Ya like this self pro claim indigidious person Cindi Alvitre who in her own words stated " there is no one tribe called tongva" and introduced the term tongva in 1990s.
By Charles Lam
By R. Scott Moxley
By Gustavo Arellano
By R. Scott Moxley
By Gustavo Arellano
By R. Scott Moxley
By HG Reza
"The purpose of nature is to utilize it, not to look at it," 37-year-old Buena Park resident Matt Teutimez says, as he and his father stand in the middle of the Bolsa Chica wetlands during a crisp, winter morning. All around them, suburbanites zip along the ecological preserve's cement-covered paths, strolling, jogging, walking dogs, basking in what Teutimez considers holy land under siege.
Off in the distance is suburban sprawl, inching closer and closer. Nearby is a graded mesa of dirt, the proposed site for a luxury community designed by Hearthside Homes. In 2005, construction workers unearthed the remains of 174 people, the ancestors of the Teutimezes and hundreds of others in Orange and Los Angeles counties. Here stood a village that held special significance for the people who called themselves Kizh but whom the Spaniards called Gabrieleños, after the mission they herded them into during the 18th and 19th centuries. When activists demanded Hearthside halt construction to properly reinter the dead and take scope of the stunning discovery, a Hearthside vice president dismissed their concerns as "just another obstacle to overcome" and carried on with construction for a planned development where new residents are promised "an intimate connection with nature."
This morning, though, standing by a fence with "KEEP OUT" signs serving as sentries, Teutimez and his father are busy doing what their ancestors did for hundreds of years: identifying wildlife, examining plants and discussing their uses. Matt, a biologist, says the area is so fertile he can make a full meal from the bounty that grows beyond the wire fence and never go hungry: nasturtium, stinging nettle, salt bush, elderberries, among other native plants.
"This habitat is unique because you would have fresh water from the Santa Ana River and salt water," he says. "There would have been an abundance of animals and plants, clams, mussels, abalone. This area is perfect for a village."
But Teutimez cannot legally harvest this bounty; though this was his ancestors' land for generations, he now has no claim to it.
Nevertheless, he and others try. Remaining descendants of the Gabrieleños in Orange County and beyond are gamely trying to retain and revive their heritage via actions sweeping and subtle: by mapping out old village sites, by reconstructing languages and customs through a combination of archive searches and word-of-mouth stories, by protesting loudly whenever another development unearths a part of their past and treats it as just another shovel of dirt or opportunists come to divide and conquer. Fear burned into the subconscious of elders from past slaughters of California Indians kept generations of Gabrieleños living in the shadows. But this new wave is proud and ready to save what is left of its culture—and with only about 650 documented Gabrieleños left, many middle-aged to elderly, time is running short.
"You can't separate them in the Indian mind," Teutimez says of nature and spirituality, of his people's Bolsa Chica and Southern California. "Our ancestors never thought they could do it better than God. They accepted what God gave them, and God gave them plenty. Now what we've said is 'We can do it better.'"
* * *
The Gabrieleños are associated primarily with Los Angeles County because their villages in what's now Orange County fell under the domain of LA in the days of the padres. But they thrived across north, central and coastal OC. Local villages included Lopuuknga, Hotuuknga, Pasbenga and Motuucheynga, located roughly where Costa Mesa, Fullerton, Santa Ana and Seal Beach, respectively, now exist. Gabrieleño domain extended to Aliso Creek, where they had close ties with their neighbors to the south, the Acjachemen, or Juaneños, says Andy Tautimez Salas, Matt's cousin and chairman of the Kizh-Gabrieleño. Salas and others recently learned their pre-colonial ancestors referred to themselves as the Kizh (pronounced "keech," a name derived from their homes, built with willow-branch roofs) and now disavow the widely used term "Tongva," saying it's not really a word, but rather an Anglo bastardization of the name the village Toviscangna.
"There is no such thing as 'Tongva,'" Salas explains. "It wasn't who we were. My grandmother was born in 1912, and she never used that word."
