Oct 182021
A rendering shows the Tongva monument that will be unveiled at Abalone Cove Park in Rancho Palos Verdes on Oct. 16, 2021. (Gould Studios).
A rendering shows the Tongva monument that will be unveiled at Abalone Cove Park in Rancho Palos Verdes on Oct. 16, 2021. (Gould Studios).

A monument to the Tongva tribe, an Indigenous people who had villages throughout the Los Angeles basin hundreds of years ago, will debut in Rancho Palos Verdes during a Saturday, Oct. 16, ceremony at Abalone Cove Park — on a spot where the tribe once fished.

The Tongva were the first people to live in the basin, including on the Palos Verdes Peninsula and in the South Bay, flourishing by fishing for the abundant abalone.

The effort to honor the tribe began about six years as a way to correct an absence of iconography to the Tongva in the area. It included input from the Gabrieleño/Tongva San Gabriel Band of Mission Indians and finally got approval from the RPV City Council in March 2020, right before the coronavirus pandemic hit. The monument, which is already up but hidden under a vinyl covering, also continues decades-long efforts to recognize and protect the Tongva legacy.

“I think our presence there next week will kind of bring everything full circle. It’s an honor and it’s a celebration,” Gabrieleño/Tongva Chief Anthony Morales, also known as “Red Blood,” said of the monument. “We feel that the city has done their due diligence and acknowledging our tribe and that we’re not extinct. We’re still here.”

The unveiling ceremony will take place at 10 a.m. Saturday at Abalone Cove Park, 5970 Palos Verdes Drive South, less than a week after Indigenous Peoples’ Day. The monument stands just south of the parking lot.

Rancho Palos Verdes resident Tom Steers spearheaded the effort around six years ago. He lives near Terranea Resort, behind St. Peter’s by the Sea Presbyterian Church, so he is able to walk to the nearby cliffs. Around 2015, he noticed various informational plaques there — about Catalina Island and Portuguese Bend, for example, but nothing about the local legacy of Indigenous people.

“With all the evil things that have happened to them throughout history,” Steers said, “it’s amazing that we can honor these people.”

The Gabrieleño/Tongva San Gabriel Band of Mission Indians, Los Serenos de Point Vicente and the Rancho de los Palos Verdes Historical Society supported and provided input on the monument.

Input from tribal leaders and elders — including Morales, Jesus Gutierrez and Julia Bogany, who died in March and spent decades shining light on Tongva culture — was essential, Steers said.

Tongva elder and New Mexico artist Geri Jimenez Gould, in fact, helped guide the monument’s vision. The monument, which cost $47,000, is a concrete block featuring interpretive plaques, and a scene depicting a lively Tongva village, with Catalina Island — also home to the Tongva — in the background.

“I wanted to depict a slice of village life,” Gould said, “and what it would have been like.”

An early sketch by artist Geri Jimenez Gould shows the design for the central plaque on the Tongva monument that will be unveiled at Abalone Cove Park in Rancho Palos Verdes on Oct. 16, 2021. The bronze bas relief plaque decpits a Tongva village scene with Catalina Island in the background. (Gould Studios).

The history of the Tongva goes back hundreds of years, prior to the arrival of the Spanish in the late 1700s.

Christian missionary Junipero Serra founded the Mission San Gabriel 250 years ago, setting off the Spanish colonial era in earnest — which, for the Tongva people, meant enslavement, relocation and the spread of European disease to which Indigenous folks were not immune.

The Spanish forced the Tongva to help build their missions and referred to them as Gabrieleño — a reference to Mission San Gabriel Arcangel and the Abrahamic angel from which the mission took its name.

The Gabrieleño Tongva Band of Mission Indians, which is governed by a five member tribal council, received recognition from the State of California in 1994, according to the tribe’s website.

But the federal government has not yet recognized the tribe, which has its headquarters near the San Gabriel Mission, so the Tongva does not have a reservation, Morales said.

“That’s what the irony of it is,” Morales said. “As long as we’ve been here, hundreds of years, and the United States government just hasn’t gotten around to giving us that acknowledgement, federal recognition, giving us any land.”

Many Tongva, Morales said, are centered around the Los Angeles Basin because it is their ancestral home, but they also live in Orange, Riverside and San Bernardino counties.

“I’ve always known through my relatives, through my great uncles and aunts and grandparents, that we were Gabrieleno,” Morales said. “We were in and around this area all our lives and they have their own little plots of land where they would farm it and there was always a tie or affiliation to the mission.”

The Tongva legacy, though, has long been overshadowed by the state’s mission history — a traditional section for generations students in California — though that has begun changing.

Last year, for example, multiple statues of Serra were torn down throughout the state. The Serra statues came down amid nationwide protests against systemic racism that saw statues of slaveholders in the South get removed as well. Serra was canonized as a saint by the Roman Catholic Church five years ago.

Santa Monica, meanwhile, has Tongva Park. And Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti this week said Father Serra Park in downtown will be renamed in the future.

And then there are the issues surrounding Cal State Long Beach.

An undeveloped 22-acre site there was home to a village known as Puvungna, which is considered historic and sacred ground for the Tongva and other local tribes, Morales said.

The reported dumping of soil and construction debris from a nearby CSULB development project on the Puvungna site led to a lawsuit in October 2019.

“We said this is sacred, so leave it alone,” Morales said.

CSULB and local tribes reached a settlement last month that will perpetually protect the 22 acres, prohibiting any development. CSULB must also create a conservation easement for the Puvungna site, which will include an independent manager to maintain the property, within two years.

And now, about 20 miles away, a monument meant to honor and preserve the legacy of the Tongva will stand on the Peninsula

Gould, for her part, said she hopes the monument will educate youth on what it was like in Southern California  — “before,” she said, “the White man came.”

via daily breeze.com


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