UNCOVERED LEGENDS

The erasure of our culture during Mission times was intense and almost complete, resulting in a loss of language, culture, and legends. The Legend of the Rainbow Bridge (traditionally seen as Chumash but spanning across many coastal tribes in California) is the only legend related to the Tongva that can be found on the internet. Recently, our tribal member Samantha Morales Johnson uncovered four other legends from a rare book of Hugo Reed's Letters of 1852. For modern accessibility, these stories have been reworked for clarity. The Legend of the Wizard Chief is recommended for adults because of its themes of nudity, violence, and disturbing imagery. There is a modified family-friendly version below. The Son of Lightening is recommended for adults only. 

Click on the buttons to read each legend or scroll down.

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THE SEVEN SISTERS

     There were seven brothers married to seven sisters who lived in a large qizh together. Every day, the men would hunt rabbits and the women would gather desert hyacinths, acorns, and other plants for food. Every afternoon, the men would return early from hunting and every day they would tell their wives they had bad luck. Only the youngest brother would always bring back a rabbit for his wife. The rest of the women went without meat, eating their plain acorn porridge with seasonal berries and other plants while the youngest got to flavor her acorn porridge with delicious rabbit meat. This went on for a long time, and soon the sisters were convinced that their husbands were cheating them out of good meat to eat. 

     Since the youngest brother was the only one who ever brought back meat, they were determined to find out the truth. “Pretend you have pain in your jaw tomorrow morning,” they told their youngest sister, “so that you have an excuse to stay home while we go out and gather more acorns. Then when our husbands come home before us you can tell us what you see.” 

The next day the six husbands took their bows and arrows and went off to hunt rabbits. When they were gone the five sisters hid their youngest sister in the long tule reeds that covered the frame of their house so she could see everything that happened inside their large qizh. A few hours later the brothers came back with plenty of fresh rabbits that they roasted and ate, except for one that the youngest brother put aside for his wife. The other brothers teased him. “Why are you saving meat? You caught it, don’t be stupid, you should eat it!” 

     “I’m saving this rabbit for my wife.” The youngest brother replied. “I always save one for her.” 

     “You’re a fool,” they sneered. “Forget those root-diggers.” Still, he loved and respected his wife, and so he kept a rabbit for her to eat.

When they were done eating, they gathered up the rabbit bones and buried them where they knew their wives wouldn’t look. After some time had passed, the youngest sister crawled into the hut and showed herself to the men. “Where did you come from?” One of the brothers asked in surprise. 

     “My jaw ached this morning, so my sisters told me to stay behind and rest. I’ve been asleep for a few hours now and my jaw feels much better.” She said. Soon, her sisters came back, crowding around her and tenderly touching her face and asking if she was feeling better. 

The youngest sister took them out of the hut and showed them where the bones had been hidden. When they saw the pile of rabbit bones their mouths watered after months of not eating meat. They all began to cry, they felt so betrayed by their husbands. 

     “What should we do?” Asked the second youngest sister.

     “Let’s turn into water.” Said the oldest sister. 

     “That would never work.” The other sisters cried. “Our husbands might drink us up!” 

     “What if we turned into stones?” The second oldest sister suggested.

     “That would never work.” The other sisters cried. “They’ll just stomp on us as they go off to hunt more rabbits.” 

     “What if we turned into trees?” The third oldest sister said. 

     “That would never work.” The other sisters cried. “They’ll cut us up for firewood to roast their meat.” 

     All of the sisters suggested something, but they couldn’t think of anything the brothers might use after they had been changed. 

     “What if we turned into stars?” The youngest sister said quietly. All of her sisters paused. 

     “We would be out of reach if we were stars.” The oldest sister said. 

     “They wouldn’t be able to use us for anything.” The second oldest added. None of their husbands were brave enough to live life at sea, and so they would never use the stars to navigate at night like the brave men who rowed tiats up and down the ocean channel and across to Pimu (Catalina Island). 

     Determined, they went to the lagoon where they collected strong reeds. They worked together to make a machine out of reeds and rose into heaven to become stars. 

When the seven brothers found their wives missing and the machine that took them to heaven, they all shrugged their shoulders, happy they didn’t have to worry about hiding their catch anymore. Only the youngest brother mourned the loss of his wife. The seven sisters saw how sorry he was, and how much he missed his wife, so they told him how to use the machine so he could join them in the stars. They respected their love, and how he always saved a rabbit for her, and placed him apart in the constellation they had created. Today the constellation is better known as the Taurus constellation, and the Tongva people still sing about the seven sisters to this day.

 

The Son of Lightning

     There were four brothers and a sister who lived together in a qizh. They all loved each other very much and when they decided to live together even after reaching adulthood. The four brothers spent their days hunting, while their sister, Chukit, enjoyed being alone. She was very beautiful and many men proposed to her, but she refused all of them. She was enamored by lightning, and she wanted to have it for herself. 
     One day, her oldest brother found out she was pregnant. He thought one of his brothers had done it, but when he asked them they all thought one of the other brothers had gotten her pregnant. Finally, they decided to ask Chukit how she got pregnant. She burst into tears and swore she hadn’t been with a man before. 
     “One day I was walking through the woods,” she began to explain, “and I kept saying ‘I want the lightening to be mine!’ when a flash of lightning came out of a cloud above me, and all of a sudden I felt a rush of cold go through my head and down to my belly.” The brothers, thinking this was something from Creator, didn’t ask her about it again. 
     Nine months later Chukit gave birth to a son. When the midwife was about to cut the umbilical cord, Chukit’s newborn son cried out. “No! It will hurt me!”. When they tried to give his mother’s urine to drink as medicine, he cried out again. “No! It is bitter.” The boy was named Mactutu, and every day he became more and more wise, arguing with the elders and healers about complicated things. After winning an argument he would always say it was useless to argue with him, because he was the Son of Lightning. 
     Eventually, the chiefs and wise men of the tribe decided to put him to death. When Mactutu heard what they were planning he said “put me to death, but in three days I’ll arise again!”
     The chief and elders decided to burn him to death, so that he couldn’t arise again. Some Tongva argued that they destroyed Creator when they destroyed Mactutu, but others believed that they only destroyed his body, and his soul ascended to heaven. 

