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Tongva: Our Voice, Our History, Our People

by RP Friday, Nov. 28, 2008 at 9:02 AM

Highlights of an exhibit recently held in Aleupkingna (Arcadia), an interview with curator Dana Dunn, and photos.

Tongva: Our Voice, O...
tongvarockpainting.jpg, image/jpeg, 2848x2134

(The accompanying photos were taken with permission on the condition that no flash photography be used. )

The recent exhibit Tongva: Our Voice, Our History, Our People, which ran from September 13 through November 22 at the Ruth & Charles Gilb Arcadia Historical Museum, demonstrated that Southern California's history goes back far beyond shopping centers, Hollywood, city lights, theme parks, car culture, missionaries, Cabrillo, etc., etc.

As Chief Red Blood Anthony Morales stated at the show's grand opening (which was played in the museum via DVD), Tongva people have lived here for many thousands of years. He added that the community of Aleupkingna (sometimes spelled Aluupkenga) encompassed the land currently occupied by the Santa Anita Mall, the Santa Anita Race Track, and the Arboretum. (In fact, Hugo Reid, a 19th-century resident/writer who married into a Tongva family, reported that Aleupkingna comprised all of what is now Arcadia as well as Sierra Madre.)

The name Aleupkingna means “the wind enters to the heart as when it is a little hot and you inhale wind to cool off.”

Much was imparted about Tongva culture. One of the many hunting methods involved a plant capable of stunning fish. This plant was thrown into a river where fish were known to be, then the prey would float up to the surface.

Some communities cremated their deceased (while others buried them) and also burned their belongings to help free them of attachments to this world. For the same reason, Tongva avoided mentioning the departed by name.

Maritime tribes were emphasized as well. On display was a redwood plank from a ti'at, a canoelike vessel which was pivotal to their way of life. Redwood for the ti'ats was transported all the way from Northern California by boat. Tar was also used in the building of ti'ats, acquired from what is now known as the La Brea Tar Pits. (According to the exhibit, Indians from as far away as Mississippi traveled to these tar pits to collect this resource.)

The exhibit encompassed such legendary figures as Toypurina, who led a revolt against the San Gabriel Mission in 1785. (Altogether, there were seven major revolts at that mission. Contrary to popular belief regarding the San Gabriel Mission, “there was never peace. Ever,” said Mark Acuna, a Tongva storyteller who spoke on a TV monitor.) Also highlighted was Chingishnish, a “very old and wise person from Puvungna(1)(2),” whose teachings spread throughout Southern California and The Lone Woman of San Nicholas Island, the sole surviver of her society, who lived alone on that island (known to her people as Harashngna) for 18 years. Everyone else in her community was either killed by fur trappers or relocated by the Santa Barbara missionaries. This woman (her real name was never recorded) never made the evacuation ship. Eighteen years later she was found living in a shelter made from whale bone. A fictionalized telling of her story is a book titled Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O'Dell.

Additional information about the Tongva was provided on handouts (see below), and informed museum staff members were on hand to answer questions. For further information on these topics, this author recommends the book The First Angelinos: The Gabrielino Indians of Los Angeles by William McCawley.

Interview with Curator Dana Dunn

The following interview took place shortly before the exhibit closed.

Question: How did this exhibit come about?

Dana Dunn: I'm actually working on my PhD in Native American History. When I first came to work here last December I decided that I would do my first exhibit on the native people here. I did a little research and found the local tribe here, and they came out, and they've been working with me on the exhibit. They helped with everything: they brought in their artifacts, they gave me a lot of information, they contributed at the opening—the chief came with his son, they all came and sang, and Mark Acuna told stories at the end. [He's] a great storyteller.

Julia Bogany does all of their education[al] [outreach], so I've been working with her a lot. She helped the most, I think. She's been here a lot.

She did one of our children's events, too, last Saturday. It was really good, we had over 80 people. She did some crafts with the kids and told a story.

Q: What were some of the crafts?

Dunn: She did a little doll made of tule reeds; a little game with a stick and a hoop, and then you try to get the hoop on the stick--those kinds of things, Tongva children's games—and she told the children a story about a sea shell and two sisters.

Barbara Drake is the other woman who helped, and Mark Acuna. They're all local San Gabriel Valley Tongva people. But if you notice there's a case back there with the ocean things with the ti'at? That's another group of Tongva people that helped, Cindi Alvitre and Stacy Barlow. [Stacy's] husband actually help[ed] build ti'at, and he's a rower for the ti'at. Cindi Alvitre was the one that started the Ti'at Society. I know her from UCLA. We went to school together, and I worked on native stuff with her before. She's an ocean person, and the other three are more mountain people in the valleys.