But they're almost universally known as Gabrieleños—even among tribal members—due to the longtime repression and stigma attached to being Indian in Southern California. The Catholic Church forced the Kizh into servitude at Mission San Gabriel upon its inception in 1771 and changed their religion and names, banning the old ways under threat of the whip and eternal damnation. Things only got worse after the decline of the missions with Mexican independence, then the conquest of California after the 1848 Mexican-American War. Upon its admittance into the Union, it was legal, even encouraged under California law to harass Native Americans to the point of death. "You actually got money for Indian scalps," says Nikishna Polequaptewa, a Hopi from northern Arizona who is the director of the American Indian Resource Center at UC Irvine.
Legalized racism and violence against Gabrieleños and other California Indians into the early 20th century forced them to assimilate as a means of survival. Matt's father, John Teutimez, a retired, 25-year veteran of the Santa Ana Police Department, says his own father had to choose between his identity and feeding his family. "My dad would say he was Mexican because if he told anyone he was Indian, he couldn't get any work," John says. "They wanted to assimilate us because they didn't want to deal with us."
As a result, Gabrieleños took Spanish names, intermarried with Mexicans and, if asked, would say they were anything but Indian. In the process, vast troves of Kizh culture, language and knowledge were lost, and the fear of being discovered as an Indian was passed down to future generations.
"My parents told me, 'Never let them know you're Native American,'" says 81-year-old Ernie Teutimez Salas, of San Gabriel. He's Andy's father, Matt's uncle, and the tribe's chief and spiritual leader. He functions as a bridge to past generations, telling word-of-mouth stories passed down among his family members. An ancestor, Saturnina Ochoa, was one of the few survivors of an infamous 1821 massacre by Mexican soldiers that nearly wiped out the entire Gabrieleño community. "They would slaughter any of us. They wanted to get rid of us one way or another."
Nevertheless, Gabrieleño families quietly, secretly kept memories, stories and their Indian identity alive. The elder Salas remembers going to the Patton Ranch near Pasadena to visit relatives as a child and attending nighttime Gabrieleño meetings there under the protection of Benjamin Wilson, General George Patton's grandfather. But public displays of Gabrieleño identity were frowned upon through most of the 20th century; past experiences were still raw in the tribe's psyche.
The Salases finally broke their silence about who they are and what they've been through after an ugly public fallout over a proposed Indian gaming casino. In 1998, Santa Monica attorney Jonathan Stein and a self-identified Gabrieleño named Sam Dunlap approached the tribe, dangling the carrot of vast gambling profits. Before that, there was only one group, led by Ernie Salas, Andy says.
"Stein sold the elders on a casino," he says. "Throughout their lives, they lived through hardship; they were poor. So they just followed him."
The Gabrieleños already had an established nonprofit that worked as the legal branch of the tribe, but schisms soon followed. People who were not Gabrieleños began meddling in tribal affairs, dollar signs in their eyes. Soon Stein and Dunlap were at odds and formed their own groups; others followed suit. The fallout was a decade of lawsuits and bitter fighting; nowadays, a half-dozen groups call themselves "Tongva," "Gabrieleño" or a combination of both, claiming to be the one true voice of the tribe and its legacy.
"Finally, I said, 'If I don't get up and speak about what I know is true and what I know as a native about my family, no one is ever going to know,'" Andy Salas recalls. "That's why these [troublemakers] were able to take this over—because none of us stood up for what we should have defended."
As Salas became more assertive, others followed his lead. Matt Teutimez credited the renewed surge in the tribe to his cousin, a veritable walking encyclopedia of Gabrieleño knowledge and local history with boundless energy.
"Without our family contacting us, we would have been living our own little lives, never knowing about the tribe," he says. "I said, 'I'll help out with my biological knowledge; my dad has police work and legal knowledge.'" They've also teamed with veterinarian Christina Swindall and Tim Poyorena Miguel, the tribe's historian and archivist.
"I started seeing people dropping and dying and people getting taken advantage of, and dad's sick because the tribe got overtaken—it hurt me," Salas says. "I said, 'No, I'm not going to let up. I'm going to take it all the way. It's not done yet.'"
