|Regions with significant populations|
|United States ( California)|
|English, Spanish, formerly Tongva|
|Traditional tribal religion, Christianity|
The Tongva ( TONG-v?) are a Native American people of Southern California. They historically inhabited the Los Angeles Basin and the Southern Channel Islands, an area covering approximately 4,000 square miles (10,000 km2). The Tongva are also known as the Gabrieleño and Fernandeño people,[a] names derived from the Spanish missions built on their territory: Mission San Gabriel Arcángel and Mission San Fernando Rey de España.[b] Along with the neighboring Chumash, the Tongva were the most powerful indigenous people to inhabit Southern California. At the time of European contact, they may have numbered 5,000 to 10,000.
Many lines of evidence suggest that the Tongva are descended from Uto-Aztecan-speaking peoples who originated in what is now Nevada and moved southwest into coastal Southern California 3,500 years ago. These migrants either absorbed or pushed out the Hokan-speaking peoples in the region. By 500 AD, the Tongva had come to occupy all the lands now associated with them. A hunter-gatherer society, the Tongva traded widely with neighboring peoples. Over time, scattered communities came to speak distinct dialects of the Tongva language, part of the Takic subgroup of the Uto-Aztecan language family. There may have been five or more such dialects (three on the southernmost Channel Islands and at least two on the mainland). The Tongva language became extinct in the twentieth century, but a reconstructed form continues to be spoken today.
Initial Spanish exploration of the Los Angeles area occurred in 1542, but sustained contact with the Tongva came only after Mission San Gabriel Arcángel was constructed in 1771. This marked the beginning of an era of forced relocation and exposure to Old World diseases, leading to the rapid collapse of the Tongva population because of high mortality from the diseases. At times the Tongva violently resisted Spanish rule, such as the 1785 rebellion led by the female chief Toypurina. In 1821, Mexico gained its independence from Spain and the government sold mission lands to ranchers, forcing the Tongva to culturally assimilate. Three decades later, California was ceded to the United States following its success in the Mexican-American War. Although a California Senate Bill of 2008 asserts that the US government signed treaties with the Tongva, promising 8.5 million acres (3,400,000 ha) of land for reservations, and that these treaties were never ratified, a paper published in 1972 by R.F. Heiser of Stanford University shows that the eighteen treaties made between April 29, 1851, and August 22, 1852 were negotiated with persons who were not representing any actual "tribes", and that none of these persons had authority to cede lands that belonged to the Indians. By the turn of the 20th century, the Island Tongva had disappeared and the mainland communities were also nearing extinction.
The endonym Tongva was recorded by American ethnographer C. Hart Merriam in 1903 and has been widely adopted by scholars and descendants. The tribe's website has said they prefer their name for themselves, the endonym Kizh.
Since 2006, four organizations have claimed to represent the Tongva Nation: the Gabrielino-Tongva Tribe, known as the "hyphen" group from the hyphen in their name; the Gabrielino/Tongva Tribe, known as the "slash" group; the Gabrieleño Band of Mission Indians; and the Gabrieleño/Tongva Tribal Council. Two of the groups are the result of a hostile split over the question of building an Indian casino. In 1994, the state of California recognized the Tongva "as the aboriginal tribe of the Los Angeles Basin." No organized group representing the Tongva has attained recognition as a tribe by the federal government. In 2008, more than 1,700 people identified as Tongva or claimed partial ancestry.
The first recorded endonym for the Tongva people was Kizh (also spelled Kij), from 1846. Although subsequent authors equated this with the word for "houses" (also often spelled kizh), Hale gives the word for house as k?tç in a list where the language was called "K?j", suggesting that the words were distinct. The term Kizh was generally used at that time to designate the language, and the first comprehensive publication on the language used it.
In 1875, Yarrow indicated that the name Kizh was unknown at Mission San Gabriel. He reported that the natives called themselves Tobikhar, and spoke the Spanish language more than their own. In 1885, Hoffman also referred to the natives as Tobikhar.
