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The Gabrielino lived along the coast in what is now Los Angeles and Orange County. They were given this name by the Spanish who established a mission at San Gabriel. The author, Evelyn Wolfson, has argued: "They established permanent villages along the coastline and built dome-shaped, round houses, which they framed with saplings and covered with mats made of tule leaves, ferns, and other plants. Each village had a large, round, earth-covered sweat lodge dug below ground that was used by the men for bathing and socializing."
They dug shellfish from the coast and fished for salmon on inland rivers. The Gabrielino did not plant crops but obtained some of their food from the acorns they collected each year. All acorns produced by California oaks contain tannin, which is very bitter. They dealt with this problem by removing the acorn hull and to grind the interior into a flour in a stone mortar or on a flat grinding slab. They then constantly poured warm water over the flour to leach out the tannin. The leached flour was then mixed with water in a watertight basket and boiled by dropping hot stones into the gruel. The cooked mush was then either drunk or eaten with a spoon. Sometimes it was baked into a cake.
According to the authors of The Natural World of the California Indians (1980), the Gabrielino, along with the Yokut and the Costanoans, tobacco played an important role in tribal life: "Tobacco was mixed with lime from seashells and eaten. A kind of intoxication resulted, though the main effect seems to have been vomiting."
The Spanish established the Mission San Gabriel Arcángel in September, 1771. The anthropologist, Alfred L. Kroeber, has estimated that at the time the Gabrielino had a population of about 5,000 people. After one of the Gabrielino women was raped by a Spanish soldier, some members of the tribe attacked the mission. According to Tracy Salcedo-Chouree, the author of California's Missions and Presidios (2005): "The skirmish that ensued ended, according to one account, with the husband's head on a pole."
Evelyn Wolfson claims that the Gabrielino were forced to join the mission: "Many of them died from disease, overwork, and lack of nourishing food. They are now believed to be an extinct native group." However, Charles Salazar has argued: "Although not federally recognized, there are actually several factions of tribal bands of the Gabrieleno people that exist and are at least state recognized as a indigenous people through one of these. I myself am of Gabrieleno descent and know this to be true first hand. The Gabrieleno do not have a reservation or lands to speak of but are ongoing in pursuing federal recognition. I understand that they may seem extinct in the traditional sense of what most see as Native Americans but I can assure you that there are legitimate bloodlines still existing and there are ongoing efforts to maintain our traditions and culture as a people."
Gabrielino - History
Ernest Perez, Tautimes, Salas,
Chief and spiritual leader of the original documented Gabrieleño Band of Mission Indians
has proven to be the most recognized and most accurately documented, direct lineal-descendant of former native ancestors of Kizh/Gabrieleño Villages or (rancherias), the villages of Sibangna Siba, Tameobit & Atongai / Tamet, from 1785 of any Gabrieleño Indians in Gabrieleño History.
In 1994, the state of California recognized the Gabrielino Tribal Council, "Gabrielino" - without the use of the term Tongva .
The original Gabrieleño tribe of San Gabriel led by Chief & spiritual leader Ernest P. Teutimez Salas, Gabrielino Tribal Council gained acknowledgement of its nonprofit status by the state of California in 1994 ( incorporator and founder of the 501C3 Ernest P. Salas.)
Chief Salas is the gggrandchild of Nicolas Jose who was a man of great power and had an important part in the rebellion at mission San Gabriel.
A San Gabriel Indian, Nicolas Jose was a man of great power and control as well as a good leader. He was among other natives who worked with the Spanish and then turned against them. On September 27, 1774, twenty-six year old Nicolás José was baptized by Father Pablo Joseph de Mugartegui at the San Gabriel Mission. Nicolas was only the third adult male Gabrielino to be baptized at the mission. There are no historical records revealing if Nicolas had exercised any religious or political authority in his home of Sibapet (Hackel 2003).
However, soon after baptism, Nicolas exercised his leadership and power in many ways. He became one of the first Indians to serve as a Gabrielino marriage witness and the only Gabrielino to serve as a godparent for the child of a Baja California Indian.
