Tribal History

It is our belief that we have been on our land, Tovaangar, since time immemorial. Our creator brought us into the world through song and dance. 

1200 CE is regarded as the peak of Tongva culture and territorial expansion. As traders, we were known for our soapstone bowls and goods, our intricate baskets, and our excellent seafaring abilities by using our plank canoes, which are called Tiat’s. On our tiats we traveled up and down the pacific ocean trading and connecting with our indigenous neighbors as we went. 

1542 The Spanish maritime explorer Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo makes first contact with the native people of Southern California including the Tongva. 

1602 Spanish entrepreneur Sepastian Vizcaino returns to Pimu/Catalina and Coastal sites. 

1769 Gaspar de Portola enters Tovaangar. European diseases have already begun decimation of the population and genocide continues. 

1771 Mission San Gabriel was founded at our village Isankanga and begins the process of “conversion”. Conflict with local Tongva forces the church to move to present location at the village of Sibangna (1775-1776). The Tongva name changed to “Gabrieleno” (an umbrella term imposed by the Spanish on the Native population of the area, who hailed from multiple tribes, including Tongva) and the missionization process begins. Non-converts integrate into social and economic life, but not religious life. Tongva people were considered the lowest class of laborers. 

1773: First revolt against the San Gabriel mission.

1786: Most “Gabrielenos” became a peasant class working for missions or the landed gentry. Apartheid policy dominates church-state relationships with the Gabrieleno.

1787: Revolts in surrounding areas terrify church and state officials. Spanish hold control on a 20-mile radius around Los Angeles (Yangna).

1796: Gabrielenos become the major labor force in Pueblo de Los Angeles and for the outlying ranches and farms.

1800: Most Gabrieleno are either missionized, dead, or have fled to other areas and are intermarried with Kokoémkam (Serrano), Achjachemen (Juaneño), Cupa, or Kumitaraxam (Cahuilla) families. Some flee as far as Monterey.

1800-1833: Missions grow and ranches have expanded. Most Gabrieleno are either in slave labor or in peasant class. Many are fugitive runaways. Church and state send armed raids to capture escaped “converts” and also those who are not yet “converted”. Diseases continue to spread.

1823: The last mission, San Francisco Solano, is founded; San Diego is in decline.

1833: Missions are secularized after Mexico gains independence from Spain. Most Gabrielenos become laborers for the New Mexican rancheros. Many Gabrieleno families are now scattered from Monterey to San Diego; some are living with groups in the remote interior.

1833-1848: Mexican control of California

1840-1850: Gabrieleno-Tongva language still in use. Some rituals and games, traditional crafts still maintained. Tongva is used by both Europeans and Indians. Smallpox epidemics decimate all tribal peoples in the area. California becomes a state; Indians barred from any political participation. By the late 1840s the last Tongva towns are destroyed.

1851-1852: 18 Treaties negotiated, signed, and never ratified with CA tribes and the federal government. Business leaders and elected officials in CA lobbied the federal government to not ratify the treaties.

1852: Hugo Reid publishes Indians of Los Angeles County. He married Victoria Comicrabit, Tongva from Comicrangna. She is buried in an unmarked grave at San Gabriel Mission. 

1853: Juana Maria (The Lone Woman of San Nicolas) is taken to Santa Barbara; she dies a few months later. She is remembered as the main protagonist in Island of the Blue Dolphins. The Governor of California begins a genocide of California Native people through the Expeditions Against the Indians, paying $17.50/body. The Tongva begin to more rigorously hide in Mexican culture to survive the genocide while continuing storytelling and cultural practices behind closed doors. 

1869-1900: Smallpox epidemics continue to kill Gabrieleno. Isolated families manage to survive and maintain traditions.

1903: C. Hart Merriam and A.L. Kroeber begin their study of the Gabrieleno. They are in turn followed by Constance DuBois and J.P. Harrington.

1925: Harrington records songs and culture of the Tongva at Pala Indian Reservation.

1933: Helen H. Roberts publishes Form in Primitive Music, which focuses on Gabrieleno music and songs.

1940s: Tongva chiefdom continues from Chief Salvador; San Gabriel (SIbangna) maintains the center of surviving Tongva culture.

1959: Indian Claims Commission addressed the land claims of the Gabrieleno in “Docket 80” and said that the Gabrieleno were entitled to 1,553,772 acres.

1974: Puvugna is added to the National Register of Historic Places.

2022: Land returned to Gabrieleno/Tongva people, the Tongva Taraxat Paxaavxa Conservancy, for the first time since colonization.