* * *
Just as Spaniards, Mexicans and Anglos alike worked to rid California of its native people, the ravages of progress continue their work. Time and again, Gabrieleños find themselves standing on the sidelines, powerlessly watching as developers stumble onto ancient graves and sacred sites, then pave over them with little thought for the past.
The Bolsa Chica Mesa controversy is the latest fight. Though it's one of Southern California's last wetland habitats, private developers have long desired to plop multimillion-dollar homes there.
"This has been a generational fight," says Chris Lobo, outgoing tribal councilman for the Acjachemen-Juaneño Indians, vocal opponents of the project. "It was a very significant site, and it's been known about for decades. It was a very ancient, historical, powerful, spiritual place."
In the 1980s, developers earned permits to do an investigation of the grounds and "data recovery" at the site, says Teresa Henry, district manager for the California Coastal Commission. "All through the '90s, they didn't find any burials," she says. "They weren't expecting to find anything. . . . By the time they came in 2005 [for a development permit], there was no way we could have stopped the work that was already permitted. Some of the opposition filed a revocation request, but that was unsuccessful because the grounds for revocation are very narrow—they would have had to have known [in advance] there were burials there."
Land grading by Hearthside Homes in 2005 uncovered a massive find that shocked even Gabrieleños and Juaneños. While digging up the ground, archaeologists discovered it was not only a village, but also a regional religious destination that predated the Egyptian pyramids and Imperial China—more than 9,000 years of continual living. Along with almost 200 human burials and animal burials (including a dolphin), there was an unusually rich array of artifacts such as cogged stones, crystals and other religious instruments, as well as evidence of building structures.
"The site was of international significance—it was very unique," says Dave Singleton, program analyst for the California Native American Heritage Commission. He is charged by the state with monitoring sacred sites. "It was very impressive—you're talking about 10,000 artifacts at least, all different varieties."
Despite its cultural significance, Hearthside obliterated the terrain. "They destroyed the site," Singleton says, "and after this destruction, we're seeing how important it was."
The artifacts were photographed and cataloged, and the remains were reburied on a different part of the site, Henry says. "Based on the preliminary information [Hearthside] had, they thought it was a seasonal village, not a place of permanent inhabitance. Had the commission had the correct information, they would have taken different action" and banned Hearthside from further development.
The Hearthside fiasco highlighted a significant problem for the Gabrieleños and other Southern California tribes: Even in the present day—when California law has been crafted to be more sympathetic to ancient human remains and native concerns—wealthy real-estate investors and property owners with keen interest in preventing Native Americans from claiming any part of their ancestral territory continually win. And it doesn't help the Gabrieleños' plight that their ancestral lands sit on some of the highest-priced real estate in the United States.
"When you deal with densely populated areas, that's where politics really matter," UCI's Polequaptewa says. "They're in some of the most affluent, wealthy and powerful areas of the country, regardless of right or wrong."
State law recommends developers have a Native American monitor on-site during land grading, and developers are supposed to halt construction and contact local law enforcement when remains are found. If the bones are determined to be Indian, authorities contact the Native American Heritage Commission (NAHC), which then selects from a list of most likely descendants (better known by the acronym MLDs) a group to send to the site to tell the developer how the remains should be treated.
But that doesn't mean much. Developers can hire anyone they want, and the annals of Indian monitors in Southern California development are rife with accusations of sell-outs and charlatans. According to Singleton, MLDs don't even have to be Indian, but can be "representatives" of Indian tribes that magically form when there's money to be made from being native. It dates back to the vagaries of the 1928 California Indian Jurisdictional Act: What was intended to redress broken promises of goods and land to Native Americans with a money settlement instead became a free-for-all in which all that was required to cash in was to self-identify.
