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Tongva may also refer to the Tongva language.

The Tongva are a Native American people who inhabited the area in and around Los Angeles, California before the arrival of Europeans. Tongva means "people of the earth" in the Tongva language, a language in the Uto-Aztecan family. The Tongva are also sometimes referred to as the Gabrieleño/Tongva (often written "Gabrieleno/Tongva") or Gabrielino/Tongva tribe. Following the Spanish custom of naming local tribes after nearby missions, they were called the Gabrieleño, Gabrielino, or San Gabrieleño in reference to Mission San Gabriel Arcangel. Likewise, the nearby Tataviam people were known as "Fernandeño" after Mission San Fernando Rey de España. Many Tongva people prefer not to be called Gabrielino as this is the name Europeans have given them and not their true name.


Along with the Chumash, their neighbors to the north, the Tongva are among the few New World peoples who regularly navigated the ocean. They built seaworthy canoes, called ti'at, using planks that were sewn together, edge to edge, and then caulked and coated with either pine pitch, or, more commonly, the tar that was available either from the La Brea Tar Pits, or as asphaltum that had washed up on shore from offshore oil seeps. These titi'at could hold as many as 12 people and all their gear and all the trade goods they were carrying to trade with other people, either along the coast or on one of the Channel Islands. The Tongva canoed out to greet Spanish explorer Juan Cabrillo when he arrived off the shores of San Pedro in 1542.

Modern place-names with Tongva origins include: Pacoima, Tujunga, Topanga, Rancho Cucamonga, Azusa, and Cahuenga Pass.

The name of their creation deity, Quaoar, has been used to name a large object in the Kuiper belt. A 2,656-foot summit in the Verdugo Mountains, in Glendale, has been named Tongva Peak. The Gabrielino Trail is a 28-mile path through the Angeles National Forest.

In the 1990s, Kuruvungna Springs, a natural spring located on the site of a former Tongva village on the campus of University High School in West Los Angeles, was revitalized due to the efforts of the Gabrielino/Tongva Springs Foundation. The spring, which produces 22,000 gallons of water each day, is considered by the Tongva to be one of their last remaining sacred sites and is regularly used for ceremonial events.

Living in such a high growth area, many controversies have naturally arisen around land use issues relating to the Tongva. Conflicts between the Tongva and the rapidly expanding population of Los Angeles have often had to be resolved in the courts. Burial grounds have been inadvertently disturbed by developers. The tribe has complained about bones being broken by archeologists studying the site.

Another widely known controversy was over an area called Puvungna, which is the birthplace of the Tongva prophet Chingishnish, and is believed by some Tongva to be the place of creation. The site, formerly home to a Tongva village and also containing an active spring, is located on the grounds of what is today California State University, Long Beach. While a portion of Puvungna (a burial ground on the western edge of the campus) is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, nevertheless developers have repeatedly attempted, beginning in 1992, to build a strip mall in the area. They were blocked by the courts after petition by the Tongva for relief.

Historically, the Tongva, like most Native Americans, have lost many of their battles to preserve their lands and culture. Whether the Tongva will be able to maintain their culture and historic lands in the future is somewhat uncertain.

The library of Loyola Marymount University, located in Los Angeles, has an extensive collection of archival materials related to the Tongva and their history.

Tribal Councils

There is no single organization accepted by the Gabrielino/Tongva Nation. This is largely due to a controversy regarding opening a casino on land that would be considered part of the Gabrielino/Tongva's homeland. 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 and sharing of revenues to all tribal members. The Gabrielino/Tongva Tribal Council of San Gabriel is the primary faction that does not support gaming for its members. None of the organizations are recognized by the federal government.


Estimates for the pre-contact populations of most native groups in California have varied substantially. (See Population of Native California.) Alfred L. Kroeber (1925:883) suggested a 1770 population of the Gabrielino of 5,000, and most subsequent scholars have accepted this estimate.

Currently there are 1500 or more members in the Tongva tribe[] and others that are coming forward each day. The Tongva are currently working towards re-establishing long-lost family ties[].

Recent archaeological research

In February 2006, archaeologists uncovered a prehistoric milling area estimated to be 8,000 years old at the base of the San Gabriel Mountains near Azusa, California. The find included about 100 tools used by the Tongva tribe.[][ california/14007712.htm]

Gabrielino traditional narratives

External links

There is no single governing body accepted by all Tongva:

[ Gabrielino-Tongva Tribe, a California Indian tribe historically known as San Gabriel Band of Mission Indians]

[ Gabrieleno/Tongva Tribal Council of San Gabriel]

[ Gabrielino-Tongva Tribe] Gabrielino-Tongva Tribe Tribal Council

[ Gabrielino Tongva Springs Foundation]

[ A Tongva History brief] on the Perris Valley Historical and Museum Association website

[ Tongva (Gabrielinos)]

[ Antelope Valley Indian Museum] (includes a searchable database of its collections, which include many Tongva artifacts)

[ Gabrielino Indians seeking out long lost family members]


Johnston, Bernice Eastman. 1962. California's Gabrielino Indians. Southwest Museum, Los Angeles.

Kroeber, A. L. 1925. Handbook of the Indians of California. Bureau of American Ethnology Bulletin No. 78. Washington, D.C.

McCawley, William. 1996. The First Angelinos: The Gabrielino Indians of Los Angeles. Malki Museum Press, Banning, California. ISBN 0-9651016-1-4

Category:California Mission Indians

Category:Native American tribes in California

Category:History of Los Angeles