Tataviam (people facing the sun)

Antonio Maria Ortega

Who Are They?
The Tataviam people can trace their heritage in Southern California as far back as 450 A.D. Originally from the north, they migrated and settled into what are now known as the San Fernando and Santa Clarita valleys, as well as parts of the Antelope Valley. The word “Tataviam” means “people facing the sun,” and it came from the fact that Tataviam villages often featured homes built onto the south side of mountains and hills, which received more sunlight as a result.

Where Did They Live?
The Tataviam and the Chumash were neighbors, and many residents of Tataviam villages had common ancestral ties with Tongva peoples as well. Cultural mixing and intermarriage between groups was a common feature of native american life in southern California prior to the arrival of the Spanish in 1797.

What Were Their Villages Like?
Tataviam villages had patrilineal lineages for families with Tongva or Tataviam ancestry. That means that a Tataviam village could have families whose heritage, property and names were passed down through the males in the family (patrilineal), or through the females (matrilineal). These lineages could hold territory, engage in collective economic and ceremonial activity, and intermarry with other lineage groups of different dialects and languages to establish a complicated regional network of kinship, economic, and ceremonial ties. In the same sense that a typical American might claim ancestry from multiple groups, most Tataviam people prior to 1797 could claim ancestry from the Tongva, Chumash and other groups indigenous to Southern California.

San Fernando Mission Indian women

Is Tataviam The Same As Fernandeño?
The mixed lineage of the Tataviam continued through the mission period (1797 to 1846) as the Tataviam adapted to mission life and developed new work skills within the San Fernando mission economy. The Tataviam were referred to as the “Fernandeños” by the Spanish, a name that is still used today.

How Did The Tataviam Live At The Missions?
Despite living in an environment hostile to the expression of native culture, the Tataviam retained their traditional languages during this period and maintained many aspects of traditional social, ceremonial, and political life within the mission. After 1846 the Tataviam adapted first to the Mexican and then to the American economies that took hold in the region, and despite much hardship were able to retain their native social and political structures well into the twentieth century.

What Do The Modern Tataviam Look Like?
Not surprisingly, the community maintained close ties with the region around the former San Fernando mission, which is now the city of San Fernando.  The modern Tataviam maintain a tribal office in San Fernando and are a diverse group of cooperating familial lineages in much the same way as their ancestors were. Since 1952 the Tataviam have met quarterly at family gatherings and assemblies, with the men, women and children all participating to discuss political, social and mutual help issues. In 2002 the Fernandeño Tataviam Band of Mission Indians officially adopted a constitution.