"Half the people who applied and got approved in Orange County weren't even Indian," says Lorraine Escobar, a genealogist who specializes in Native American ancestry. Some of those non-Indians with CDIB cards ("certificates of degree of Indian blood," issued by the Bureau of Indian Affairs) show up at burial sites with developers as paid monitors, while others appear on the NAHC's MLDs list even though they have no Indian blood. And there's no process to kick them off the NAHC's list, even though Salas, Lobo and others have complained repeatedly about certain individuals for years.
"You've got people who are claiming to be Indian, making dispositions of ancestors' bodies, burial goods and artifacts, who are not experts, who are just people willing to sign off and get paid off by land developers to develop a site, whether it's culturally significant or not," Lobo says.
And the most tragic part: Even if the monitor is legitimate, developers ultimately don't need to care. In the most recent Gabrieleño example, work continued for months after remains were discovered in 2010 on the grounds of La Placita Olvera in downtown Los Angeles during construction of the county's new LA Plaza de Cultura y Artes, even though the NAHC demanded a halt. That same year, the California Coastal Commission fined a family trust that owned land near Bolsa Chica and wanted to turn it into homes worth $430,000 each and ordered it to rebury artifacts and restore areas disturbed after it unearthed artifacts.
"Sometimes it's cheaper to pay a fine than it is to stop a development," Polequaptewa says.
The Gabrieleños' hand would be significantly strengthened in defending against such desecrations if they were federally recognized, but the American government has refused to do so, ironically claiming there aren't enough "real" Gabrieleños to justify such a move. Out of continuous frustration over this issue, and after learning hard lessons from the casino disaster, Salas has enlisted the help of Escobar (herself a California Indian of Esselen and Rumsen lineage) to track down the ancestry of people claiming Gabrieleño descent but who don't have it and publicly call them out.
Salas says such a step is necessary for self-preservation of the tribe. "They're desecrating our sacred villages and interfering in Indian affairs," he explains.
These incidents have led to serious bad blood. Every year, a Native American powwow is held on the grounds of Long Beach State University. In the 1990s, the university and developers planned to build a strip mall over the site of a sacred natural spring that once burbled where the western edge of the university grounds lie, in what was the Gabrieleño village of Puvunga. But Native Americans and professors campaigned successfully to save it. Ernie Salas was one of the activists who helped to save it from development.
"That's very important to us," he says. "It belonged to the Gabrieleño Kizh Indian. They lived there, and they died there. We go there and look at it and see it doesn't belong to us anymore."
Despite the victory, Salas claims his group of Gabrieleños is banned from the annual powwow. "They don't invite us, and they keep our family away because they know we are who we are," he says. "That's their way of keeping people who want to know the truth about the Gabrieleño away from it."
It's vital tribes stand together, especially in California, where hundreds of tribes, some of them tiny, are pitted against one another for resources, Polequaptewa says. "The most important thing is to carry on your language and traditions. It's not about blood quantum; it's about traditional participation," he says. "That's what makes us who we are, and that's our greatest strength."
"If we don't step up to the plate today, it's over; it's done," Salas says. "Enough is enough, and that's the bottom line. It is my responsibility."
* * *
From a hilltop on the eastern border of Walnut Park in the San Gabriel Valley, Andy Salas points out the old villages—Asusangna (now the city of Azusa), Alupkangna, Acuangna, Hahamongna, Tobingna. All of them were former Kizh settlements, and where Salas stood was the former town of Winingna. Off in the distance, just visible through bluish fog, is Yangna—now better known as downtown Los Angeles. From this hill, Salas says, the Winingna community could see what all their neighbors were up to and who was coming for a visit.
On a late summer day last year, Salas and a handful of fellow Kizh led the way through Winingna, describing how the villagers learned through thousands of years of trial and error to use their landscape for survival. The term "Winingna" roughly means the place where pestles and mortars for food preparation were made; to this day, the porous, lava-like rock the Kizh used for tools is found by the creek and willow trees whose leaves roofed Kizh homes.
Salas begins to explain the old ways. Under what's now a 57 freeway overpass at Via Verde Street, the Winingna Kizh would hunt rabbits. They'd bathe in natural hot springs at modern-day Frank G. Bonnelli Regional Park in San Dimas. According to Salas, nature's bounty was seen as a gift; this led to a culture of gift giving and mindset of reciprocity. Taking care of the land and one another ensured the tribe's survival.