 

The Wizard Chief (PG)

     In the village of Muhuvit, which was behind the San Fernando hills, there was a chief who was a great wizard and enchanter. He had one son and one daughter. The daughter was beautiful, and like her father and brother she had the most beautiful head of thick black hair that touched the ground when she let it down. She was the favorite child of the wizard-chief. Unfortunately, she was a selfish and lazy woman. Because she was beautiful, the chief of the nearby village Hahamogna asked her to be his wife, and she agreed. 

     She was polite and kind to him and the people of his village, but after they were married and she gave birth to a daughter, she started to show how selfish she was.

     “Each of you will bring me a rabbit, roasted and ready to eat, every day”

     As soon as they presented a roasted rabbit to her, she’d snatch it up and eat every bit without ever offering it to the hungry villagers, who had to go without meat because of all the rabbits they had to frantically hunt and catch to please the chief’s wife. 

     This made everyone in Hahamogna so unhappy that eventually the village elders all came together and urged the chief to send her home. The chief sighed, “do with her what you think is best” he said. 

     So, after the elders gathered again, they all decided the selfish wife’s father would be so angry to see his daughter rejected that it was better to put her to death, a rare punishment for the Tongva people. “What should we do with the child?” asked the wisest elders. 

     “Let it die with the mother!” The chief answered, heartbroken and frustrated that his wife had ended up being so selfish. 

     So the next morning the elders went to every villager and told them their plan. No one was allowed to bring water from the stream back to their huts, but instead they were told to drink from the stream whenever they were thirsty. The children and women were told to find snakes, lizards, and other reptiles. When the men returned from their rabbit hunt, they stuffed the rabbits with the reptiles before they roasted them. In the last hut of the village, which was the furthest from the chief’s hut, the people of the village filled a water basket with their spit. 

     When the time came for the people of the village to present their roasted rabbits, the selfish wife began to dig in as they watched. As she was eating, she noticed a lizard leg poking out of the rabbit meat. She picked it out. “What is this?” she asked.
     “A quail leg” the man who gave her the first rabbit replied. She looked at him suspiciously. 

     “Eat it then.” She said. 

     “It’s for you,” He replied. 

     Hungry, she shrugged and continued to eat the rabbit and all of the pieces of lizards and snakes inside until she became overwhelmingly thirsty. “I need water.” She gasped. 

     “We haven’t gathered any today,” an elder said. “Just go to the stream.” 

     Too lazy to walk outside of the village, the selfish wife instead decided to walk around the village to find their water baskets to drink from. As she looked through home after home, empty basket after empty basket, she got thirstier and thirstier, until finally she came across the final hut with a water basket filled to the brim. She was so thirsty that she drank the entire basketful of water in three gulps, not even noticing that the water basket was actually filled with spit. This all gave her an upset stomach, but she was too selfish and lazy to gather food or collect water for herself. 

     After ten days of eating and drinking like this she realized what it was doing to her, her eyebrows and long thick black hair had almost all fallen out, and she looked wrinkled and wasted away. She decided to go back to her father’s village with her child secretly in the middle of the night. 

     After going a few miles with her daughter the weight of the baby became too much for her. “I’m so stupid carrying this burden!” she said out loud as she carried her baby. “As if he liked me enough to have a baby with him!” She threw the child into the bushes and kept walking, but when she looked back and saw her baby crying and reaching out for her, her heart softened and she picked the baby up again. “You haven’t done anything wrong” she said to her baby “I shouldn’t take my anger out on you.” She went on and on, until she was so tired she finally stopped, angry that she was in this situation. Her selfishness and laziness overcame any love she had for her child, and she threw it again into the bushes. To save the baby, Creator turned the child into a squirrel that then ran into the forest.

     The selfish wife went on alone, until she came close enough to the village to see her mother’s chamuca (a large grainery basket that’s big enough to hold as much as two tons). The selfish wife climbed in and buried herself in the acorns and seeds already in the chamuca and immediately fell asleep. Not long after, her mother came by to take some acorns out, and when she reached her hand in she touched the top of her daughter’s head. The selfish wife jumped out of the grainery and her mother screamed. 

     “Yes! Be scared of me!” the selfish wife screamed. “After everything that’s happened to me in that awful village, from that awful husband, it’s all your fault!” 

     Her mother looked up at her, barely recognizing her. The selfish wife's hair was almost gone, and where her eyebrows once were was . “Tell me what happened to you.” She begged her daughter, and the selfish wife then told her everything. 

     “All I asked for were a few roasted rabbits every day to help me make milk for my baby.” She whined. “But they did something to the rabbits, and they stopped giving me good water to drink, and now all of my beauty is gone!” Her mother nodded, and then ran to get her husband. 

     The selfish wive’s mother told her father what happened and he rushed in secret to his wife’s chamuca with medicinal herbs for his daughter. After four months of living in the chamuca, taking her fathers herbal teas and medicines, the wrinkles on her face were nearly gone and her hair reached her waist again. 

     “You’re better now, you need to bathe.” Her parents told her. 