One remarkable achievement was in 1778-1779 Nicolas was the mission’s first alcalde. However, a turn of events took place when according to Father Serra, Nicolas provided “women to as many soldiers as asked for them” (Hackel 2005: 263). Nicolas was punished, and at this point in time, he stopped working with the Spanish and would soon work against them. According to Hackel, Nicolas’s punishment may have been the reason for him as well as other Indians to plot a rebellion which would take place in 1785 (2005: 263).
It is important to note that although Nicolas was baptized and participated in Catholic sacrament administration at the mission, he did not forget that he was a Gabrielino. He still participated in their dances, celebrations, and rituals. This dual life ended in 1785 when he organized the rebellion.
Micro-historians consider Nicolas a “normal exception” who left a visible trace in the historical records of Native Americans (Hackel 2005: 266). He was one of only a few Indians who led a rebellion in Colonial California against their own mission. The “normality” of the exception refers to the duality of life hat he led. He meshed his life at the mission as well as his Gabrielino identity together.
Nicolas Jose’s role in the rebellion led to his banishment from San Gabriel, and he had to suffer through six years at the presidio of San Francisco doing labor work. Although Nicolas was only trying to protect his own people, his connection to them and the culture they shared was cut off completely through his banishment and separation from his homeland.
Steven W. Hackel, “Sources of Rebellion: Indian Testimony and the Mission San Gabriel Uprising of 1785,” The American Society of Ethnohistory, 2003.
Steven W. Hackel, Children of Coyote, Missionaries of St. Francis, The University of North Carolina Press, 2005.--Francesca Vaccaro, June 2006The Kizh/Gabrieleño band of mission Indians are one of two tribes recognized by the State of California but not federally recognized by the United States. They are currently actively pursuing the goal.
Mr. Salas is admired by our tribe as a patient, caring and knowledgeable advocate for the Kizh/Gabrieleños.
For many years he has quietly and arduously worked to gain respect not only within the local community but by local governments as well. He has unselfishly and tirelessly become our Spiritual Leader and performed many blessings for events this always working to form coalitions with other groups. He has not given up on our struggle for federal recognition, instilling the desire to achieve this goal in countless others including his son Andrew. His maternal and paternal great great grandparents were originally the owners of Rancho Paso de Bartolo and Rancho Potrero Grande. Paso de Bartolo was the largest Mexican land grant consisting of 360,000 acres. These ranchos include present day Whittier, Montebello, Downey and Pico Rivera.
Ernie Salas and son Andy walking ancestral land in Potrero Chico de San Gabriel.
The Kitc/Gabrieleño Band of mission Indians makes no assertions as to ownership of any original copyrights for any photographic images. However, these images are intended for Personal or Research use only. Any other kind of use, including, but not limited to commercial or scholarly publication in any medium or format, public exhibition, or use online or in a web site, may be subject to additional litigation including but not limited to the copyrights held by parties other than the Kizh Gabrieleños. USERS ARE SOLELY RESPONSIBLE for determining the existence of such rights and for obtaining any permissions and/or paying associated fees necessary for the proposed use.
Kizh/Gabrieleño Band of Mission Indians ©2010
Historically known as The San Gabriel Band of Mission Indians recognized by the
When several existing trails were renamed to make a "new" 28.5 mile (45 km) trail in 1970, in compliance with the National Trails System Act, the Forest Service announcement read as follows:
This trail has been created for you - the city dweller - so that you might exchange, for a short time, the hectic scene of your urban life for the rugged beauty and freedom of adventure into the solitary wonderland of nature.
The trail winds its way from Chantry Flat, through Big Santa Anita Canyon past Sturtevant Falls and Sturtevant's Camp, then over Newcomb's Pass into the West Fork of the San Gabriel River. The trail meets the river at Devore Campground then follows the watercourse upstream to West Fork Campground.
To this point, the Gabrielino Trail has been tracing the Silver Moccasin Trail. It is across the stream from West Fork Campground that the Silver Moccasin Trail heads up Shortcut Canyon for the San Gabriel High Country. To continue on the Gabrielino Trail, travel west to the head of the West Fork at Red Box Saddle near Mount Wilson. This is the trail's highest point.