"This area is plentiful with food. People just don't know it or don't know how to prepare it," Matt Teutimez says. "A lot of cures to our ailments are right around us."
Picking leaves and crumbling dried blossoms in his hand to release sage or vanilla-like scents, he hypothesizes that based on the abundance of aromatic plants in the region, his ancestors must have placed emphasis on fragrances. Their diets, he assumes, were probably similar to that of the Japanese—a lot of vegetation and ocean life, considering their temperate climate and proximity to the sea.
"I wouldn't be surprised if the cultures here were advanced, like the Maya or Aztecs," he says. "They were not nomadic—even now, we don't move."
Despite all their travails, the Gabrieleños simply won't disappear from the Orange County landscape. In 1992, remains of a woman found while excavating at Fullerton Municipal Airport were determined to be Gabrieleño; just recently, bones that washed out of the ground with heavy rains at Hillcrest Park in December were found to be burial remains of the Gabrieleño village of Hotuuknga.
While the Gabrieleños are left with the task of figuring out who they are and grappling with various levels of government and internecine battles, Ernie Salas guides them through. As part of his spiritual ceremonies, he faces east. He thanks "Father Sun for the daylight and warmth, Father Moon for the night light, Mother Earth who gives us food."
Every year, he leads Gabrieleños to Mission San Juan Bautista near the Bay Area to honor Toypurina, a Kizh spiritual leader who led a failed revolt against the Spanish at the San Gabriel Mission. In retaliation, the Spanish dismembered her father, killed the Indians they suspected participated in the uprising, and exiled Toypurina to northern California, where she lived the rest of her short life.
"We do a pilgrimage, and my dad does a blessing for her," Andy Salas says. He and others are putting the finishing touches on a book they claim will tell the "true story" about Toypurina. "That really means a lot to him."
Whatever challenges that face it, this generation of Gabrieleños seems driven by the underlying understanding that it will decide the future of its people.
"Little by little, they're killing us with documents, with blood quantum, saying, 'You're one-12th or one-14th or one-16th,'" Salas says. "I wouldn't be here today if my grandma and grandpa hadn't survived the holocausts. So my blood runs with Indian blood no matter what I look like.
"Federal recognition isn't to show power—that's not what we're looking for," he adds. "Why can't they recognize the small portion of people who are alive today who can prove we are who we are? Give us at least the recognition for all we've been through. Recognize us. We're here."
Ya like this self pro claim indigidious person Cindi Alvitre who in her own words stated " there is no one tribe called tongva" and introduced the term tongva in 1990s.
The true identity of the Native Indians of Mission San Gabriel.
The Kizh villages did have different names but our Original true name and identity as a people was, Kizh also spelled Kitc which means houses we were known as the people of the Willow brush houses. When the Spanish first conquered the land territory of the Kizh which was the entire Los Angeles basin including Orange County and the Channel Islands the Spanish first called us Kichireños which again meant the people of the willow brush houses. The Kizh were enslaved to build the first mission of which was made of willow and was wiped out because of a major flood and moved to higher land to the Kizh village of Tovisvangna (now known as San Gabriel) there my ansestors were then forced to build the mission san Gabriel after completion we were then given the name Gabrieleño named after Mission San Gabriel .So yes Kizh is our true identity and who we still are today so remember to tell your friends and family you got this info from the horses mouth. Its Not history its OUR STORY
Monday, Wednesdays 2:30PM - 3:45PM
After reading the article “The Kizh Gabrieleño Factor” by Bethanian Palma Markus, I was very interested in the fact that the Indian natives are making their hardest effort towards returning and remaining to Orange County. For instance in the previous centuries, Orange County and Los Angeles Counties used to have many villages within the area. I was disappointed though when many construction workers have decided to “unearth the remains of 174 people” in Orange County and Los Angeles counties. However, the villages of Kizh and Spaniards called Gabrieleño have decided to not let their Indian heritage die out. This caught my attention the most because despite the challenges of finding new land to create villages with only 650 Gabrieleño, their dream of not giving up is amazing. Challenges that the natives have to face include having to hide their identity towards others, racism, violence, and finding jobs. This makes me sad because nowadays Indian native lives are becoming increasing difficult in order to just make a living in the California. For example the article mentions how an Indian father would always say he was Mexican because if he didn’t, he would risk not getting any jobs. Therefore this makes me realize that people such as the police did not want to deal with Indians, thus making them become independent when it comes to trying to survive in California. As a result, this article makes me feel sad when it comes towards Indians finding support in California. But in the end, the Indian natives are not giving up for getting recognized by the federal government in California that the native people are still alive and are proving to them that they are still existing. Their goal for bringing back the Native heritage into California today and hopefully for the future is a very amazing goal that will surely succeed in the future.