     “Go to your brother’s bathing well every day.” 

     So the selfish wife began to go every day, but her brother was just as selfish as she was and began to notice something wrong about his bathing spot. When he went the water wasn’t still like it usually was, and he would find hairs that he knew weren’t his because they weren’t as long. 

     “I think someone’s been using my bathing spot.” He told his mother one day. She quickly brushed it off, trying to keep her daughter’s return a secret until she was no longer sick or ashamed of her failed marriage. But one day, the brother of the selfish wife saw her bathing in his well, but he didn’t recognize her. Angry to see someone in his well, he dived in and grabbed her by the ankle, throwing her out of the water. “So you’re the one disturbing my water! Get out you ugly woman!” 

     The selfish wife, so ashamed of her ugliness from her hair that was still thin and growing back slowly, traveled to the nearby sea and drowned herself. 

 

     The brother of the selfish wife, proud of finding the person using his well, strutted back home and boasted to his parents about finding the woman who had been using his bathing spot. “I told her how ugly she is and threw her out!” He laughed “She was an ugly woman! How dare she use my bathing pool!!” 

    “She must have run off ashamed of her brother calling her ugly.” His mother said after he left.   “We must find her!” 

     So the wizard-chief  took a willow twig, covered it in buckskin, and threw it North. It came back to him. He threw it South, but it came back to him. Then he tried East. When he threw it West, it kept going. So they followed it down the river until they came to the ocean, where they saw the magical willow disk sink into the sea. “She’s drowned herself in the ocean from her shame, but our son will pay for his selfishness.” 

     So the next day, he called all of the people out of their huts and told them to go hunting for a few days, and take his son along. He told the wisest elders to let his son be eaten by wild beasts, if that’s what Creator planned for him. “If one of the wild animals doesn’t take him, then I have another plan” he told his wisest elder. His son, overly proud of being the Chief's son, walked out of the village in all of his fine regalia, covered in money beads and other ornaments. 

     After a few days of hunting all day and sleeping around warm fires in the mountains, the oldest elder let loose a screech owl, which he had brought hidden in a basket. The screech owl was the wizard-chief in disguise. All of the hunters woke up with a start and ran away from the sound, afraid of the bad omen. The son, lazy as ever, ignored the sound and stayed where he was. In the sky above him the wizard-chief transformed again into a giant Cuwot (eagle). The Cuwot swept down and carried his son into the air. Seeing this, the hunters ran back to the clearing, shouting “The Cuwot has taken the Chief’s son!” Before they could say anything more the son of the Wizard-Chief was carried away, and he was never seen again 

 

     A few days after this, a man from Hahamogna came into town. “Hello!” Said the chief. “How is everything in your village?” 

     “We’re all doing well!” The messenger said with a big smile. “Our chief is about to take a new wife, and we’re all preparing a great feast just for the occasion!” 

As the messenger walked off, the wizard-chief laughed to himself. “Let them be happy. They’ve had their laugh, soon I’ll have mine.”. 

     The chief set off to Hahamogna, and just before he entered the village, he transformed himself again into a huge eagle and began swooping down towards the people of the village. “Catch that Cuwot!” All of the villagers shouted. Except for one woman, the oldest and wisest elder, who was taking care of two young children while their mothers were away. 

     “No!” She yelled above them. “That isn’t an eagle! That is a wizard!” 

     Those who could hear her laughed her off as an old fool, but the old woman knew what was happening and covered the children with a basket to keep them safe. She hid in her hut as every man, woman, and child in the village was taken one at a time by the Cuwot up to the sky to never be seen again. When the last villager was gone, the Cuwot screeched a cry of victory, flying into the sky to never be seen again. The wise old woman stayed in the now empty village with the two children. When they were old enough she made a bow and arrow for the boy and showed him how to use it, and made a flat basket for the girl so that she could clean seed for food. When they were old enough, she married them, and they all lived happily together. 

     After she was married, the girl became selfish. Her husband, the boy, was a great hunter, and so although she never lacked meat, she kept any meat from the old woman who raised her and her husband. This angered the old woman, and planned her revenge. She got her deer bone awl she used for basket weaving and placed it pointing up on the girls seat. It almost killed her, but not quite. Again, the old woman placed the awl on the edge of the girls bathing pool and it almost killed her, but not quite. 

     After having this happen twice, the girl warned her husband that the old woman might be trying to kill her. “If she kills me, my spirit will send you a sign. If three drops of water fall on your left shoulder, then you’ll know she killed me.” 

     One day the boy was out hunting, and three drops of water fell on his shoulder. At once he threw down his bow and arrow and ran home. He called out for his wife, but only the old woman was there. 

     “Where’s my wife?” He asked her. 

     “The poor thing,” the old woman crooned. “She died, I buried her here.” She said pointing to a grave. 

     “You’ve murdered her!” He said, and snatched up a large stick to kill her with. She was too quick, in a flash she turned into a gopher and burrowed into the earth. 

     For three days and nights he laid on her grave, grieving his loss. On the third day, he saw a whirlwind rise from the grave, and then disappear. Just as quick as it was gone, a second whirlwind rose up. Finally, a third whirlwind rose up, much higher than the last two, and started to go South. He followed the whirlwind, and as he followed it the whirlwind began to transform. Eventually, under the whirlwind he began to see footprints. 

     “Is this my wife?” He asked out loud. 

     His wife’s voice spoke softly from the whirlwind. “Go back to your hut, dear husband.” She said. “I’m now a spirit, no earthly thing can go where I am going, remember I am dead to the world, go back to living your life.”  