The word Tongva was recorded by C. Hart Merriam in October, 1903 from a single informant, a Gabrieleño woman named Mrs. James Rosemyre (née Narcisa Higuera), who lived around Fort Tejon, near Bakersfield. Merriam could not pronounce the village name Toviscangna. He abbreviated or spelled it Tong-v?; by his orthography, it would be pronounced , TONG-vay.
Cindi Alvitre, a professor in American Indian studies and anthropology at California State University, Long Beach, and the first woman chair of the Gabrielino-Tongva Tribal Council, asserts, "The name Tongva is what we've chosen to use in the present". E. Gary Stickel, an expert in cultural resources, observes that ethnologist John Peabody Harrington, who conducted extensive ethnographic work among the Southern California tribes, wrote in his notes (presently housed at the Smithsonian Institution archives) that the word tongva refers to where the Gabrieleño people ground their seeds on rocks, and that the noun must be accompanied by a positional prefix. Stickel writes that the term tongva has been used mistakenly to refer to the tribe "when, according to Harrington, it refers to what archaeologists call a 'bedrock mortar', which is a rock outcrop with holes in it created by Indians pounding pestles into them to process acorns and other plant products." Either "Gabrieleño" or "Gabrielino" is part of every official tribal name.
The territory which in historical times was occupied by the Kizh (pronounced "Keech", meaning "People of the willow houses") had been inhabited by Native Americans for more than 10,000 years. A prehistoric milling area estimated to be 8,000 years old was discovered in 2006 at the base of the San Gabriel Mountains near Azusa, California. The find yielded arrowheads, hearths and stone slabs used to grind seeds as well as tools and implements, but no human or animal bones. The Chowigna site in Palos Verdes, California, excavated in the 1930s, dates back 7,000 years.
In 2007 and early 2008, more than 174 human remains, some up to 8,500 years old, were unearthed by archaeologists at a development site of Brightwater Hearthside Homes in the Bolsa Chica Mesa area in Huntington Beach, California. This land was once shared by the Tongva and Acjachemem tribes. The site was in legal limbo for years before Hearthside was given permission to start construction of over 300 homes. The Tongva and Acjachemem Indians are in dispute over the remains and how to handle them.
As speakers of a language of the Uto-Aztecan family, the remote ancestors of the Tongva probably coalesced as a people in the Sonoran Desert, between perhaps 3,000 and 5,000 years ago. This was a center of that language family.
The diversity within the Takic group is "moderately deep"; rough estimates by comparative linguists place the breakup of common Takic into the Luiseño-Juaneño on one hand, and the Tongva-Serrano on the other, at about 2,000 years ago. (This is comparable to the differentiation of the Romance languages of Europe). The division of the Tongva-Serrano group into the separate Tongva and Serrano peoples is more recent, and may have been influenced by Spanish missionary activity.
On October 7, 1542, an exploratory expedition led by Spanish explorer Juan Cabrillo reached Santa Catalina in the Channel Islands, where his ships were greeted by Gabrieleños in a canoe. The following day, Cabrillo and his men, the first Europeans known to have interacted with the Gabrieleño people, entered a large bay on the mainland, which they named "Baya de los Fumos" on account of the many smoke fires they saw there. This is commonly believed to be San Pedro Bay, near present-day San Pedro.
Spanish Franciscan priests founded two missions in what is now Los Angeles County; the Gabrieleños lived in the area around Mission San Gabriel, founded in 1771, and the Fernandeños lived near Mission San Fernando, founded in 1797. Both groups have been designated as Gabrieleño. Although their language idioms were distinguishable, they did not diverge greatly, and it is possible there were as many as half a dozen dialects rather than the two which the existence of the missions has lent the appearance of being standard.
