After nearly 200 years, the Tongva community has land in Los Angeles County.
Since the 1880s, the Tongva people, who are of German origins, have lived on the Palos Verdes Peninsula, a small barrier island off the coast of Southern California.
As part of an ongoing effort to preserve the Tongva culture, we visited some of their ancestral land, and met with members of the tribe.
Dennis King is from San Pedro. You can meet him Thursday.
This post was originally published in the Dec. 11, 2018, installment of A Public Square and appears here with the same title.
Like many other California Native Americans, the Tongva community has been facing a lot of challenges that have not diminished from the early 20th century to modern time.
“To be able to live here in Los Angeles County, a county with one of the largest and oldest Native American populations in the country, you have to have that history,” said Dennis King, a Tongva member of the Palos Verdes Peninsula and a San Pedro native. King has been working with the South Bay Historical Society since the 1980s, and he was part of a group of Tongva who were on the first official visit to Tongva territory in the 1980s.
The Tongva people were once one of California’s most successful cultural groups that occupied the Palos Verdes Peninsula until the 1920s. The early Tongva were known as “t’o’i”in, an honorific for the first generation of the tribe.
But as the tribe expanded, they became the target of the racist Ku Klux Klan, and their lands were subsequently taken through eminent domain and sold.
Those who were not interested in buying parcels of land were forcibly relocated into small camps. King recalls the Tongva being “exposed like cattle in a chute,” where “they were stacked in like cordwood and shot off like cattle on a chute.”
Today the only surviving Tongva community is in a coastal park in the Palos Verdes Peninsula on the edge of Palos Verdes Estates. The reservation is a community of about 30 families who live in an area that includes a marina, a boat ramp, a community