First contact

LA Times May 9, 2019 “Mapping The Tongva Villages of L.A. Past”

It is estimated that there were 5,000 -10,000 people in 50 villages in Los Angeles and Orange county,  spread across 1500 square miles, when soldier Gaspar Portola and padre Juan Crespi  marched into this area in 1769.  Tribes on the western edge of the American land mass had already been impacted by Russian colonies since the 1760s when Peter The Great expanded Russia into Alaska and the Pacific Northwest.   In response to the Russian activity,  the Spanish brought a greater force up from the south.    What we know now is that nothing would be the same after Portola’s march up the Pacific coast for Spain.    

Of course, the land was not empty when the Spanish arrived.   The Native Americans of Los Angeles are identified by a few different names.  Tongva, Kizh or Gabrielino.    How each name came to be is its own journey .   The name Gabrielino like Luisano was generated in the Mission era and based on closest mission (San Gabriel or San Luis Rey i.e.) to the Native Americans.     

What happened to the Tongva/Kizh/Gabrielino at first contact and the years following is similar to what happened to other Native People  when Europeans arrived; death by disease, forced labor and destruction of a way of life that had sustained the tribes for millennia.    There were also many revolts by tribal members who pushed back on the colonizers including one famous revolt at Mission San Gabriel lead in part by a young medicine woman Toypurina.  

Looking at maps of the Tongva villages, my home in West Los Angeles is somewhere between  Koruuvanga  (present day  University High School)   and Yaanga (under the 101 freeway and Spring Street).    Because I live close to the tar pits it is very likely that Tongva from many of the villages walked and hunted near my home on their way to and from the tar which they used for their boats and their houses.     When I drive down Wilshire or 6th Street I like to think about the young men and women from five hundred years ago carrying the asphalt, perhaps in baskets over their shoulder on their way back to their village.   Could a Yaanga villager do the walk in one day?  Or did they spend the night somewhere in Koreatown?     I wonder if they would like kimchi?  Would it go with  Acorn mash?  

If you click on this video you will see the villages and how they disappeared as the land went from Tongva/Kizh/Gabrielino to Spanish to Mexican to American.  

I was struck that the village Juyubit hung in there until as long as 1840, I wonder if it can be brought back?   Clear the space in Buena Park and put it back. Aren’t we tired of Knotts anyway?  

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