The demarcation of the Fernandeño and the Gabrieleño territories is mostly conjectural, and there is no known point in which the two groups differed markedly in customs. The wider Gabrieleño group occupied what is now Los Angeles County south of the Sierra Madre and half of Orange County, as well as the islands of Santa Catalina and San Clemente.
At the Gabrieleño settlement of Yangna (Yaangna) along the Los Angeles River, missionaries and Indian neophytes, or baptized converts, built the first town of Los Angeles in 1781. It was called El Pueblo de Nuestra Señora la Reina de los Ángeles de Porciúncula (The Village of Our Lady, the Queen of the Angels of Porziuncola). In 1784 a sister Mission, the Nuestra Señora Reina de los Angeles Asistencia, was founded at Yaanga as well.
The Gabrieleño occupied the main part of the most fertile lowland of southern California, including a stretch of sheltered coast with a pleasant climate and abundant food resources, and the most habitable of the Santa Barbara Islands. They were perhaps the most culturally advanced group south of the Tehachapi, and the wealthiest of the Uto-Aztecan speakers in California, dominating other native groups culturally wherever contacts occurred. Many of the cultural developments of the surrounding southern peoples had their origin with the Gabrieleño.
The Gabrieleño people had a concentrated population along the coast. They fished and hunted in the estuary of the Los Angeles River, and like the Chumash, their neighbors to the north and west along the Pacific coast, the Gabrieleño built seaworthy plank canoes, called te'aat, from driftwood. To build them, they used planks of driftwood pine that were sewn together with vegetable fiber cord, edge to edge, and then glued with the tar that was available either from the La Brea Tar Pits, or as asphalt that had washed up on shore from offshore oil seeps. The finished vessel was caulked with plant fibers and tar, stained with red ochre, and sealed with pine pitch. The te'aat, as noted by the Sebastián Vizcaíno expedition, could hold up to 20 people as well as their gear and trade goods. These canoes allowed the development of trade between the mainland villages and the offshore islands, and were important to the region's economy and social organization, with trade in food and manufactured goods being carried on between the people on the mainland coast and people in the interior as well. The Gabrieleño regularly paddled their canoes to Catalina Island, where they gathered abalone, which they pried off the rocks with implements made of fragments of whale ribs or other strong bones.
The Gabrieleño proper called themselves kumi.vit. Their villages were located in places with accessible drinking water, protection from the elements, and productive areas where different ecological niches on the land intersected. Situating their villages at these resource islands enabled the Gabrieleño to gather the plant products of two or more zones in close proximity.
The Gabrieleño did not practice horticulture or agriculture, as their well-developed hunter-gatherer and trade economy provided adequate food resources. Living in the mild climate of southern California, the men and children usually went nude, and women wore only a two-piece skirt, the back part being made from the flexible inner bark of cottonwood or willow, or occasionally deerskin. The front apron was made of cords of twisted dog bane or milkweed. People went barefoot except in rough areas where they wore crude sandals made of yucca fiber. In cold weather, they wore robes or capes made from twisted strips of rabbit fur, deer skins, or bird skins with the feathers still attached. Also used as blankets at night, these were made of sea otter skins along the coast and on the islands.
Households consisted of a main house (kiiy) and temporary camp shelters used during food gathering excursions. In the summer, families who lived near grasslands collected roots, seeds, flowers, fruit, and leafy greens, and in the winter families who lived near chaparral shrubland collected nuts and acorns, yucca, and hunted deer. Some prairie communities moved to the coast in the winter to fish, hunt whales and elephant seals, and harvest shellfish. Those villages located on the coast during the summer went on food collecting trips inland during the winter rainy season to gather roots, tubers, corms, and bulbs of plants including cattails, lilies, and wild onions.
Men performed most of the heavy, short-duration labor; they hunted, fished, helped with some food-gathering, and carried on trade with other cultural groups. Large game animals were hunted with bow and arrows, and small game was taken with deadfall traps, snares, and bows made of buckeye wood. John P. Harrington recorded that the Gabrieleño used rattlesnake venom as an arrow poison. Burrowing animals were driven from their burrows with smoke and clubbed; communal rabbit drives were made during the seasonal controlled burning of chaparral on the prairie, the rabbits being killed with nets, bow and arrows, and throwing sticks.