Another important fact about this article was that the majority of Indians such as the Gabrieleño have had many local villages around Orange County. This interested me because I never would have thought that places such as Fullerton, Costa Mesa, and more importantly Santa Ana were associated with Indians. This makes me not only become more informed about the History of Orange County, but also understand why Orange County has so much more meaning behind it than I thought. In fact as the article mention the Indians were looking for places in Orange County to create villages, the Santa Ana River was “perfect for a village”. This makes me happy because my hometown Santa Ana has Indians villages in it. Therefore, I really enjoyed reading this article because I have learned about the importance of Indians coming back to California, and knowing that they are their heritage will never leave the Orange County in the future.
Actually Kizh was a name referring to only one of the many "Gabrieleno" villages. Tongva, no matter how some people want to spin or belittle it, is a name that many Indigenous have chosen to use and it should be respected. I highly suggest people do more research for themselves.
It was called Hispaniola before but americo vespusy was gay and his german boyfreind got mad because the spanish would not let him travel with americo so ge got mad and started changing the names of maps from Hispaniola to america he femenised it to america, so basicaly if you call yourself an american your calling yourself a gay eyetalian.
@ Tangaxhuan, I noticed that too and attributed it simply to tribalism in the past. Tribes have been fighting each other for centuries. Add to this a (white) man made border and sprinkle in nationalism and nativism and it sounds a lot like racism. Tenemos la cara de indios but tell a Native American you have a drop of Mexican and many look down on you. I never really got that. Thanks for clarifying.
Young forward thinking YOUTH, or enough of them, Mex, or Mex,/Amerr, just don't care of preserving cultural historical background .s and awareness to understand the . context . oof the .old and young . generationss and keeping the . bilugualism . of .spanish and. english . language . as an example,
What has been done to preserve the language? I'd also like to learn why a dolphin was given a ritual burial, instead of, for instance, being put out to sea. Mentions of both things in the article were tantalizing, but too brief. A very interesting piece: Thanks for printing and sharing it!
Unfortunately Mexican has been conflated with Spaniard or peasant conscripts of Spaniards for many Native groups at the border. In addition, the years since AIM and Cesar Chavez we have seen a division between Indians North and South of that pinche border. Where once there was recognition and solidarity, there is stereotype, fear and "racism". Hopefully Idle No More and Mapuche and Purepecha movements is repairing that false division.
GREAT READ!!! Last time I was trying to encourage us to search our roots, I was told to go back and watch American Idol??? Lol...I hope you have better luck!
Yep, So Glad my popz show me to proud of the INDIO in my blood, not just to be of light spanish complection/ Hungarian mother's side, What is troubling how American Indian clarify that they AREN'T mexican, like this 1 biker dudee that sells stuf at Kobie's in DAGO!
The topics of tribal identity, blood quantum and federal recognition are well covered in the pages of 'Rez Life'. (David Treuer 2012 Grove Press) Not a scholarly journal but a informative and interesting read for those who wish to know more. For those who wish to know less I suggest fretsward's incomprehensible screed.