From Red Box, the Gabrielino continues westward down the Arroyo Seco through Commodore Switzer Trail Camp, Oakwilde and Gould Mesa Campgrounds, and emerges from The Arroyo at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. The entire route of the trail was declared open in a press release by the Forest Service August 27, 2018  Due to the 2009 Station Fire, part of the Gabrielino was closed by the USFS including the portion of the trail between Switzer down to the Arroyo Seco. With the help of a joint project from a variety of trail groups including the Mt. Wilson Bicycling Association (MWBA) and CORBA, the reopening of the trail was announced August 27, 2018. 
Potable water is available at the Chantry Flat trailhead and at Red Box Saddle, but otherwise one must boil or filter the stream water. Very little cell phone service along the entire route.
The following is a list of Forest Service facilities along the route of the Gabrielino Trail, east to west:
Gabrielino High School is a California Distinguished School, having received the distinction in 2001 and 2009.  
In addition, Newsweek magazine ranked Gabrielino as one of the United States' top 1000 high schools as determined by the number of Advanced Placement courses taken at the school in 2005 divided by the number of graduating seniors. 
In 2007, Gabrielino earned the Silver Medal status from the U.S. News and World Report based on standardized test performance in Math and English and AP courses taken and passed with a "3" or better. Based on this report, Gabrielino is placed in the top 3% of the nation or top 505 schools. About 39% of graduates go on to four-year universities nationwide while about 55% attend community college after graduation.  In 2012, Gabrielino High School was nationally ranked the 985th best high school, and the 190th best high school in California. 
Prior to 1994, high school students belonging to the San Gabriel Unified School District (SGUSD) attended San Gabriel High School, which is part of the Alhambra School District, since SGUSD did not have a high school of its own.
In April 1992, San Gabriel residents won the right to educate their own high school students by ballot measure, winning 61% of votes to establish an autonomous school operated by the SGUSD.  In response, the Alhambra School District (ASD) filed a lawsuit alleging that the California Board of Education had improperly excluded Alhambra voters and because ASD stood to lose as much as US$1.8 million in state funding, since the planned high school would siphon away 1,400 students.   Homeowners in San Gabriel also led the opposition to a bitterly disputed bond measure, claiming they would fight the district's attempts to raise the funds necessary to build the high school, which would be temporarily situated at the site of the old Jefferson Middle School campus.  They complained the high school would cause congestion and lower their property values. 
On November 13, 1993, San Gabriel Unified School District officials voted 327 to 241 to name the planned high school "Gabrielino High School," which became the first public building in California to honor the Gabrielino Indians (Tongva people).  
On September 8, 1994, Gabrielino High School opened its doors to its first class, teaching 9th graders.  Alhambra School District retained responsibility to school 10th to 12th graders until 1995, as part of an agreement signed by both districts in June, the same month Alhambra filed its lawsuit. The school's site on Lafayette Street formerly housed Jefferson Intermediate School, which was moved to the location of the former Madison Elementary School north of Las Tunas Road.
In June 1994, the Los Angeles Superior Court ruled in favor of Alhambra, declaring that the 1992 election was unconstitutional because all the stakeholders had not been allowed to vote in the measure.  However, on December 22, 1994, the 2nd District Court of Appeals overturned the previous ruling, declaring that San Gabriel Unified School District residents had a right to independently establish their own boundaries, citing California Board of Education approval.  In January 1995, Alhambra School District dropped its case against Gabrielino High School, citing the money and time needed to pursue its goal of shutting down the high school. 
On March 20, 1999, an arsonist set a US$2 million fire that destroyed 2 offices and 10 classrooms, effectively displacing 400 of the 1,400 students on campus. 
On December 5, 2011, the San Gabriel Unified School District Board voted 3-2 not to renew the contract of Sharon Heinrich, the school's principal, for 2012–2013 school year, citing concerns about her leadership and supervisory abilities, against the opinion of Gabrielino alumni, students and faculty.  On January 9, 2012, the Board reversed its previous decision, following the swearing-in of a new board and community outcry. 