     “Let me go with you!” He cried to her. After a moment, his wife’s voice spoke again. 

     “I’ll risk taking you.” She replied. “But remember that no human on this earth ever has, or ever will, see us.” 

 

     They passed over the great Pacific into the spirit realm, where he heard beautiful voices call out to his wife. “We smell something of the earth,” They spoke melodically. “What did you bring here sister?” 

     The wife spirit confessed. “I have brought my husband, he does not want to be without me.”

     “Take him away.” The voices all commanded. Even though the husband could hear everything, he could see nothing. 

     “Let him stay” The spirit wife begged. “He is an excellent hunter, and he is a better man than most.” 

     The other spirits paused. “Let us test him.” They said. “Bring a feather from the top of this pole.” They said. The man looked to his side and saw a pole so tall he couldn’t see the top.

     “Don’t be afraid” the spirit wife told her husband. “You are a strong man, just don’t look down as you ascend.” 

     When he brought the feather from the top of the pole, the other spirits whispered applause. “Ayopui-cushna (brother-in-law) is good at climbing.” They said with approval. They then gave him a long hair to split from end to end, and although it was a difficult task his wife encouraged him to have faith, and he succeeded in splitting the long hair. 

     “Ayopui-cushna is very precise with his hands.” The spirits said. 

     “Now make us a map from memory” the spirits said. “Draw a map in the dirt of Ursa Major with the North Star perfectly positioned.” 

     This gave the husband a long pause, he had seen the seers draw a similar map, but he didn’t know how to do it himself. But his wife encouraged him again to think hard and remember what he had learned, and he was able to do it successfully. 

     “Ayopui-cushna is smart, well done!” The spirits cheered. “The last skill you need to show is us your hunting skills. We will send deer down the hill for you to hunt.” A moment later he heard hooves thumping down the hill beside him. “Here they come!” The spirits said. 

     He used all of his senses to find the deer, but he couldn’t find them for the life of him. The spirits hooted their disapproval at his failure. They let him try once more, with the same result.     “Let me talk to him.” The spirit wife told the other spirits. “Then let him try again, please, for my sake.” The spirits reluctantly allowed her to go to him. 

     “I can’t see them! How can I hunt something I can’t see?” 

     “You have good eyes, you must have seen the black beetles running around when you were hunting, those are deer, kill them!” The deer were released down the hill again, and this time he looked at the ground and saw a swarm of tiny black beetles. He killed one, and in an instant it transformed into the body of a strong young buck. Encouraged, he killed another, and then another, until the spirits told him to stop. All of the deer he killed were lifted into the sky and returned to Creator, but he still saw none of the spirits, except now he could see their shadows. The spirits raised a happy cheer. 

     “Sister, as you know, no one was ever allowed to return to the Earth. Death does not exist to the beings in Tucupar (heaven), but since our Ayopui-cushna cannot understand the joy we have here, because of his earth body, we will have compassion on him instead by returning your spirit to earth.” 

     “Return to the human world with your wife.” They told the husband. “But remember you must not  touch her until after three days, there is a punishment waiting for you if you are disobedient to this rule.” 

     The husband and wife left the spirit realm together and traveled back to earth, where they had a three day trip back to their home. He couldn’t see her until night, after building a fire and laying down he could see the outline of her, asleep. On the second night, her form became clearer, and on the third day, she looked just as she did before she had died. 

     “Wife of my heart!” He cried out, and when he reached out, he instead grasped a rotten wooden log, his wife gone. He remained a sorrowful wanderer on earth until the day of his death. 

Many elders added to the end of this story that a woman returning from the spirit world never would have happened, and it instead was just a way for the spirits to give her mourning husband compassion and to get him to return to earth, so that he could return to them again one day, properly, as a spirit. 

     The bird mentioned in this story, the Cuwot,is a large bird that was never seen but firmly believed in by Tongva ancestors. It is said that the Cuwot lives in the mountains, and is nocturnal. It’s cry is “cu”, and it is said that it often carried people away. 

 

A LOOK INTO OUR LIVES

Where and how we lived, and some of our language

NEIGHBORING TRIBES

CAHUILLA, SERRANO, AHJACHEMEM, CHUMASH

 

NATION TOEM

THE FOUR  T'OR.OH.VIM  - ( Dolphins)

 

SPANIARD INVASION

1542 - Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo in Santa Maria Bay

1620 - Sebastian Vizcaino expedition

1769 - Gasper de Portola and Father Vizcaino

1771 - San Gabriel Mission est.

 

OUR CREATOR

We are a monothiestic tribe, worshiping Creator, or Wewyot, in our native language. 

 

THE FOUR SACRED RIVERS

Los Angeles River- Pay.mi pah.hit

Hondo River - Che-noo.eh pah.hit

San Gabriel River - To.to.ting.ah pah.hit

Santa Ana River - Kah.ho pah.hit

 

THE FOUR DIRECTIONS

East -Tah.ming.ar.ro

South - Keh.tah.me

West - Too.o.me

North - Pi.e.mo

 

THE CHANNEL ISLANDS

San Clemente Island - Kin ki

San Nicolas Island - Ha rash

Santa Barbara Island - Tehu nash

Santa Catalina Island - Pi mu

 

THE FOUR SCARED MOUNTIANS

Mt. Baldy - Jo.at

Mt. Saddleback - Har'wo.vet

Mt. San Gorgonio - Ak.vag.na

Mt. San Jacinto - Ja.mi.wu

 

MOTHER EARTH'S 10 RULES TO LIVE BY:

Everything is sacred - All things are alive

Respect your elders - Listen and learn

What you do will always come back to you - Good or bad

Always give before you take

Only for survival would we take an animals life

The earth is our Mother - Don't harm her

Remember who you are and your ancestors

Always be truthful - Don't Lie

Respect others and their property

Be a hard worker - Don't be lazy

 

EARLY CALIFORNIA VILLAGE HISTORY

Attracted by the freshwater springs that form the Baldwin Lake, native "Gabrieleno" Indians were the earliest known inhabitants of the land, one area now occupied by the Arboretum of Los Angeles County.