" Respect " look who's calling the kettle Black. Why not respect the True Natives of the Los Angeles Basin by recognizing them for who they truly are ....Kizh (Kitc) Nation , People of the Willow Brush Houses . And not "tongva" so called people of the earth, we are all people of the earth.
More Proof Documentation on the Native indians of the L.A. Basin "KIZH NATION"
The Original true name of the Gabrieleño is Kizh also spelled Kitc. Kizh means houses we were known as the people of the Willow houses. When the Spanish first conquered the land territory of the Kizh ,which was the entire Los Angeles basin including Orange County and the Channel Islands the Spanish first called us Kichireños which again meant the people of the willow brush houses. It was until later after the first mission which was made of willow was wiped out because of a major flood and moved to higher land we were enslaved to built the mission san Gabriel is when we were then giving the name Gabrieleño.
You are defiantly wrong with your information . The following link is a interview that was done with the queen of " tongva " her self. There was no such tribe of the Los Angeles basin called tongva. Tongva is the name Cindi ( non indian)chose
@fretsward Oh God, you again...
OH yes, a white dude makes a conclusion on one of his essays so that overpowers the right of an Indigenous community to identify how they wish. No Thank You, you can keep them those paternalistic western values.
Yes, thank you..again Kizh was the name of a specific village not the collective of Tongva villages.
Perhaps you missed my point, being that as an Indigenous people they have the right to make their own decisions as to how they operate and identify.
Just because there is no western academic authority reference on the history of the Tongva name does not negate its power as a name which most original Los Angeles Basin Indigenous People have Chose to use for themselves.
Kich has only been shown to be a name by which one village went by, not the collective of Tongva villages.
I hope people do their own research instead of falling for all the character defamation rich half-truths you guys are putting out there.
@dorian26 I can say that because it is a human right for people to make their own decision which you continually fail to understand. Maybe one day you will learn. Just as some wish to call themselves Kizh or if some want to call themselves Tongva, let them make their own decisions. Respect people's decisions what's so hard to grasp about that? Not every village called themselves Kizh. and that my friend is also fact.
Meeting the Kizh
For a couple years now, I've been researching local history for a couple writing projects I'm working on, most recently a historical novel set in Orange County. I want to understand the history of the area where I live, the real unvarnished history, which is so full of struggle and suffering, especially for minority groups. No group of people understand this struggle and suffering better than the local Native American tribes, one of which is the Gabrieleno Band of Mission Indians, Kizh Nation. I've read various accounts written about this tribe, but most of these are written by non-natives and reflect a strong ethnocentric, and sometimes outright racist, bias. To find the real truth about this tribe's history, I have really been wanting to meet and talk with actual living tribe members. Today, I got that chance.
The Cooper Center in Ralph Clark Park (in Fullerton) hosted an event about Orange County's "prehistory," and the Gabrielenos were there, including their chief, Ernie Salas, and tribal historian, Timothy Poyrena-Miguel. I thought it was strange that these living tribe members were presented alongside dinosaur and mastodon fossils, as if to suggest that they are extinct. Indeed, some historians have regarded them as extinct, but they are not. They exist, and continue to fight for recognition and understanding. They are still not federally recognized, but are in the process of trying to gain this recognition.
Ernie Salas, Chief of the Kizh
I sat down with the tribal historian, Timothy. I didn't have any agenda or prepared questions.
"Tell me about your people," I said and, man, did he have a story to tell.
The history of the Kizh people goes back thousands of years. For millennia, they had developed a complex and beautiful culture, which included religion, astronomy, rich and varied cuisine, economy, and social structure. They developed ingenious ways to live sustainably off the land and its natural resources. The name of the tribe, Kizh, comes from the dome-like dwellings they lived in. They had tools, technology, clothing, handicrafts, dances. They were one of two California tribes who mastered boat-building, and traveled along the coast of Southern California.
Ernie blows the concha, to gather the tribe together.