The Gabrieleño used harpoons, spear-throwers, and clubs to hunt marine mammals. Fishing was done from shorelines or along rivers, streams, and creeks with hook and line, nets, basketry traps, spears, bow and arrows, and poisons made from plants. The women collected and prepared plant and some animal food resources and made baskets, pots, and clothing. In their old age, they and the old men cared for the young and taught them Gabrieleño lifeways.
Gabrieleño material culture and technology reflected a sophisticated knowledge of the working properties of natural materials and a highly developed artisanship, shown in many articles of everyday utility decorated with shell inlay, carving, and painting. Most of these items, including baskets, shell tools, and wooden weapons, were extremely perishable. Soapstone from quarries on Catalina Island was used to make cooking implements, animal carvings, pipes, ritual objects, and ornaments.
Using the stems of rushes (Juncus sp .), grass (Muhlenbergia rigens), and squawbush (Rhus trilobata), women fabricated coiled and twined basketry in a three-color pattern for household use, seed collecting, and ceremonial containers to hold grave offerings. They sealed some baskets, such as water bottles, with asphalt to make watertight containers for holding liquids.
The Gabrieleño used the leaves of tule reeds as well as those of cattails to weave mats and thatch their shelters. Bread was made from the yellow pollen of cattail heads, and the underground rhizomes were dried and ground into a starchy meal. The young shoots were eaten raw.
The seeds of chia, a herbaceous plant of the sage family, were gathered in large quantities when they were ripe. The flower heads were beaten with a paddle over a tightly woven basket to collect the seeds. These were dried or roasted and ground into a flour called "pinole," which was often mixed with the flour of other ground seeds or grains. Water was added to make a cooling drink; mixing with less water yielded a kind of porridge that could be baked into cakes.
Acorn mush was a staple food of the Gabrieleños, as it was of all the Mission Indians. Acorns were gathered in October; this was a communal effort with the men climbing the trees and shaking them while the women and children collected the nuts. The acorns were stored in large wicker granaries supported by wooden stakes well above the ground. Preparing them for food took about a week. Acorns were placed, one at a time, on end in the slight hollow of a rock and their shells broken by a light blow from a small hammerstone; then the membrane, or skin, covering the acorn meat was removed. Following this process the acorn meats were dried for days, after which the kernels were pounded into meal with a pestle. This was done in a stone mortar or in a mortar hole in a boulder. Large bedrock outcroppings near oak stands often display evidence of the community mills where the women labored.
The pounded acorn meal was put into baskets and the bitter tannic acid it contained was leached out to make the meal more palatable and digestible. The prepared meal was cooked by boiling in water in a watertight grass-woven basket or in a soapstone bowl into which heated stones were dropped. Soapstone casseroles were used directly over the fire. Various foods of meat, seeds, or roots were cooked by the same method. The mush thus prepared was eaten cold or nearly so, as was all their food. Another favored Gabrieleño food was the seed kernel of a species of plum (prunus ilicifolia) they called islay, which was ground into meal and made into gruel.
Reciprocity and sharing of resources were important values in Gabrieleño culture. Hugo Reid reported that the hoarding of food supplies was so stigmatized by the Gabrieleño moral code that hunters would give away large portions of coveted foods such as fresh meat, and that under some circumstances, hunters were prohibited from eating their own kill or fishermen from eating their own catch.
In the Gabrieleño economic system, food resources were managed by the village chief, who was given a portion of the yield of each day's hunting, fishing, or gathering to add to the communal food reserves. Individual families stored some food to be used in times of scarcity. The Gabrieleño territory was the center of a flourishing trade network that extended from the Channel Islands as far east as the Colorado River, allowing the Gabrieleño to maintain trade relations with the Cahuilla, Serrano, Luisenio, Chumash, and Mojave cultural groups.
