Sunday, October 12, 2014

Book Review: The Tongva of California

The Tongva of California: The Library of Native Americans by Jack S. Williams, PowerKids Press, New York, 2003.
The Tongva, also known as the Gabrielinos, inhabited the area where Los Angeles is now.  They also inhabited the Catalina Islands, and their native lands also extended inward as well.  They were a coastal people, and crafted canoes from logs, as well as larger blank boats.  They spoke a dialect similar to Shoshone. 
This book gives an adequate history of the people, since the appearance of Europeans in about 1542.  However it wasn't until about 1769 that the Spanish decided to colonize the area.  The decided to do this using the Mission method.  They hoped to recruit the native population of California to defend the area for Spain and against other influences.  Father Junipero Serra was instrumetal in this.  The Spanish Monks saw this method as a way to Christianize the Natives, but also as a service to the poor.  The book points out they may not have wanted help. 
This effort however divided the people into two groups, the neophytes, or new converts to Christianity, who generally lived and supported the missions; and the gentiles.  Threats to the mission system came from the non religious Spanish settlements claiming some converts, and raids from the Native Americans from the Mojave area.
When the Mexican government took control form the Spanish, they secularized the missions, telling the natives they would now control their own resources.  However, rich Europeans moved in and took control of the mission properties.  Some of the Native peoples were able to find work in the European communities, but for the Tongva the effect was devastating as they lost their identity, culture and language. 
Today the Tongva are coming back together ass a community.  They are not a federally recognized tribe and do not have a reservation.  It is hard to know how many Tongva there are. 

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