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Maps of our former territory, sacred sites, and modern exhibits as well as documentation of our state recognition as Native Americans and documentation of our attempted elimination during the 1850's.

Scroll down to learn more about our culture as well as some of our words for popular areas of the Los Angeles area.




The Tongva occupied the entire Los Angeles basin and the islands of Santa Catalina, San Nicholas, San Clemente, and Santa Barbara. From Topanga Canyon to Laguna Beach, from the San Gabriel Mountains to the sea, we lived throughout most of what is now Los Angeles and Orange County. The existence of our people on these ancestral lands has been unbroken since long before the first contact between the Tongva and Europeans.



Despite the European incursion, we have remained an integral part of the Southern California community. Our presence is well documented (Please see copies of these documents in our “Maps and More” section of “Our History”). Our existence is preserved in records of the three local Catholic missions and in records of local cities and both Los Angeles and Orange County. A mistaken notion that we were extinct developed. But we have survived! We are here!



Moomat Ahiko (Breath of the Ocean) made its maiden voyage on September 9th, 1995 at Catalina-- the first ti'at (plank canoe) built since the 1800's.


Defense of Puvungna, sacred birth place of Tongva religious leader Chin-ngich-nish.


In the early 1990's Kuruvungna Springs, an ancestral Tongva village and sacred site, was rededicated as ritual land and is used for ceremonial events.


The San Dimas Festival of Wetern Arts installed a mural in San Dimas City Hall commemorating Juana Maria, the last Tongva to inhabit San Nicolas Island. She is the inspiration behind the classic children's novel Island of the Blue Dolphins


In 1993, San Gabriel residents voted to name their new high school "The Gabrielino High School."


The "Gabrieleno Trail" was designated in the upper Arroyo Seco Canyon of the San Gabriel Mountains in 1994 by The United States Forest Service.


The California Legislature adopted a similar resolution acknowledging its longtime relationship with the Gabrieleno / Tongva August 31, 1994.


Grand opening of the Gabrieleno Tongva Tribal's Cultural Center.

La River Signage dedication of De Anza Memorial

Loyola Marymont University Dedication

San Gabriel Art Center Tongva Mural

2017 Pitzer College at the Scott building Mural 


Heritage Park, Santa Fe Springs

Mt Baldy at forest ranger station

Rancho Santa Anita Arboretum


A mound stone stands as a tribute to "Toypurina" a Gabrieleno sharman and historical warrior at the metrolink stop in Baldwin Park

San Dimas City Hall a mural of "Juana Maria" the Tongva woman who inspired the novel Island of the Blue Dolphins

Rio Vista Park, El Monte

Heritage Park, Santa Fe Springs

Smith Park, San Gabriel

Memorial stone monument at Long Beach Veterans Hospital

Maps and Historic Details: Text


Where and how we lived, and some of our language





THE FOUR  T'OR.OH.VIM  - ( Dolphins)



1542 - Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo in Santa Maria Bay

1620 - Sebastian Vizcaino expedition

1769 - Gasper de Portola and Father Vizcaino

1771 - San Gabriel Mission est.



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



Los Angeles River- Pay.mi pah.hit

Hondo River - pah.hit

San Gabriel River - pah.hit

Santa Ana River - Kah.ho pah.hit




South -

West -

North -



San Clemente Island - Kin ki

San Nicolas Island - Ha rash

Santa Barbara Island - Tehu nash

Santa Catalina Island - Pi mu



Mt. Baldy -

Mt. Saddleback - Har'

Mt. San Gorgonio -

Mt. San Jacinto - Ja.mi.wu



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



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). 



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.



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.


A Few Types of Baskets

1 The trinket basket is small and round like an oval ball, with a small opening on top. In this basket is where our ancestors would put their treasures and money for safekeeping..


2. The cradleboard was made of closely woven soft spongy tule weeds. These cradleboards were made so mothers could carry their babies while they went to gather. 


3. The canteen basket was woven very tight and sealed with tar. its small mouth opening makes it look much like our canteens today.


4. The winnowing basket was made of twigs. It was used to separate leaves and stems from grain.


5. The cooking basket was set over mortar rocks, there was no bottom. Acorn meal could be ground and collected on the side of the basket.


6. The parching basket was more like a tray and was used to roast seeds. Hot coals and seeds were placed in the parching basket and tossed in a continuous motion so the basket wouldn’t burn. 


1771 ~ 1940’s


Slavery & Eradication

Forced into Catholicization

Catholicization made us, referred to us, & recorded us as Neophyte’s: a person who is new to a subject, skill, or belief.  This was the beginning of efforts to eradicate who we were & our past existence as Native Americans.  

