By: Jacob Adelman, Associated Press
LOS ANGELES (AP).- The state Native American Heritage Commission asked coroner's officials Thursday to order a halt to work on a Mexican-American cultural center in downtown Los Angeles over concerns that Indian remains are being disturbed.
Commission staffer Dave Singleton said in a letter to the Los Angeles County Coroner's Department that the LA Plaza de Cultura y Artes project should be suspended until an investigation into the remains is completed.
Singleton said archaeologists observing the project have reported that none of the remains belonged to Indians, but that Native Americans living in the area fear that may not be the case.
"Given the strong concerns expressed by the Native Americans of the Los Angeles basin, the Native American Heritage Commission respectfully requests that the Los Angeles Department of Coroner stop the project," Singleton wrote.
The coroner's office has the power to halt work on the project because of its jurisdiction over unclaimed human remains, Singleton said.
Messages left with coroner's office director Anthony Hernandez were not returned.
LA Plaza president Miguel Angel Corzo said that remains have been found at the site, but that coroner's officials confirmed that they dated from when the parcel was a church cemetery during the first half of the 19th century.
Center staff have been assured by archeologists and coroner's officials that the project site had never been used for Indian burials, he said.
"Everything we have been doing has been done in concert with all the accepted archaeological practices based on the premise that the cemetery that was there before was a Christian cemetery," Corzo said.
Copyright 2011 The Associated Press.