Gabrielino High School's distinct architecture incorporates cosmopolitan trends and styles. The school's exterior uses bold colors, including shades of orange and red. The campus is built on a 13.97 acres (0.0565 km 2 ) plot bounded by San Gabriel Boulevard to the west, Lafayette Street to the east, Wells Street to the north and Valley Boulevard to the south.
The current campus, built in 2002, is 197,974 square feet (18,392.4 m 2 ) and consists of administration offices, classroom buildings, a media center and library, a gymnasium, and a theatre. 
In the 2010–2011 school year, Gabrielino High served 1,808 students.   51.77% of students were male, while 48.2% were female. 
Enrollment by grade in the 2010–2011 school year was: 
Student enrollment by ethnic group was: 
|Ethnicity||Native American||Asian / Pacific Islander||Black||Hispanic||White||Multiracial|
Gabrielino High School is classified as a Title I school, with 934 students (51.65%) of students eligible for free or reduced lunch. 
Speech and Debate Edit
Ranking Nationally and is one of the top teams in California.
Mock Trial Edit
Gabrielino defeated James Monroe High School to win the 2008 Los Angeles County championship. 
In December 2014, 17-year-old Sean Kim, ranked 7th in the state of California for both the 100 and 200 breaststroke events, making him the 37th nationally ranked recruit overall for the class of 2015. 
Track and field Edit
In March 2011, 16-year-old Kevin Chiao, a 110-meter hurdler, ranked among the top 50 in the state of California, making him the first Gabrielino student to do so. 
Youth in Government Edit
Since 1996, Gabrielino High School students have participated in a Youth in Government (YIG) program organized in collaboration with the City of San Gabriel's government. 
Show Choir Edit
In 2008, Cynthia Talavera became the Choral Director and led the Advanced Show Choir to its first Gold Win in 8 years at the Forum Music Festival at Fullerton College. In 2013, Gabrielino Singers were accepted to sing at the traditional Candlelight Procession and Ceremony at Disneyland.
Gabrielino - History
Ceremonies of the Gabrielino
Do you celebrate important things and have traditions in your family? Well so did the Gabrielino Native American Indians. They probably celebrated things differently though, they didn’t celebrate things like Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, birthdays, Valentines day and many more holidays we have today. They celebrated gods, birth death and many more. The way the Gabrielino celebrated was very religious, and very spiritual. They had very unique clothing for very unique traditions.
The Gabrielino celebrated births and deaths of people very differently. The Gabrielino girls at the age of 13 had the parents choose a husband that was right for their daughter then among the Christianized Gabrielino or among the soldiers who would be guarding the mission. A special celebration for babies is one where every baby that was born in the past year got named. The most important death ceremony is in the fall and they celebrate important people in their tribe that had died, whether you were the leader, daughter of the leader, or a very old person who they considered “wise”.
Where ceremonies were held
Most Gabrielino ceremonies were held at a building that was shaped like a circle. The only people who would be able to enter were selected men and women that were special singers and dancers of the tribe. The building was called a “yuvar” the building was shaped like a circle and was decorated with flowers, and beautiful painted suns and moons.
The Gabrielino had special clothing for special occasions. Most of the ceremonial clothes were made of eagle and hawk feathers, but the girls wore short grass and reed skirt to the ceremonies, the men usually wore long head dresses made of lots of feathers and animal skin. The men also sometimes dressed like special animals that were very important to them like hawks, or foxes.
The next time you celebrate a holiday or something important to you think of what the Gabrielino celebrated.
Gabrielino-Tongva villages were located in the Los Angeles Basin for thousands of years. These villages were located near and around the ever changing Los Angeles River, San Gabriel River, Santa Ana River and the coastal areas.
It was a time when there was a perfect balance of the ecosystem where fish and game were plentiful and the river ran free with fresh water from the mountains.