Baptismal records referred to us as Neophyte’s having no previous name or history.  

Told we must Assimilate

Assimilation: The absorption and integration of people, ideas, or culture into a wider society or culture. Technically “Never happened”.

1852 Bounty by California Governor: To Kill/Eradicate Native American Men ~ Women & Children.

Census records were able to record & identify us.  Communications with the government were attempted & made regarding the Native American Enrollment of 1929.  

We were basically forced into seclusion until late 1940’s 

Our Tribe now felt free to present themselves public ally after the: 
Indian Claims Act of 1946 by the United States Congress to hear any longstanding claims of Indian tribes against the United States.  

We had maintained Community by maintaining residence in a segregated community (village) & forming a non-descript social club in pretense of continuing continued community, and tribal unity.  

Bea Alva & Fred (Sparky) Morales

Bea Alva (March 31, 1914 to June 19, 2010)
Bea Alva was an exceptional lady that made a difference for the San Gabriel Band of Mission Indians.  Her span of influence impacted our tribe and the community.  She became our Tribal leader after the “Indian Claims Act of 1946”.  Bea’s reputation was without question admirable.  She played a major role in the reenactments of the Spanish arrival at the Mission and Pasadena Playhouse.  She was voted the first Queen of the San Gabriel Fiesta in 1934. See photo in History ~ Photo Gallery ~ 1946-1980. Bea participated as a community leader throughout her life.  She was beloved and respected by all that knew her. 

Bea Alva and Fred (Sparky) Morales shared tribal leadership for decades, in partnership with each other. They successfully addressed the multitude of Tribal and Native American issues that impacted the tribe during their tenure and laid the groundwork for future generations to continue in the quest of preserving our culture and furthering education about our existence.

Bea retired in 1984, the Tribal Council was transferred to a younger generation of active Tribal members. Sparky continued his role an Elder and Chief until his passing in 1995.

Fred (Sparky) Morales (November 19, 1912 to February 6, 1995)
Sparky represented the Tribe in his role as Chief with distinction and honor until his passing in 1995. He was a great ambassador and was revered by all that knew him.  He built alliances with the surrounding Tribes.  He joined other tribes in ceremony and fellowship.  He also represented the San Gabriel Band of Mission Indians/Gabrieleno-Tongva in community meetings gathering, local politics and built relationships with the surrounding community.

Throughout the years, Sparky was well supported by his brother’s Arthur Sr., David and Joseph who also held official positions as well as other members in the elected body of the San Gabriel Band of Mission Indians/Gabrieleno-Tongva. 

The matriarch of the Morales family Olegaria (Modesta) Valenzuela-Morales was one of four Valenzuela Gabrieleno sisters which accounts for the long standing lineage of the San Gabriel Band of Mission Indians Gabrieleno/Tongva Tribe and in the community of San Gabriel and the surrounding areas.

Gabrieleno Tongva Yayakenar

The "Tongva Dancers" perform social songs and dances for the public at special events through-out the year..


The Tongva Dancers celebrate the songs and dances, rituals and ceremonies of pre-European Tovangar: the culture and world of the Tongva, the indigenous people of Los Angeles basin. This world, comprised of hundreds of villages and towns, stretched from what is now Newport Beach to Malibu and as far northeast as San Bernardino and northwest into the San Fernando Valley. It included the four southern Channel Islands.


Our ceremonies, songs and dances were forbidden by the colonizers who enslaved us during the mission era, which led to a mistaken notion that we became extinct. But we have survived and e’qua chem "We are still here!". The Gabrieleno Tongva San Gabriel Band of Mission Indians original historical tribe proudly re-serviced  in Spring 1995 under the auspices of the Gabrielino Tongva's Tribal Council to continue their traditional ancestral ways, continuing ceremonies and learning and performing traditional and social modern songs and dances. To see examples of our performers, please look in the Cultural Gallery. 


Dancers of all ages make up the dance company- from elders to children.


The company's handmade regalia, instruments, the songs, music, dances and ceremonies are all created from an extensive ongoing research program into Gabrieleno history and culture.


As a way to preserve the sacredness of our culture after decades of censorship, we ask that those not involved in the Gabrielino Tongva tribe respect our regalia by not copying it for costumes. We respect and admire all regalia worn by all cultures. We find all Native American inspired costumes worn by non-indigenous people to be unhelpful for our communities and oftentimes insulting. If you would like to support indigenous communities and enjoy the beauty of our artwork, please support indigenous jewelry makers, basket weavers, and artists!

Maps and Historic Details: Text
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