Friday, August 26, 2016

Brief History of Los Angeles' Native Americans

Rosanne Welch, History Dept., Claremont U.; Xochitl, Ashley Wells (eds.), Wisdom Quarterly
Los Angeles as viewed from Kenneth Hahn State Rec Area, Jan. 3, 2010 (BDS2006)

A Brief History of the Tongva Tribe: The Native Inhabitants of the Lands of the Puente Hills Preserve
The flag of Los Angeles (Mysid)
TOVANGER* (now "Los Angeles"), California - While several bands of Indians [Native Americans] are thought to have traversed the lands now comprising the Puente Hills Preserve, these lands, once known by the name Awing-na (or Ahwiinga), served as the major homeland of the Tongva Indians.

Historically, the tribe has also been known as the Gabrielinos because of the [forced] incorporation of much of their population into [the Catholic Church's] Mission San Gabriel in the late eighteenth century.

Because [invading] Spanish missionaries imposed that name upon them, it carries negative connotations to many in the tribe today. So descendants have reverted to using their original name (Note 1).
  • *Tovanger: Mark Frank Acuna. A Journey to Tovanger (A Journey to the World), a paper presented as part of the “Natural History of Urban Southern California: Lectures and Excursions” Series, Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden (Claremont, California), Spring 1999 (Photocopy of author’s typescript in Special Collections, Honnold/Mudd Library at the Claremont Colleges).
  • 1: Kuruvugna: A Place Where We Are in the Sun: The Bulletin of the Gabrielino/Tongva Springs Foundation. Winter Issue, 2005.
Tovanger (the "Tongva World") today
This paper...seeks to understand who the Tongva were before contact with [colonizing, enslaving] Europeans and what they became in the two distinct periods immediately after contact, the Mission Era and the era right after secularization of the former Mission lands.

Following the Tongva Nation** in these periods demonstrates how important the Puente Hills Preserve lands were for the tribe during eras of great loss, transition and, finally, adaptation.
  • **[Territory: Tovanger like Los Angeles County extended out to the Channel Islands in the west (San Nicolas), the Angeles National Forest and Malibu Beach, where the neighboring Chumash and Tataviam Nations begin and extend into modern Ventura County, in the north, San Bernardino to the east, and Orange County, land of the Acjachemen (Juaneño) to the south].
Tovanger: aerial photo of Los Angeles Basin bordered by the San Gabriel Mountains (TP)
Disney, Inc. fantasy: Pocahontas
Understanding more of the history of the Tongva shows how important the tribe was to the survival of the Spanish missionaries [who worked hand in hand with the Spanish military in subjugating, conquering, and ethnically cleansing the Native peoples] and to the success of the ranch owners who followed them.

They were so important that it is possible that an additional mission, now mostly lost to history, was once erected in La Puente by rancher William Workman for use by his Tongva servants/employees (2).
  • 2: This concept comes from a reading of the 1855 Public Survey Map of the Workman Ranchero from the files of the Workman and Temple Family Homestead Museum Archives. On this map there is a clear notation of a mission on the grounds, yet no mission is in the records. Collections Manager Paul R. Spitzzeri considers it to be either the notation of a planned mission never built or the mistake of a surveyor who considered the Workman Family Chapel as part of the mission property.
Though one distinct tribe inhabited the land of the Preserve (Puente Hills), scholars have extensively studied three distinct periods of t at tribe’s habitation:
  1. native life and culture before contact with Europeans
  2. changes encountered during the period of the Spanish Missions
  3. and the period following the secularization of the missions when those native peoples who had survived found employment on what became the Workman/Rowl and Rancho.
Dunbar-Ortiz (
To illuminate Tongva life and culture during each of these periods [the author has] chosen to provide profiles of several individual members of the tribe, because individual lives can so compellingly illustrate the attitudes and experiences of the group as a whole.

For most information about the Tongva, previous historians have relied heavily on the writings of two white men: More

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