Gabrielino-Tongva villages/locations/rancherias/lodges sometimes overlapped at the boundaries with the Chumash, Tataviam, Serrano, Cahuilla, Juaneno and Luiseno Indians. During the relocation and assimilation years, many found refuge with other tribes.
This map shows the Old Spanish and Mexican Ranchos (1800’s).
The locative suffix -nga, -ngna , is Gabrielino and is affixed to the village name. The suffix -bit, -vit, -pet, -bet , etc., is the Serrano Locative. Where both groups came together each applied its locative suffix to the village name. Johnston (1962: 10), however, quotes information from J. P. Harrington that the ending -vit, -bit or -pet “indicated the habitat of an individual, much as a New Yorker adds the ‘er’ to his city’s name.”
There are over 3,000 Gabrielino-Tongva archaeological sites in Los Angeles County, Orange County, and the Channel Islands.
This website is dedicated to finding and preserving the history of the Gabrielino-Tongva Native Americans of California. This site is an ongoing work in progress. Be sure and check back often for latest updates.
THE CALIFORNIA FRONTIER PROJECT
I’m Dr. Damian Bacich, and I’m a professor, translator and researcher of early California. I started the California Frontier Project to share the very best information and resources about California’s early history and natural environment. Learn more about the project here.
The American Indians living in the region when the Spanish
first arrived spoke a dialect of the Shoshone language.
Much of the Indian culture is only today being pieced together
from archeological studies in the area. However, it is known
that there had been an Indian village or gathering place
around Red Hill.
Although the Indians of that time were nomadic, when the
Spanish came, they grouped the Indians according to which
mission district they were in at the time, and turned them
from fishermen and harvesters of seasonal nuts and berries
into farm workers. The Indians who lived in what is today
the Tustin area were called the "Gabrielino" Indians, for they
were under the jurisdiction of the San Gabriel Mission.
They were considered, according to the European standards
of the time, to be "somewhat more sophisticated" than the
"Juanenos" Indians, who were under the jurisdiction of
the San Juan Capistrano Mission.
Members of the Tongva and Juaneao Luiseno nations long
inhabited this area. After the 1769 expedition of Gaspar de Portolá,
a Spanish expedition led by Father Junipero Serra named the
area Vallejo de Santa Ana (Valley of Saint Anne).
On November 1, 1776, Mission San Juan Capistrano
became the areas first permanent European settlement in
Alta California, New Spain.
In 1801, the Spanish Empire granted 62,500 acres to
Jose Antonio Yorba, which he named Rancho San Antonio.
Yorba's great rancho included the lands where the cities of
Olive, Orange, Villa Park, Santa Ana, Tustin, Costa Mesa and
Newport Beach stand today. Smaller ranchos evolved from
this large rancho including the Rancho Santiago de Santa Ana.
Pechanga Band of Mission Indians,
Pala Band of Mission Indians,
Rincon Band of Mission Indians,
San Luis Rcy Band of Mission Indians,
Puama/Yuima Band of Mission Indians,
Juancno Band of Mission Indians of San Juan,
Juaneao Band of Mission Indians of Santa Ana,
Juaneno Band of Mission Indians-Acjachemen Nation of San Juan,
Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians,
Gabrielino/Tongva Tribal Council of San Gabriel
La Jolla Band of Mission Indians
LA’s Tongva descendants: ‘We originated here’
KCRW listener Araceli Argueta wanted to know more about the history of Los Angeles’ indigenous people and submitted this question to Curious Coast. “What Native Tribes’ lands are we on? Are there living descendants? What is their story?”
Kuruvungna Springs flows on a small nature preserve near Santa Monica. It’s a sacred spot to the Tongva, one of LA’s indigenous tribes. The name – Kuruvungna – means “a place where we are in the sun” and it was the name of a Tongva village that once sat at this site of this natural spring.
Today, the Gabrielino Tongva Springs Foundation leases the land from the Los Angeles Unified School District and invites people to learn more about indigenous culture, tradition and history.