In the 1700s, Spain began to colonize California, and thus began the long journey of suffering for the Kizh people. Contrary to what we learn in school and on field trips to California Missions, the Spanish were not a benevolent presence in California. The missions they established were like concentration camps, where Indians were forced to live as slaves, and abandon their three thousand-year tradition of sustainable living. Violence and disease decimated the local native populations. Many Kizh women were raped by Spanish soldiers and died of syphilis. Timothy compared Spanish figures like Father Junipero Serra to Nazis, in the way they systematically destroyed native cultures and lives.
Both Timothy and I expressed our frustration that the California Missions are taught to children in public schools as benevolent, even quaint examples of California history. The California Missions were west coast slavery for Native Americans. Why don't we tell our children the truth?
Things did not improve for Native Americans when Mexico won its independence, nor when the United States conquered California. Under American rule in the 1800s, Indian scalps would fetch a nice reward. Timothy told me the story of a whole Kizh village rounded up into a valley near where the Rose Bowl is today, and blasted with guns and cannons. Some children managed to escape, and found shelter among Mexican-American families in the San Gabriel area. Children of slain parents were adopted by Mexican-American families, and this is why Many Kizh people today have Spanish/Mexican surnames.
Due to widespread racism, these children feared to identify themselves as Indian, stopped speaking their native language, and learned Spanish or English.
One result of all this suffering and bloodshed was the eradication of the Kizh language. Timothy told me they have some words and songs that were passed down orally, but no one alive today speaks their native language.
As I listened to Timothy tell the story of his people, I felt a heaviness in my chest, a complex mixture of sadness, outrage, and compassion. It is this last bit, compassion, that I hope to evoke with my writings. If we don't know their history (and most people don't know Kizh history), we do not feel compassion. But, in listening to their stories, harrowing and horrific as they are, we develop a strong sense of compassion. We pay for the crimes of our ancestors, but we do not have to repeat those crimes. The act of storytelling can be a powerful, healing force. It is my hope that, in listening and sharing stories like this, a new chapter in the Kizh story may open, one of understanding, healing, and reconciliation.
How can you say that people have a right to identify as they wish when regarding to a certain tribe. When it comes to people wanting to know the truth about a specific tribe of a specific area , one needs to be truthful and specific in giving fact so that there is no more confusion or distorting history. In this case in regards to the natives of the Los Angeles basin , they were called Kizh (Kitc) not tongva there was no one tribe every every called tongva. And that my friend is fact.
I think it's you that doesn't get it.
I'm not distorting anything. I acknowledge that Kizh is A legit name, albeit not substantiated to be the collective name for all LA Basin Natives .
What you're not getting is that people have a right to identify as they wish. In this case the name Tongva. You're imposing a name (Kizh) that many LA Basin Natives do not wish to use. That is such a paternalistic and "wasichu" like mannerism.
Your group has a right t identify as Kich, no one is saying otherwise. How hard is it to show others respect for making their own decisions?
Perhaps if all this name controversy were a genuine heartfelt concern executed in a good way instead of an egotistic and ulterior motive inclined endeavor yall might be able to win the hearts of your own people to all identify as such.
Until then we'll see how far all the character defamation and bullying will get people.
You still don't get it do you. Kizh ( Kitc ) means house these natives were known as the people of the willow houses as a tribe. These natives inhabited the entire Los Angeles basin including the Channel Islands . They were known to there selves as the Kizh people," people of the willow houses "although each native was from his or her own village name . Other tribes also called them Kizh just like the Serrano Spanish name for "mountaineer " but originally they were known as people of the pines. It is people like you and those that do not know the true name of these people that destort fact and history.
@dorian26 - no hating at all relative. You're still denying Indigenous people their right to identify as they wish.. an unfavorable habit of western culture to impose their rules and criteria for how Native people should identify. There is nothing to substantiate that Kizh is what all the villages called themselves, and but if that's what some want to call themselves then they have every right to do so.. but again a blog post doesn't substantiate the claim that that was the name fore the collective villages of the LA Basin Indigenous. nice try tho.
Don't be a hater my brother, no need to pull the race card you show me proof that the indigidious people of the Los Angeles basin were called tongva and I'll stop posting proof documentation that they were called Kizh "people of the willow brush houses.