Last weekend, my Mom and I visited The Mission San Gabriel Arcángel, a Roman Catholic Mission in San Gabriel, California. The Mission was founded on September 8, 1771 by Father Junípero Serra, a Majorcan Franciscan friar from Spain.
With the arrival of the Mission, the communities and culture of the indigenous people, the Tongva, fell into rapid decline. Disease also took its toll on the Tongva population, and by the time the first American settlers arrived in the Los Angeles area in 1841, the surviving Tongva were scattered and working at subsistence level on Mexican land grants.
“The Tongva occupied the entire Los Angeles basin and the islands of Santa Catalina, San Nicholas, San Clemente, and Santa Barbara. From Topanga Canyon to Laguna Beach, from the San Gabriel mountains to the sea, we lived throughout most of what is now Los Angeles and Orange County. The existence of our people on these ancestral lands has been unbroken since long before the first contact between the Tongva and Europeans.” ~ tongva.com.
“Despite the European incursion, we have remained an integral part of the Southern California community. Our presence is well documented. Our existence is preserved in records of the three local Catholic Missions and in records of cities in both Los Angeles and Orange Counties. We have survived! We are here!” ~ tongva.com.
An estimated 6,000 Tongva are buried within the Mission's garden walls. Today, there are around 300 enrolled members of the Tongva in San Gabriel. The name Tongva means People of the Earth.