This is where I met Julia Bogany, a Tongva tribal elder, educator and the Cultural Affairs officer for the Gabrielino/Tongva Band of Mission Indians. She says sitting along the spring, which flows under the shade of a 150 year old Mexican Cypress, makes her think of what life was like for her ancestors.
“The water is flowing cool. It’s really nice. It’s a nice place to be in the middle of the city. There’s peace and quiet,” said Bogany about Kuruvungna Springs. “As for ceremonies, it’s really important because we don’t have those places where we can go for our own ceremonies, but here we can.”
The Tongva have been in Southern California for at least 10 thousand years, according to archeologists. Some Tongva descendants, like Craig Torres, say they’ve been here since the beginning of time.
“Now the name Tongva comes from a word in our language which means the earth or the land or one’s landscape, so it translates to ‘people of the earth,’” said Torres, a Tongva educator. “In our stories, we originated here, we didn’t come from any land bridge we get where this is where we are from.”
Kuruvungna Springs flows under a 150 year old Mexican Cypress, a Tongva village once sat at this site. On the other side of the fence, University High School’s football field. (Photo: Jenny Hamel)
The Tongva lived all throughout the Los Angeles Basin down to north Orange County and on Catalina and San Clemente islands. Tongva villages were often built near rivers, creeks, and other sources of water. Their biggest village was called Yangna and it sat right where downtown LA sits today, near the Los Angeles River. The Tongva traded extensively between themselves and with other tribes- like the Chumash, their neighbors to the North and West. Torres said a major reason they thrived, was that they had a relationship with the natural land based on a deep respect.
“There is this reciprocity that is needed in any type of relationship we have, whether it’s human or animal planet whatever. It’s a give and take. And that’s how my ancestors were able to survive on this land for not a few hundred years, but for thousands of generations,” said Torres. “And that’s why it looked the way it did when the Spanish first came up here and they noted it in their diaries it was like a paradise.”
When the Spanish arrived in Southern California in the late 1700s, life as the Tongva knew it was over. From that point on, the history of the Tongva and of all indigenous people in California, is an incredibly painful one – wrought with stories of mass killing, stolen land and stolen identity.
The Spanish settlers arrived and built the Mission San Gabriel in 1781. Thousands of Tongva were forced to leave their villages to work and live in the Missions. The missionaries collectively called all natives “Gabrielinos.”
The Tongva and other tribes were baptised, forced to give up their language and their culture.
The tribes fought back fiercely. But as bad as things were under the Spanish, the slaughter only increased when California became a state in 1850.
“It was worse when California was taken over by the Americans because there were actually mandates on the extermination of California Indians,” said Torres. “And that was probably one of the worst times for our people.”
The state of California finally recognized the Gabrielino-Tongva under state law in 1994. The tribe never received federal recognition or assistance.
“I think if the United States just acknowledged that there is a history of the people that were here. I don’t see recognition in my lifetime… I’ll be 70 next month” said Julia Bogany, tribal elder. “But I do see an acknowledgement of the people and I think it’s happening slowly. I think it’s happening slowly as colleges and the San Gabriel Mission are saying ‘These were the first people.’”
Roughly two thousand Tongva descendants live in Los Angeles today and some of our local cities have names that originated with the Tongva.
“If you notice they’re all in the foothills of the San Gabriel mountains Rancho Cucamonga, Azusa, Pacoima, Tujunga- and that comes from the word ‘tohu’ which is like an elder woman or an esteemed elderly woman in the community,” said Torres.
Craig Torres, a Tongva educator, standing in front of an elderberry tree, every part of which- from the berries to the branches- were valuable to his Tongva ancestors. (Photo: Jenny Hamel)
For Torres, keeping Tongva culture alive means educating today’s Angelenos, young and old, about the earth and treating it with respect and reverence as his ancestors did.
“For me part of bringing healing back to our communities,” said Torres, “is educating people that live here that they really should be paying attention and adhering to those ancient instructions that we were given you know thousands and thousands of years ago by our ancestors on how to conduct ourselves on the land. Because all the kids, you know, we all have different mothers but we only share one mother earth and we don’t get another one.”
