Alarmed by a growing public squabble with local Northern Chumash representatives, the DANA board of directors Tuesday suspended its application for a visitors center, outdoor amphitheater and Chumash village at its Nipomo site.
“It’s time to push the reset button,” said Herb Kandel of the Dana Adobe Nipomo Amigos board.
Instead of moving forward as planned, the county will seek an environmental impact report with a principal focus on Native American cultural resources.
The report is likely to take six months to a year, planners estimated, and it could take longer.
But given the level of what county Supervisor Adam Hill called “hard feelings” over “long-standing historical wounds,” all concerned agreed that the project needs a longer and closer look.
The decision followed a discussion that was steeped in barely suppressed anger between the DANA board and Native Americans, most notably Fred Collins, tribal administrator of the Northern Chumash Tribal Council.
Both sides vacillated between asserting that they want to move forward amicably and accusing the other side of acting in bad faith.
The dispute first came into public view at a July 17 meeting of the Board of Supervisors regarding the expansion. Supervisors told the parties to work out their differences and return for a final decision Tuesday.
The disputants held two meetings, with county planners participating, and “we were unable to come to ... a meeting of the minds,” planning director Jason Giffen said.
The crux of the issue is the Chumash village that is part of the Dana Adobe expansion, and it boils down to this question: Who gets to tell the story of Native Americans’ history — the Native Americans or others?
Collins and other Chumash said they were squeezed out of decision-making after the adobe used them to secure a $3 million grant.
Dana Adobe representatives vehemently deny that accusation, saying they have been and will continue to be inclusive, involving all parties, including Native Americans.
But Collins and others said they want the representations of the past to be complete.
San Luis Obispo resident Sherry Lewis, who is a member of Dana Adobe Nipomo Amigos, said Tuesday that “part of that past does include injustice and cruelty, and we certainly should not shrink from knowing about that.”
“The truth must include the historical memory of the Chumash Nation as well as the family memories of the Danas and of our dominant culture,” Lewis said.
The one thing everyone agreed on is that the planned expansion is desirable. As to the shape and content of that expansion, more discussion is needed, they said.
DANA board members Alan and Helen Daurio said the longer time frame is not likely to affect the grant money.
The grant would help Dana Adobe turn the site into a tourist destination and teaching mecca about ranchos and Native Americans.