The Gabrieleno-Tongva slept in what they called "kiys," brush shelters constructed of staked willow poles thatched with layers of dried tulle reeds. Rabbit skin mats provided bedding and small fires kept the occupants warm. Hunters and gatherers who lived directly off the land, the Gabrieleno Indians did not practice agriculture, nor did they need more than Stone Age skills and tools. Weapons were of stone and wood and cooking vessels of soapstone and basketry. Acorns from the plentiful California oaks were the staple of their diet, supplemented by small game and native nuts, seeds and berries. Numbering more than 5,000 in 1770. Today we still exist living throughout the Southern California area.

 

The Tule Homes " Kies"

The houses of the Gabrieleno Indians were called Kies (also spelled kitz). They were made of a framework of bent willow branches. These branches were buried in the ground in a circle, then bent at the tops of the poles together and tied with yucca fiber. A smoke hole at the very top was left open for when they did cooking or heating inside the kie. Then branches around the outside made a circle frame and then covered the outside with tule. The tules was woven thick and tight keeping it warm and dry during the rainy season and cool during the summer. The doors to enter faced the north opposite of the wind and kept the sunshine from entering into the house. The entryway was usually covered in deer skins or mats. When families wanted to host company they would lift the mats or skins hanging in their doorway to invite guests in. When the family was away the door was covered and staked with whale bones and sticks. Each clan could have between 500 - 1500 kies in their village. A kie was burned when it got too dirty, damaged or if someone important living in the kie died in it. After a old kie was burned a new one was built.

 

The Hunter and hunting

The hunter got ready for the hunt by stringing himself with the leaves and hairs of a stinging nettle. The hunter rubbed his body, including his eyelids, with the leaves. This was a ceremony and it caused pain. The hunters believed the pain would make a hunter brave for his hunt. It would also bring him success in killing the animals he was hunting. The hunter thought that rubbing his eyes with nettle would give him clearer eyesight and would make him more watchful. All of the time the hunter was away from his village looking for game, he never ate. This kept him aware but also kept the smell of strange foods and smoke from the hunting area. The hunter kept sights, sounds, and smells away which would frighten game from the hunting ground. Hunters were clever, and imitated grazing deer.  He wanted to make a kill with his first arrow. He would wear the head and parts of the deer hide already killed, so he could get close to a deer. He would rub two sticks together to imitate the sounds deer make when they rub their antlers, horns, against trees or bushes. When the hunter caught a deer the hunter would give it to the women to be skinned and prepared for eating.  A Gabrieleno-Tongva hunter never ate his own kill, believing it would bring him bad luck on his next hunt. 

 

Acorn gathering and storage

The hills of California were covered with many varieties of oak trees. These trees produced tons of acorns each year. This huge crop provided the Gabrielinos with one of their most important foods. The acorns were harvested in the fall. The men would climb the trees and shake them for the acorns to fall and the children and women would gather them and place them in a cone-shaped basket. They were placed out to dry and then put into a granary. Acorns cannot be eaten raw because of the bitter tannins in them. So they made an acorn meal. They hit the acorn with a stone to remove the shell, then pounded the kernels into a mortar with a stone pestle to make an acorn meal. Preparing the grounded meal was then placed into a straining basket that held the acorn meal but not water and then hot water was poured over the meal over and over, this washed out the bitter tannin. When the meal was cleaned it turned into a wad of dough. It was brushed off and ready to cook into acorn mush or flat cakes. it was eaten plain or mixed with other foods for better flavor. 


 

"Tiat"  Plank Canoe

The Gabrielenos and some neighboring tribes made plank canoes called Tiat's. Pine trees and driftwood were the main material of the boat. The logs were split into planks using whalebone, deer antlers, sharp objects and stones to wedge and cut to size. The more coarse stones were used like sandpaper. To shape the planks the wood was buried in wet sand, then fires were built on top of the sand to dry them. Rope and plant fibers tied together held the boards in place. Holes and cracks were filled with beach tar. This made them strong and as watertight as possible. But because they were not completely leak proof they would take a young boy with them to bail out the water. Depending on the size, a tiat could carry from 3 to 20 people. The tiat were long and narrow with high sides and between twelve and sixteen feet in length. They were rowed with double- bladed paddles attached to ten-foot handles. The rowers paddled together, usually singing and chanting. Today, Gabrieleno Tongva men remember our past by dancing with canoe paddles in a traditional group dance (examples in photo gallery). 

 

Clothing

The Tongva men and children wore very little clothing. Children often went about naked. The men wore deerskin loincloths. Women wore two aprons, one of deer or otter and the other of tule,grasses and soft bark. In the winter men, women, and children added capes which were rabbit, deer, otter, coyote or squirrel skins all sewed together. Our ancestors were barefoot most of the time , but when needed for very long trips or when picking certain fruits and plants they wore footpads or sandals made of yucca fiber. Earrings, necklaces and bracelets were worn by women and men. They were made from whale's teeth, beads, stones, shells and feathers. During special occasions and ceremonies they would get a little more elaborate with stringed plants and flowers. The rest of their bodies sometimes were covered in paint. We tattooed ourselves with the needle-like point of yucca plants and ash. It was traditional for a woman to tattoo three dots down her chin to signify her coming of age.