Both Torres and Bogany have worked with UCLA on education projects, including a website called “Mapping Indigenous LA,” which is dedicated to the diversity of Los Angeles and is platform for the Tongva and other communities to tell their own story.
Bogany’s role as an educator includes teaching her great-granddaughter about the Tongva culture and language. Bogany says the 11-year-old is proud to be a Tongva descendant.
“I always say the Tongva women never left their land. They became invisible,” said Bogany. “We’re not invisible anymore.”
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Gabrielino Language (Kizh, Tongva)
Language: Gabrielino was a Uto-Aztecan language of Southern California closely related to Serrano. Language loss has been especially severe in California, where enslavement and violence against Indian peoples were not actively discouraged, and the Gabrielino language has not been spoken since the 1940's, although some younger people hope to revive its use.
Names: "Gabrielino" and "Gabrieleño" are the old Spanish names for the tribe, deriving from the Spanish placename San Gabriel Arcángel. "Tongva" was probably a Native placename or village name in the same vicinity. The people's endonym (the name they originally called themselves) may have been Kizh , a word in their own language meaning "home."
Gabrielino Language Gabrielino language samples and resources.
Gabrielino Tribe Culture and History Information and links about the Gabrieleño Indians past and present.
Gabrielino Indians Fact Sheet Our answers to common questions about the Gabrielinos.
Gabrielino Legends Introduction to Gabrielino mythology.
Gabrielino/Tongva Language Resources
Our Online Gabrielino Language Materials
Original People of Los Angeles County
Map of territories of Orignal Peoples with county boundaries in Southern California, Los Angeles Almanac, 2019.
Information sources: Handbook of North American Indians, Vol. 8, California, William C. Sturtevant (Gen. Editor) & Robert F. Heizer (Vol. Editor), 1978, Smithsonian Institute,
and Dr. E. Gary Stickel, Ph.D. (UCLA), Tribal Archeologist, Kizh Nation / Gabrieleno Band of Mission Indians.
Gabrieleño (also known as Kizh, Gabrielino, Tongva)
The Gabrieleño, who are believed to have arrived in the Los Angeles area from the Mojave Desert more than 2,000 years ago, were the people who canoed out to greet Spanish explorer Juan Rodriquez Cabrillo in 1542 upon his arrival off the shores of Santa Catalina and San Pedro. Cabrillo declined their invitation to come ashore to visit. The Gabrieleño inhabited the southern portion of what is today Los Angeles County, northern portion of Orange County, and some western portion of both San Bernardino and Riverside Counties. There were an estimated 5,000 to 10,000 Gabrieleño living in the region when the first Spanish settlers arrived in 1781 to establish Los Angeles. There are 31 known sites believed to have been Gabrieleño villages, each having had as many as 400 to 500 huts. In each village, a hereditary chieftain wielded almost total authority over the community. The Spanish initially called at least the Gabrieleño near the mission by a Spanish variation of their original name (Kichireños or "people of the willow houses"), but, after bringing them under subjection to the Mission San Gabriel, began calling them instead Gabrieleños (as the Spanish were prone to do with local native people subjected to each of their missions).
Warfare was not frequent for the Gabrieleño and robbery, murder and incest was rare.
Gabrieleño religious ceremonies were held in a circular structure within each village. The structure could only be entered by select males of status in the community and, in the event of funerary ceremonies, by close relatives. Female singers were also allowed.
The Gabrieleño believed in a supreme being who brought order to a chaotic world by setting it on the shoulders of seven giants made for that purpose. The supreme being went on to make animals, man and woman. The Gabrieleño believed that humans originated in the north where the supreme being lived and that he himself led their ancestors into Southern California. They did not believe in evil spirits, or any concept of a hell or devil until these ideas were introduced by Spanish missionaries . Porpoises and owls were highly esteemed and were never killed. The practice of medicine and healing was the responsibility of a medicine man.
Replica of a Gabrieleño structure at Heritage Park in Santa Fe Springs. Los Angeles Almanac Photo.
