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Whose Land? Tongva Land

Aruba D’Souza and Summer Brennan are asking people on Twitter:

Whose land are you feasting on this Thanksgiving?

They both link to Native Land to check the original owners of the land we now call our own. If you were educated in the Californian education system, you might have worked on Spanish mission history in 3rd or 4th grade.

Even with this, I remember nothing about the Tongva people, the original inhabitants of the Los Angeles Basin and the Southern Channel Islands.

After the Mexican-American War ended with the Treaty of Guadalupe in 1948, the United States took possession of land that included California. Between 1851-1853, U.S. Treaty Commissioners signed 18 treaties with hundreds of Indian groups setting aside 8.5 million acres in California for Indian reservations if the original inhabitants gave up the other 75 million acres. These treaties weren’t ratified by the U.S. Senate and were “lost” in a locked desk drawer in the Senate Archives for over 50 years.

And this is just the start of the U.S. Government’s unilateral decisions regarding the Tongva and other original California peoples.

The official Gabrielino-Tongva tribal website has more information:

Acting to “recognize the equitable claims” of the Gabrielinos and “all the Indians of California”, the Court awarded 7 cents an acre as compensation for the 8.5 million acres of land which was never set up as reservations under the 18 “lost treaties”. From this sum was deducted the cost of administration of the claims. In 1850, some 94 years earlier, no public lands were purchased for less than $1.50 per acre. The Court of Claims awarded no interest for the 94-year period between signature of the 1851-53 Treaties and payment of the monies in 1944.

The Tongva people have been living in the Los Angeles Basin for 7,000 years. While the history is well-documented with 2,800 archeological sites, California and U.S. Federal records, as well as Catholic mission documents, it’s quite a shame I know so little about the land I grew up on. When Spanish and American missionaries and settles came in, they enslaved Tongva people, they committed state-sponsored genocide, and allowed the theft and slavery of Indian children. This was all with the tacit approval of the State of California. In fact, Section 394 of the Civil Practice Act states:

“No Indian or Negro shall be allowed to testify as a witness in any action in which a White person is a party.” Our Supreme Court reasoned, “The evident intention of the Act was to throw around the citizen a protection for life and property, which could only be secured by removing him above the corrupting influences of degraded castes.”

It took until 1994 for the State of California to recognize the Tongva in Assembly Joint Resolution 96:

The Joint Resolution states that the State of California “recognizes the Gabrielino-Tongva Nation as the aboriginal tribe of the Los Angeles Basin and takes great pride in recognizing the Indian inhabitance of the Los Angeles Basin and the continued existence of the Indian community”.

Too late.

Let’s educate ourselves. Whose land are you feasting on?

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