Presented in collaboration with local Tongva leaders Cindi Alvitre, Julia Bogany, Desiree Martinez, and Craig Torres, the Tongva History Walk attempted to re-envision the landscape of Downtown Los Angeles as Yaanga—the village where Tongva and Gabrieleno communities lived prior to contact with European settlers and missionaries in the late 1700s. Throughout the program, participants got a glimpse into indigenous worldviews that highlight our current relationships with water and nature, public spaces, oral histories, land, and ancestry. As the Tongva leaders fought through a cacophony of traffic and city noises in order to guide us through the Yaanga Plaque, Placita Olvera, Union Station, and other unacknowledged sites, we were poignantly reminded of the indigenous communities who are constantly struggling to be seen and heard.
In O, My Ancestor, members of the Los Angeles area's Gabrielino-Tongva community reflect on what it means to be Gabrielino-Tongva today, when centuries of domination by the Spanish and then Americans have left little of the native culture intact. This book gives voice to the Tongva community's leaders, activists, educators, and artists and is part of an ongoing reclamation of their heritage.
Essays by historian William McCawley interspersed throughout the book introduce Tongva history and traditional culture, providing context for the issues the community now grapples with. Faced with the challenge of reconstructing forgotten cultural practices in one of the largest metropolises in the world, the Tongva inspire fascinating questions of identity, culture, sovereignty, and the impact of the past on life today.