the Miwok Indians between 1850 and 1870 before they were driven out. The property was known to be a burial ground and has been the subject of numerous archeological studies. The plaintiff brought an action to stop the defendant from excavating after uncovering many of the bodies.
A 1854 act held that a place where six bodies were buried constituted a “public graveyard.” In 1872, a new act added a prescriptive clause that required the land be “used as a public cemetery continuously, without interruption, as a burial ground for five years.” It further declared that “no part of the code was retroactive unless expressly declared.” The Miwoks were no longer using the burial ground in 1873, therefore it was not made a burial ground under this new code.

Holding: The burial ground did not achieve a protectable status as a public cemetery.

Judgment: Affirmed the lower court and did not stop further excavation.