. . . And when you get over [to] the other wall with the histories like the time line, I thought that would be a good idea.

Q:It's really interesting because it juxtaposes what was going on here with events in other parts of the world.

Dunn: I know for American people it's nice to have those dates, that chronological way of thinking.

Q: Mark Acuna seemed to like it a lot in his [video tour of the museum].

Dunn:Yeah, he did. He really loves the exhibit. He did the window paintings representing their rock art, too.

Oh, and baskets in the center were loaned to us from the Arboretum, so that's part of their collection.

[The conversation segues to an old audio recording in the exhibit of a local Indian speaking Tongva.]

Dunn (cont'd): The American Folk Life Center that's [part of] the Smithsonian actually copied that for us for free because I'm going to give that straight to the tribe. So that's a voice recording off wax cylinders from one of the earliest recordings. So that's one of their earliest recordings recorded by J.P. Harrington, who was this really famous California anthropologist way back then. He recorded hundreds of languages.

Q: Mark Acuna said that Harrington is one of his heroes.

Dunn: The guy was amazing, he was just this eclectic guy. I don't know how he did it. He's got boxes and boxes and boxes of notes at the Smithsonian. I don't know how anybody did that in one lifetime, seriously. That's just all he did. And it wasn't just here in California, he recorded those languages from all over [the U.S.].

Q: Regarding that particular dialect, is it known which area it was recorded in?

Dunn: It would have been in the L.A. basin somewhere. I'm not sure exactly where he recorded the man at.

Q:Thank you very much.

Dunn:No problem.


(1)This quote is from the signage written by curator Dana Dunn.

(2)Puvungna is where Long Beach/Los Alamitos currently exist. A portion of it remains intact on the campus of Cal State Long Beach, but the struggle to keep it undeveloped is ongoing.

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”Miyiiha! Hello!”

by RP Friday, Nov. 28, 2008 at 9:02 AM

”Miyiiha! Hello!...
tongvawelcome.jpg, image/jpeg, 2848x2134

“Miyiiha! Hello! Welcome to our village of 'Ahuupkinga. Today this place is known by most people as Arcadia, which lies within the state of California. Our people have been living here for thousands of year...way back in time. ' Ahuupkinga, in our language, means 'the wind enters to the heart as when it is a little hot and you inhale wind to cool off.' Today we call ourselves 'Tongva.' In our language that means “people of the earth.” We have always been close to the earth. We were created in this place and we will always belong to it.”

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Female attire

by RP Friday, Nov. 28, 2008 at 9:02 AM

Female attire...
tongvafemaledress.jpg, image/jpeg, 2134x2848

Skirt made from bark.

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Women's shoes

by RP Friday, Nov. 28, 2008 at 9:02 AM

Women's shoes...
tongvashoes.jpg, image/jpeg, 2848x2134

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Comcrabit clan bowl

by RP Friday, Nov. 28, 2008 at 9:02 AM

Comcrabit clan bowl...
tongvaclanbowl.jpg, image/jpeg, 2848x2134

The signage described this as a “bowl made of local clay discovered under a Santa Anita Ranch barn about 1880. Gift from Victoria Duarte Cordova.”

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Helen Hunt Jackson

by RP Friday, Nov. 28, 2008 at 9:02 AM

Helen Hunt Jackson...
tongvaramonaauthor.jpg, image/jpeg, 2152x1972

Helen Hunt Jackson, a 19th-century writer who spoke out against atrocities committed to Native Americans. Her work included A Century of Dishonor and Ramona, the basis of the famous annual play in Hemet.

Incidentally, a contemporary of hers, L. Frank Baum, creator of Oz stories, called for the genocide of Native Americans in op eds that he wrote in 1890 and 1891for the Saturday Pioneer in South Dakota. Many people dismiss this, saying that Baum lived in a different time—yet, Jackson was alive then, too, and her views were entirely different. (Baum's descendants have apologized for his op eds. See: )

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The people of Pimu (Catalina)

by RP Friday, Nov. 28, 2008 at 9:02 AM

The people of Pimu (...
tongvapimuls.jpg, image/jpeg, 2848x2134

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The people of Pimu (Catalina)

by RP Friday, Nov. 28, 2008 at 9:02 AM

The people of Pimu (...
tongvapimuleftside.jpg, image/jpeg, 2848x2134

The items include a necklace made from swordfish vertebra (#6) and parts of an ornamental limpet necklace (#5).