 

Tools 

Animals parts, plants, trees, stones and shells from the area were all used as tools. Each material was used for it's strength, sharpness and flexibility. If it was hard, strong, and fireproof it could be used for making cooking items. If it was sharp or chipped it could be used to make tools and weapons. Wood was also carved and specially shaped for handles, paddles, spoons and arrows. The strong and flexible fiber of plants was used for making rope, baskets, and nets.

 

 

The Wizard Chief (PG-13)

This legend contains themes of nudity, murder, violence, and disturbing imagry. It is not recommended for readers under the age of 13. 

     In the village of Muhuvit, which was behind the San Fernando hills, there was a chief who was a great wizard and enchanter. He had one son and one daughter. The daughter was beautiful, and like her father and brother she had the most beautiful head of thick black hair that touched the ground when she let it down. She was the Wizard-Chief’s favorite child. Unfortunately, she was a selfish and lazy woman. Because she was beautiful, the chief of the nearby village Hahamogna asked her to be his wife, and she accepted. 
   She was polite and kind to him and the people of his village, but after they were married and she gave birth to a daughter, she started to show how selfish she was. Every day, the people of the village were commanded to bring her one rabbit each, already roasted and ready to eat. As soon as they presented a roasted rabbit to her, she’d snatch it up and eat every bit without ever offering it to the hungry villagers, who had to go without meat because of all the rabbits they had to frantically hunt and catch to please the chief’s new wife. 
   This made everyone in Hahamogna so unhappy that eventually the village elders all came together and urged the chief to send her home. The chief sighed, “do with her what you think is best” he said. 
So, after the elders gathered again, they all decided the Wizard-Cheif would be so angry to see his daughter rejected that it was better to put her to death, a rare punishment for the Tongva people. “What should we do with the child?” asked the wisest elders. “Let it die with the mother!” The chief answered, heartbroken and frustrated that his wife had ended up being so selfish. 
     So the next morning the elders went to every villager and told them their plan. No one was allowed to bring water from the stream back to their huts, but instead they were told to drink from the stream whenever they were thirsty. The children and women were told to find snakes, lizards, and other reptiles. When the men returned from their rabbit hunt, they stuffed the rabbits with the reptiles before they roasted them. In the last hut of the village, which was the furthest from the chief’s hut, the people of the village filled a water basket with urine. 
When the time came for the people of the village to present their roasted rabbits, the selfish wife began to dig in as they watched. As she was eating, she noticed a lizard leg poking out of the rabbit meat. She picked it out. “What is this?” she asked. 
   “A quail leg” the man who gave her the first rabbit replied. She looked at him suspiciously. 
     “Eat it then.” She said. 
     “It’s for you,” He replied. 
     Hungry, she shrugged and continued to eat the rabbit and all of the pieces of lizards and snakes inside until she became overwhelmingly thirsty. “I need water.” She gasped. 
     “We haven’t gathered any today,” an elder said. “Just go to the stream.” 
     Too lazy to walk outside of the village, the selfish wife instead decided to walk around the village to find their water baskets to drink from. As she looked through home after home, empty basket after empty basket, she got thirstier and thirstier, until finally she came across the final hut with a water basket filled to the brim. She was so thirsty that she drank the entire basketful of water in three gulps, not even noticing that the water basket was actually filled with urine. This all gave her an upset stomach, but she was too selfish and lazy to gather food or collect water for herself. 
     After ten days of eating and drinking like this she realized what it was doing to her, her eyebrows and long thick black hair had almost all fallen out, and she looked wrinkled and wasted away. She decided to go back to her father’s village with her child secretly in the middle of the night. 
     After going a few miles with her daughter the weight of the baby became too much for her. “I’m so stupid carrying this burden!” she said out loud as she carried her baby. “As if he liked me enough to have a baby with him!” She threw the child into the bushes and kept walking, but when she looked back and saw her baby crying and reaching out for her, her heart softened and she picked the baby up again. “You haven’t done anything wrong” she said to her baby “I shouldn’t take my anger out on you.” She went on and on, until she was so tired she finally stopped, angry that she was in this situation. Her selfishness and laziness overcame any love she had for her child that she took the baby by the heels and swung it head first towards a large rock. The blood from the child’s head still stains that rock today, but some believe Creator turned the baby into a squirrel before it could die. 
     The selfish wife went on alone, until she came close enough to the village to see her mother’s chamuca (a large grainery basket that’s big enough to hold as much as two tons). The selfish wife climbed in and buried herself in the acorns and seeds already in the chamuca and immediately fell asleep. Not long after, her mother came by to take some acorns out, and when she reached her hand in she touched the top of her daughter’s head. The selfish wife jumped out of the grainery and her mother screamed. 
     “Yes! Be scared of me!” the selfish wife screamed. “After everything that’s happened to me in that awful village, from that awful husband, it’s all your fault!” 
     Her mother looked up at her, barely recognizing her with her hair mostly gone and her eyebrows barely there. “Tell me what happened to you.” She begged her daughter, and the selfish wife then told her everything. 
     “All I asked for were a few roasted rabbits every day to help me make milk for my baby.” She whined. “But they did something to the rabbits, and they stopped giving me good water to drink, and now all of my beauty is gone!” Her mother nodded, and then ran to get her husband. 
The selfish wive’s mother told the wizard-chief what happened and he rushed in secret to his wife’s chamuca with medicinal herbs for his daughter. After four months of living in the chamuca, taking her fathers herbal teas and medicines, the wrinkles on her face were nearly gone and her hair reached her waist again. 
     “You’re better now, you need to bathe.” Her parents told her. 
     “Go to your brother’s bathing well every day.” 
     So the selfish wife began to go every day, but her brother was just as selfish as she was and began to notice something wrong about his bathing spot. When he went the water wasn’t still like it usually was, and he would find hairs that he knew weren’t his because they weren’t as long. 
     “I think someone’s been using my bathing spot.” He told his mother one day. She quickly brushed it off, trying to keep her daughter’s return a secret until she was no longer sick or ashamed of her failed marriage. But one day, the brother of the selfish wife saw her bathing in his well, but he didn’t recognize her. Angry to see someone in his well, he dived in and grabbed her by the ankle, throwing her out of the water. “So you’re the one disturbing my water! Get out!” 
The selfish wife, so ashamed that her brother saw her fully naked when he threw her out of the water, traveled to the nearby sea and drowned herself. 