The earliest ethnological surveys of the Christianized population of the San Gabriel area, who were then known by the Spanish as Gabrielino, were conducted in the mid-19th century. By this time, their pre-Christian religious beliefs and mythology were already fading. The Gabrieleño language was on the brink of extinction by 1900, so only fragmentary records of the indigenous language and culture of the Gabrieleño have been preserved. Gabrieleño was one of the Cupan languages in the Takic language group, which is part of the Uto-Aztecan family of languages. It may be considered a dialect with Fernandeño, but it has not been a language of everyday conversation since the 1940s. The Gabrieleño people now speak English but a few are attempting to revive their language by using it in everyday conversation and ceremonial contexts. Presently, Gabrieleño is also being used in language revitalization classes and in some public discussion regarding religious and environmental issues.
The library of Loyola Marymount University, located in Los Angeles (Westchester), has an extensive collection of archival materials related to the Tongva and their history.
In the 21st century, an estimated 1,700 people self-identify as members of the Tongva or Gabrieleño tribe. In 1994, the state of California recognized the Gabrielino-Tongva Tribe (Spanish: Tribu de Gabrieleño-Tongva) and the Fernandino-Tongva Tribe (Spanish: Tribu de Fernandeño-Tongva), but neither has gained federal recognition.
The Gabrieleño/Tongva people do not accept one organization or government as representing them. They have had strong internal disagreements about governance and their future, largely related to plans supported by some members to open a gaming casino on land that would be considered part of the Gabrieleño/Tongva's homeland. Gaming casinos have generated great revenues for many Native American tribes, but not all Tongva people believe the benefits outweigh negative aspects. The Gabrielino/Tongva Tribe (sometimes called the "slash" group) and Gabrielino-Tongva Tribe (sometimes called the "hyphen" group) are the two primary factions advocating a casino for the Tongva nation, with sharing of revenues by all the people. The Gabrielino/Tongva Tribal Council of San Gabriel is the primary faction that does not support gaming. None of these organizations is recognized as a tribe by the federal government.
In 1990, the Gabrielino/Tongva of San Gabriel filed for federal recognition. Other Gabrieleño groups have done the same. The Gabrielino/Tongva of California Tribal Council and the Coastal Gabrielino-Diegueno Band of Mission Indians filed federal petitions in 1997. These applications for federal recognition remain pending.
The San Gabriel group gained acknowledgement of its nonprofit status by the state of California in 1994. In 2001, the San Gabriel council divided over concessions given to the developers of Playa Vista and a proposal to build an Indian casino in Compton, California. A Santa Monica faction formed that advocated gaming for the tribe, which the San Gabriel faction opposed.
The San Gabriel council and Santa Monica faction sued each other over allegations that the San Gabriel faction expelled some members in order to increase gaming shares for other members. There were allegations that the Santa Monica faction stole tribal records in order to support its case for federal recognition.
In September 2006, the Santa Monica faction divided into the "slash" and "hyphen" groups: the Gabrielino/Tongva Tribe and Gabrielino-Tongva Tribe. Tribal secretary Sam Dunlap and tribal attorney Jonathan Stein confronted each other over various alleged fiscal improprieties and derogatory comments made to each other. Since that time, the slash group has hired former state senator Richard Polanco as its chief executive officer. The hyphen group has allied with Stein and issued warrants for the arrest of Polanco and members of the slash group.
Stein's group (hyphen), the Gabrielino-Tongva Tribe, is based in Santa Monica. It has proposed a casino to be built in Garden Grove, California, approximately two miles south of Disneyland. In September 2007, the city council of Garden Grove unanimously rejected the casino proposal, instead choosing to build a water park on the land.