To fail to show courage was the height of disgrace among the Gabrieleño. Men would deliberately lie on top of red anthills and have handfuls of ants placed in their face to demonstration their courage. Boys were introduced to manhood through fasting, hallucinogenic rituals and trials of endurance. An experienced elderly man served to instruct the boys in the legends of the world’s origin and their future. The boys sought visions from their own special animal protector. These ceremonies were believed to provide the boys with a spiritual nature. The boys were also tested for courage by facing trials by fire, whippings, and lying on anthills. Boys who failed to endure these trials earned unfortunate reputations of weakness and cowardice.
Gabrieleño communities and culture went into rapid decline after the Spanish established the Mission San Gabriel in 1771. Gabrieleño were increasingly convinced, lured or even forced into joining the mission and, upon becoming converts (baptized as neophytes), pressed into abandoning their native village, culture, religion and language (see Toypurina - California's Joan of Arc). As legal wards of the mission under Spanish law, neophytes were subject to the padres as if they were children, unable to make key decisions independent of the padres and certainly never allowed to leave. Soldiers assigned to protect the mission were commonly abusive, but especially outside the mission. Diseases introduced by the Spanish also took a brutal toll, inside and outside the mission, killing at least half the native population. By the time the first American settlers arrival in the Los Angeles area in 1841, surviving Gabrieleño were scattered and working at subsistence level on Mexican ranches and virtually all original villages had disappeared (see "L.A. Video: Great Indian Migration from Villages to Missions" at end of this page). Promises earlier made by Mexican authorites that Gabrieleño would take ownership of former mission lands were unfulfilled and long forgotten. Sadly, in contrast to long romanticized images of early California, the actual experience of the native people of the Los Angeles area, from the arrival of the Spanish through the 20th century, proved to be a nightmare of subjugation, loss, disease, rape, abuse and death.
Today, most traces of L.A.'s original people from before the arrival of Europeans are gone and only a few thousand Gabrieleño are estimated to remain living in California. Beginning in the 1980s, Gabrieleño descendants began organizing for formal tribal recognition. In 1994, the California Assembly, by resolution, recognized the "Gabrielinos as the aboriginal tribe of the Los Angeles Basin." Unfortunately, since then, different factions have been in bitter conflict over which group authentically represents L.A.'s original people. Despite varying degrees of state recognition, no group claiming to be of Gabrieleño descent has yet to succeed at winning federal recognition as a distinct Native American tribe.
We refer to the larger tribe native to Los Angeles County as Gabrieleño. Depending on which group they are associated with, they also go by Gabrielino, Tongva and Kizh. What should L.A.'s original people be called?
The Chumash, who are believed to have arrived in the Los Angeles area about 3,000 years ago, ranged into the Malibu area of Los Angeles County, although they mostly lived in parts of Ventura and Santa Barbara Counties. Being a seafaring people, Chumash Indians spent much of their time building small boats and fishing and were accomplished fishermen and artisans. They were more sophisticated craftsmen than their Gabrieleño neighbors to the south.
When the first Spanish missionaries arrived, there were believed to be as many as 22,000 Chumash. However, as did happen with the Gabrieleño, their population, communities and culture rapidly disappeared after the arrival of the Europeans. By 1906, there were only 42 known survivors. Today, about 2,000 people claim to be Chumash descendants, mostly living in Ventura and Santa Barbara Counties.
Chumash Mural in City of Lompoc, photo by Carol M. Highsmith, 2012.
Jon B. Lovelace Collection of California Photographs in Carol M. Highsmith's America Project, courtesy of the Library of Congress.
Source: California Indians - An Illustrated Guide, George Emanuels, Diablo Books. The First Angelinos: The Gabrielino Indians of Los Angeles, William McCawley, Malki Museum Press/Ballena Press
The smallest group of original Los Angeles native people are the Tataviam or Fernandeños (due to their close association to the Mission San Fernando). The sites of 20 early Tataviam villages lie north of the San Fernando Valley and in the Santa Clarita Valley. They were believed to have numbered about 1,000 people and were heavily influenced by the culture of their more numerous neighbors, the Gabrieleño and Chumash.