     The brother of the selfish wife, proud of finding the person using his well, strutted back home and boasted to his parents about finding the woman who had been using his bathing spot. “I threw her out!” He laughed “And I saw her naked!” 
     “She must have run off ashamed of her brother seeing her naked.” His mother said after he left. “We must find her!” 
     So the Wizard-Chief took a willow twig, covered it in buckskin, and threw it North. It came back to him. He threw it South, but it came back to him. Then he tried East. When he threw it West, it kept going. So they followed it down the river until they came to the ocean, where they saw the magical willow disk sink into the sea. “She’s drowned herself in the ocean from her shame, but our son will pay for his selfishness.” 
     So the next day, he called all of the people out of their huts and told them to go hunting for a few days, and take his son along. He told the wisest elders to let his son be eaten by wild beasts, if that’s what Creator planned for him. “If one of the wild animals doesn’t take him, then I have another plan” he told his wisest elder. His son, overly proud of being the Chief's son, walked out of the village in all of his fine regalia, covered in money beads and other ornaments. 
     After a few days of hunting all day and sleeping around warm fires in the mountains, the oldest elder let loose a screech owl, which he had brought hidden in a basket. The screech owl was the Chief in disguise. All of the hunters woke up with a start and ran away from the sound, afraid of the bad omen. The son, lazy as ever, ignored the sound and stayed where he was. In the sky above him the Wizard-Chief transformed again into a giant Cuwot (eagle). The Cuwot swept down and carried his son into the air. Seeing this, the hunters ran back to the clearing, shouting “The Cuwot has taken the Chief’s son!” Before they could say anything more the son of the Wizard-Chief landed in front of them, every bone broken from his fall. They gathered up his body and buried it in the clearing, it’s unsure if he died before he landed or if the impact killed him. 

A few days after this, a man from Hahamogna came into town. “Hello!” Said the chief. “How is everything in your village?” 
     “We’re all doing well!” The messenger said with a big smile. “Our Chief is about to take a new wife, and we’re all preparing a great feast just for the occasion!” 
     As the messenger walked off, the chief laughed to himself. “Let them be happy. They’ve had their laugh, soon I’ll have mine, we’ll all perish together. 
     The Wizard-Chief set off to Hahamogna, but before getting to the village he came across a group of women carefully gathering prickly pears while one of them sifted the needles off of the fruit. “Sift the basket full of tunas over my eyes” he told her. She shook her head. 
     “The needles will get into your eyes!” she told him. They argued for a moment until she finally obeyed, sifting the tuna needles over his eyes. As soon as she began sifting over his eyes, the women all cried out in pain. They had all gone blind! 
     “Now it is my turn to laugh,” said the Wizard-Chief, unharmed, and he continued towards their village. Just before he entered the village, he transformed himself again into a huge eagle and began swooping down towards the people of the village. “Catch that Cuwot!” All of the villagers shouted. Except for one woman, the oldest and wisest elder, who was taking care of two young children while their mothers were away. 
     “No!” She yelled above them. “That isn’t an eagle! That is a wizard!” 
     Those who could hear her laughed her off as an old fool, but the old woman knew what was happening and covered the children with a basket to keep them safe. Soon, the people caught the eagle. 
     “Let’s tear its wings off and kill it!” They shouted angrily. But as soon as they tore the wings off the eagle a huge gush of blood poured from one side of the body, and a gush of green bile from the other. Fever and vomiting overtook all of the people of the village and killed them all, except for the wise old woman and the children she hid under the basket. The Cuwot then soared, without its wings, up to the clouds, and the Wizard-Chief was never heard of again by his people. 
     The wise old woman had to bury the dead as best as she could, and stayed in the now empty village with the two children. When they were old enough she made a bow and arrow for the boy and showed him how to use it, and made a flat basket for the girl so that she could clean seed for food. When they were old enough, she married them, and they all lived happily together. 
     After she was married, the girl became selfish. Her husband, the boy, was a great hunter, and so although she never lacked meat, she kept any meat from the old woman who raised her and her husband. This angered the old woman, and she planned her revenge. She got her deer bone awl she used for basket weaving and placed it pointing up on the girls seat. It almost killed her, but not quite. Again, the old woman placed the awl on the edge of the girls bathing pool and it almost killed her, but not quite. 
     After having this happen twice, the girl warned her husband that the old woman might be trying to kill her. “If she kills me, my spirit will send you a sign. If three drops of water fall on your left shoulder, then you’ll know she killed me.” 
     One day the boy was out hunting, and three drops of water fell on his shoulder. At once he threw down his bow and arrow and ran home. He called out for his wife, but only the old woman was there. 
     “Where’s my wife?” He asked her. 
     “The poor thing,” the old woman crooned. “She died, I buried her here.” She said pointing to a grave. 
     “You’ve murdered her!” He said, and snatched up a large stick to kill her with. She was too quick, in a flash she turned into a gopher and burrowed into the earth. 
     For three days and nights he laid on her grave, grieving her loss. On the third day, he saw a whirlwind rise from the grave, and then disappear. Just as quick as it was gone, a second whirlwind rose up. Finally, a third whirlwind rose up, much higher than the last two, and started to go South. He followed the whirlwind, and as he followed it the whirlwind began to transform. Eventually, under the whirlwind he began to see footprints. 
     “Is this my wife?” He asked out loud. 
His wife’s voice spoke softly from the whirlwind. “Go back to your hut, dear husband.” She said.          “I’m now a spirit, no earthly thing can go where I am going, remember I am dead to the world, go back to living your life.” But he couldn’t be persuaded. 
     “Let me go with you!” He cried to her. After a moment, his wife’s voice spoke again. 
     “I’ll risk taking you.” She replied. “But remember that no human on this earth ever has, or ever will, see us.” 