Controversies have arisen in contemporary California related to land-use issues and Native American rights, including those of the Tongva. Since the late twentieth century, both the state and the United States governments have improved respect of indigenous rights and tribal sovereignty. The Tongva have challenged local development plans in the courts in order to protect and preserve some of their sacred grounds. Given the long indigenous history in the area, not all archeological sites have been identified.
Sometimes land developers have inadvertently disturbed Tongva burial grounds. The tribe denounced archeologists breaking bones of ancestral remains found during an excavation of a site at Playa Vista. An important resolution was finally honored at the Playa Vista project site against the 'Westchester Bluffs' near the Ballona Wetlands estuary and by the historic natural course of Ballona Creek.
In the 1990s, the Gabrielino/Tongva Springs Foundation revived use of the Kuruvungna Springs for sacred ceremonies. The natural springs are located on the site of a former Tongva village, now developed as the campus of University High School in West Los Angeles. The Tongva consider the springs, which flow at 22,000 gallons per day, to be one of their last remaining sacred sites and they regularly make them the centerpiece of ceremonial events.
The Tongva have another sacred area known as Puvungna. They have believed it is the birthplace of the Tongva prophet Chingishnish, and many believe it to be the place of creation. The site contains an active spring and the area was formerly inhabited by a Tongva village. It has been developed as part of the grounds of California State University, Long Beach. A portion of Puvungna, a Tongva burial ground on the western edge of the campus, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Since 1992, developers have repeatedly tried to build a strip mall in the area. The Tongva petitioned the courts for relief, which blocked the development.
Tongva/Gabrieleño/Fernandeño oral literature is relatively little known, due to their early Christianization in the 1770s by Spanish missions in California. The available evidence suggests strong cultural links with the group's linguistic kin and neighbors to the south and east, the Luiseño and the Cahuilla.
According to Kroeber (1925), the pre-Christian Tongva had a "mythic-ritual-social six-god pantheon". The principal deity was Chinigchinix, also known as Quaoar. Another important figure is Weywot, the god of the sky, who was created by Quaoar. Weywot ruled over the Tongva, but he was very cruel, and he was finally killed by his own sons. When the Tongva assembled to decide what to do next, they had a vision of a ghostly being who called himself Quaoar, who said he had come to restore order and to give laws to the people. After he had given instructions as to which groups would have political and spiritual leadership, he began to dance and slowly ascended into heaven.
From the Spanish colonial period, Tongva place names have been absorbed into general use in Southern California. Examples include: Pacoima, Tujunga, Topanga, Rancho Cucamonga, Azusa, and Cahuenga Pass.
Tongva Park is a 6.2-acre park in Santa Monica, California. The park is located just south of Colorado Avenue, between Ocean Avenue and Main Street. The park includes an amphitheater, playground, garden, fountains, picnic areas, and restrooms. The park was dedicated on October 13, 2013.
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Every group met with is listed as representing a "tribe". We do not know whether the Commissioners were aware of the true nature of the named groups which they were dealing with. George Gibbs who accompanied Redick McKee seemed to be conscious of the error that was being made in assuming that any named was a tribe (Gibbs 1853:110). We know today that most of the so-called tribes were nothing more than villages. We can also assume that men listed as "chiefs" were just as likely not to be chiefs, or at least tribelet heads who are called chiefs by anthropologists. Further, since land was owned in common, even chiefs had no authority to cede tribelet or village lands.
Merriam recorded the Gabrieleño self-designation as "Tong-v?," presumably [to?ve]
In September of 2002, Mr. Toyon was successful in lobbying congress in Washington, D.C., and in Sacramento, to persuade the U.S. Geological Survey to officially name a prominent peak in the Verdugo Mountains, Tongva Peak, in honor of the first people of the Los Angeles basin. Later that year, the peak was dedicated and the plaque that names the mountain sits imbedded in a boulder on the summit of Tongva Peak in perpetuity. TERA (The Eagle Rock Association) Archived 2012-04-26 at the Wayback Machine"Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2012-04-26. Retrieved .CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link), January 2006
Tribal council websites