Tongva (people of the earth)

Tongva woman

Who Are They?
The Tongva are a people whose native heritage in Southern California runs wide and deep, with village sites and tribal history stretching throughout the Los Angeles region from their Tataviam and Chumash neighbors to the northwest, to their Acjachemem neighbors to the south. Indeed many Southern California place names originate from the Tongva language, such as Azusa, and Rancho Cucamonga.

Where Are They From?
The Tongva are believed to have migrated to the Los Angeles area from the Sonora Desert in the southwestern United States approximately 3,000 to 5,000 years ago, though it is possible they arrived as early as 8,000 years ago. Since pre-historic times Tongva history and culture has been an integral part of Southern California, and they are acknowledged as the first people to greet the Spanish ships that arrived in California in 1542.

What Did They Make?
Prior to the arrival of Europeans, the Tongva had access to abundant game and natural resources surrounding their villages in southern california, and they excelled at building homes and sea-worthy canoes. A Tongva hut, or ki, was usually constructed with tule or willow reeds and resembled a large dome in its design. A Tongva canoe, or ti’at, was made of wooden planks sown together with tar or pine pitch and could hold as many as twelve people. Ti’ats were used for fishing and for transport to the islands that are now known as Catalina and the Channel Islands, so that the Tongva could trade efficiently with their northwestern neighbors the Chumash. The Tongva ki was very architecturally efficient because of its design, which gave the structural stability to withstand an earthquake.

What Where Their Villages Like?
Many Tongva villages were located near streams and marshlands with abundant fishing sources, and several had access to nearby hot springs for bathing. Most Tongva villages had hereditary chieftains with total authority over the community, and the Tongva religion was composed of six gods with an all-powerful main god known as Chinigchinix.

Is Gabrielino The Same As Tongva?
A large Tongva community resided in the area now known as the San Gabriel Valley, and with the establishment of the Mission San Gabriel Arcángel in 1771, this group of Tongva became known as the Gabrieliño by the Spanish. After the mission period the Mexicans and later the Americans used the word “Gabrieliño” to refer to the Tongva, and most modern Tongva groups use both names in their official documents.

What Do The Tongva Do Today?
The Gabrieliño/Tongva nation is very proud of its tribal heritage in Southern California, with several sacred sites having been re-discovered during the twentieth century. These include the Kuruvungna natural springs in west Los Angeles, the Puvungna sacred site on the campus of Cal State Long Beach, and the Tongva burial grounds located in Playa Vista. The contemporary Tongva community is made up of several diverse groups that support and advocate for Tongva cultural heritage throughout the Los Angeles area and beyond. The Gabrieliño/Tongva are recognized by the state of California and are seeking recognition from the United States government.