     They passed over the great Pacific into the spirit realm, where he heard beautiful voices call out to his wife. “We smell something of the earth,” They spoke melodically. “What did you bring here sister?” 
     The wife spirit confessed. “I have brought my husband, he does not want to be without me.”
     “Take him away.” The voices all commanded. Even though the husband could hear everything, he could see nothing. 
     “Let him stay” The spirit wife begged. “He is an excellent hunter, and he is a better man than most.” 
     The other spirits paused. “Let us test him.” They said. “Bring a feather from the top of this pole.” They said. The man looked to his side and saw a pole so tall he couldn’t see the top.
“Don’t be afraid” the spirit wife told her husband. “You are a strong man, just don’t look down as you ascend.” 
     When he brought the feather from the top of the pole, the other spirits whispered applause.          “Ayopui-cushna (brother-in-law) is good at climbing.” They said with approval. They then gave him a long hair to split from end to end, and although it was a difficult task his wife encouraged him to have faith, and he succeeded in splitting the long hair. 
     “Ayopui-cushna is very precise with his hands.” The spirits said. 
     “Now make us a map from memory” the spirits said. “Draw a map in the dirt of Ursa Major with the North Star perfectly positioned.” 
     This gave the husband a long pause, he had seen the seers draw a similar map, but he didn’t know how to do it himself. But his wife encouraged him again to think hard and remember what he had learned, and he was able to do it successfully. 
     “Ayopui-cushna is smart, well done!” The spirits cheered. “The last skill you need to show is us your hunting skills. We will send deer down the hill for you to kill.” A moment later he heard hooves thumping down the hill beside him. “Here they come!” The spirits said. 
     He used all of his senses to find the deer, but he couldn’t find them for the life of him. The spirits hooted their disapproval at his failure. They let him try once more, with the same result. “Let me talk to him.” The spirit wife told the other spirits. “Then let him try again, please, for my sake.” The spirits reluctantly allowed her to go to him. 
     “I can’t see them! How can I hunt something I cannot see?” 
     “You have good eyes, you must have seen the black beetles running around when you were hunting, those are deer, kill them!” The deer were released down the hill again, and this time he looked at the ground and saw a swarm of tiny black beetles. He killed one, and in an instant it transformed into the body of a strong young buck. Encouraged, he killed another, and then another, until the spirits told him to stop. All of the deer he killed were lifted into the sky and returned to Creator, but he still saw none of the spirits, except now he could see their shadows. The spirits raised a happy cheer. 
     “Sister, as you know, no one was ever allowed to return to the Earth. Death does not exist to the beings in Tucupar (heaven), but since our Ayopui-cushna cannot understand the joy we have here, because of his earth body, we will have compassion on him instead by returning your spirit to earth.” 
     “Return to the human world with your wife.” They told the husband. “But remember you must not have intercourse with her until after three days, there is a punishment waiting for you if you are disobedient to this rule.” 
     The husband and wife left the spirit realm together and traveled back to earth, where they had a three day trip back to their home. He couldn’t see her until night, after building a fire and laying down he could see the outline of her, asleep. On the second night, her form became clearer, and on the third day, she looked just as she did before she had died. 
     “Wife of my heart!” He cried out, and when he reached out with his arms to take hold of her and make love to her, he instead grasped a rotten wooden log, his wife gone. He remained a sorrowful wanderer on earth until the day of his death. 
     Many elders added to the end of this story that a woman returning from the spirit world never would have happened, and it instead was just a way for the spirits to give her mourning husband compassion and to get him to return to earth, so that he could return to them again one day, properly, as a spirit. 
     The bird mentioned in this story, the Cuwot,is a large bird that was never seen but firmly believed in by Tongva ancestors. It is said that the Cuwot lives in the mountains, and is nocturnal. It’s cry is “cu”, and it is said that it often carried people away. 

 

The Coyote and The River

     Coyotes believe they are the smartest, fastest, strongest animals on earth. One coyote in particular thought he was the best of the best, even better than a human. One day as the coyote walked alongside the river, he noticed how slow the water was flowing. He smiled at the river and looked down at it. “How about we race?” The coyote said to the water, thinking he’d win. “Yes, let’s race.” The river answered calmly. “I will meet you at my friend Ocean”  

     The Coyote ran at full speed along the bank, easily going faster than the river.

After a while, the coyote got tired, but he was determined to win. After a little longer, he started to slow down. The ocean was nowhere in sight. The coyote was determined, and he ran until he could barely stand. He looked over to the river, where the water was running smoothly on. When he could finally walk again, the coyote walked off with his tail between his legs. 

He had something to think about many days after that.