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Hair sticks from Pimu (Catalina)

by RP Friday, Nov. 28, 2008 at 9:02 AM

Hair sticks from Pim...
tongvapimuhairsticks.jpg, image/jpeg, 2848x2134

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Pimu culture

by RP Friday, Nov. 28, 2008 at 9:02 AM

Pimu culture...
tongvapimuabaloneshellbeads.jpg, image/jpeg, 2848x2134

Three abalone shell beads (#9).

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Part of a ti'at (boat)

by RP Friday, Nov. 28, 2008 at 9:02 AM

Part of a ti'at (boa...
tongvatiat.jpg, image/jpeg, 2848x2134

Redwood plank from a ti'at built in the 1990s and recently refurbished. It traversed the Pacific Ocean as recently as September 28, 2008 during the World Festival of Sacred Music (see:

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Abalone and acorns

by RP Friday, Nov. 28, 2008 at 9:02 AM

Abalone and acorns...
tongvaabaloneacorns.jpg, image/jpeg, 2848x2134

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A little bit of vocabulary (handout)

by RP Friday, Nov. 28, 2008 at 9:02 AM

A little bit of voca...
tongvavocab.jpegdijf2j.jpeg, image/jpeg, 632x725

There appears to be some disagreement about the number seven. In the book The First Angelinos by William McCawley, seven is listed as “wah-chah-kaveah” (page 238).

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Tongva placenames (museum handout)

by RP Friday, Nov. 28, 2008 at 9:02 AM

Tongva placenames (m...
tongvaplacenames1.jpegt0tvaa.jpeg, image/jpeg, 1576x1192

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Tongva placenames cont'd

by RP Friday, Nov. 28, 2008 at 9:02 AM

Tongva placenames co...
tongvaplacenamescoronapalos.jpg, image/jpeg, 2188x1512

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Tongva placenames cont'd

by RP Friday, Nov. 28, 2008 at 9:02 AM

Tongva placenames co...
tongvaplacenames3.jpeg, image/jpeg, 1470x914

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Tongva placenames cont'd

by RP Friday, Nov. 28, 2008 at 9:02 AM

Tongva placenames co...
tongvaplacenameslast.jpg, image/jpeg, 2844x1532

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Toypurina bibliography

by RP Friday, Nov. 28, 2008 at 9:02 AM

Toypurina bibliograp...
toypurina.jpeg7whgdw.jpeg, image/jpeg, 2296x2640

This was actually handed out at another recent event, Moompetam Gathering of the Salt Water People (see:

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Unknown Tongva woman

by RP Friday, Nov. 28, 2008 at 9:02 AM

Unknown Tongva woman...
tongvawoman.jpg, image/jpeg, 2134x2848

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Rock painting by local Tongva Mark Acuna

by RP Friday, Nov. 28, 2008 at 9:02 AM

Rock painting by loc...
tongvarockpaintingls.jpg, image/jpeg, 2134x2848

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Listed below are the 10 latest comments of 12 posted about this article.
These comments are anonymously submitted by the website visitors.
More of Mark Acuna's rock painting RP Friday, Nov. 28, 2008 at 12:56 PM
Rock Paining by Mark Acuna (more) RP Friday, Nov. 28, 2008 at 7:08 PM
Gabrieleno Band of Mission Indians/Kizh Tribe Andy sals Sunday, Apr. 01, 2012 at 1:06 PM
Response RP Thursday, Apr. 05, 2012 at 8:49 PM
correction on the history of the Native indians of the Los Angeles Basin Gabrieleno Indians/Kizh tribe Sunday, Jul. 01, 2012 at 12:26 PM
Truth about Mark Acuna aka Storyteller.. dorian Dudley Sunday, Jul. 01, 2012 at 5:34 PM
" NOT TONGVA " dorian Sunday, Jul. 01, 2012 at 6:18 PM
" NOT TONGVA " dorian Sunday, Jul. 01, 2012 at 6:18 PM
How the term "people of the earth" was actually taken, if not stolen and ironically being Nancy Woods Sunday, Jul. 08, 2012 at 7:08 PM
Chairman of the Kizh Nation Andrew Teutimez Salas Wednesday, Oct. 10, 2012 at 12:49 PM
Editor/ author Christopher Nyerges idVer:329fcfb9c2e002180f5 Monday, Dec. 19, 2016 at 8:56 PM

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