Two people in work clothes surrounded by wood debris and trash. The woman in the center lifts a large grey block to the man on the right.
Photo credit: Kenneth Lopez

Purpose and Vision

The Tongva people have been in Los Angeles County for thousands of years. However, we have not had access to land since colonization. The Tongva Taraxat Paxaava Conservancy, which roughly translates to “the people’s land” is the very first plot of land returned to the original people of Los Angeles. 

For generations we have been pushed out of Los Angeles by high rent, we have had to ask permission to have traditional gathering relationship with our plant relatives, and we have had to pay fees to hold ceremony and space inside of our own ancestral lands. The Tongva Taraxat Paxaavxa Land Conservancy will help begin the healing process we need by giving tribal community members access to free housing on their native land, give access to gathering without permission from outsiders, and a space to have community time and ceremonies in privacy. 

Our vision is to rematreate the land to California native plants and Tongva people. We are and will continue to be run by Tongva people.

Staff and Board

Samantha Morales-Johnson (Tongva, she/her) is Land Return Coordinator of the TTPC, a science illustrator, and ethnobotanist. Alongside her mom, Kimberly, she started the Protect White Sage digital campaign to protect Grandmother White Sage. She has a BA in Marine Biology from CSU Puvungna and has been adapting her ecological knowledge to work with Tongva ethnobotany she grew up with to handle advanced ecological problems that come with land return from non-native species to native species in the midst of climate change.

Wallace Cleaves (Tongva, he/him) is the President of the TTPC, Associate Professor of Teaching, Director of the CA Center for Native Nations, and Associate Writing Program Director at UCR. He is Tongva and has served in many positions on the Tribal Council and the Kuruvungna Springs Foundation. He wrote an article entitled “Native Land Acknowledgments Are Not the Same As Land.”

Kimberly Morales Johnson (Tongva, she/her) is the Vice President of the TTPC and an active member and tribal secretary of the Gabrieleno / Tongva San Gabriel Band of Mission Indians, where she maintains tribal traditions and continuity and is dedicated to the preservation and continuance of Native American culture and tradition through future generations. She’s a PhD student at UC Davis in Native American Studies and a Native American community elected commissioner for the LA City/County Native American Indian Commission. 

L. Frank Manriquez (Tongva / Ajachemen, she/her) is an artist, writer and tribal activist. Her paintings have been featured in galleries and museums internationally. L. Frank is the co-founder of Advocates for Indigenous California Language Survival, serves on the board of The Cultural Conservancy and TTPC.

Annie Mendoza (Tongva, she/they) is a board member of the TTPC, was born and raised in the San Gabriel Valley and identifies with both the original people and the distinctive working class communities of the area. Annie is a PhD student at UCLA focuses on the barriers and opportunities that local Native people face in participating in proposed water projects in Los Angeles. She is cocreator and director of the “Aqueduct Between Us,” a five-part social justice multimedia radical oral history documentary that aims to educate the people of Los Angeles about the Indigenous communities (Tongva –Gabrieleno and the Owens Valley Paiute/ Shoshone) who have been greatly impacted by their land and water use. 

Charles Sepulveda (Tongva / Acjachemen, he/him) is a TTPC board member and assistant professor at the University of Utah in Ethnic Studies. He is at work on his first book project, tentatively titled Indigenous Nations v. Junípero Serra: Resisting the Spanish Imaginary.

Tony Lassos (Tongva, he/him) is the Treasurer of the TTPC.  He was raised and lives on his ancestral homelands in the village of Kuukaamonga also known today as Rancho Cucamonga. In addition to his responsibilities as treasurer, he works as a General Manager for a National Department Store chain. Tony is working to ensure that the next generation of Tongva peoples have a safe place where they can gather, learn about their culture and privately practice ceremony. He hopes to uplift and carry on the legacy that his Aunt Barbra Drake has left behind. 

Mercedes Dorame (Tongva, she/her) is the TTPC’s Artist-in-Residence. She is a multimedia artist whose work encompasses photography, sculptural installations, and sound art. Her heritage connects her deeply to the CA landscape and her practice explores what it means to be a Native inhabitant of contemporary Tovaangar.

Ian Schiffer (he/him) is the TTPC’s Resource Mobilizer and land return practitioner. He’s co-creating a radical real estate cohort and through relationship and on teams, he works to support release of resources and return of land in service of rematriation.