Long before Christopher Columbus set foot on the Americas, the continents were inhabited by complex and sophisticated tribes of indigenous people today known as Native Americans.
While today marks Columbus Day—with the White House recently touting the Italian explorer’s “historic achievement” in first spotting the land—many cities around the United States have shifted toward celebrating the Natives of the country instead.
In Long Beach, and the greater Los Angeles area, those Natives were the Tongva people (also known as Gabrielinos for the Spanish missions built on their territory) who lived in Southern California for thousands of years.
The Long Beach City Council officially recognized it last year through a unanimously voted resolution.
Long Beach city officials may not have had a ceremony prepared for Indigenous Peoples Day, but that doesn’t mean the public can’t learn more about the Tongva natives.
Rancho Los Cerritos is currently exhibiting Tevaaxa’nga (Te-vaah-ha-nga) to Today: Stories of the Tongva People through September 2019. The exhibit celebrates the history and culture of the Tongva.
However, the Tongva descendants have been able to secure their place in modern day land beyond museums—nowhere more prevalent than on the campus of Cal State Long Beach, the former site of the Puvungna village, once populated by the Tongva people. In 2016, CSU officials commemorated the reburial of tribal ancestors who were excavated in the 1950s for redevelopment plans that were eventually stopped.
The school has also been known for hosting an annual pow wow on campus, its 48th iteration celebrated this past March. It’s the largest spring event of its kind in Southern California and brings in tribal members from across the country.
Most recently, Natives scored their biggest victory when school officials announced two weeks ago that its controversial mascot Prospector Pete would be retired. Many in opposition claimed he represented the Gold Rush-era prospectors responsible for the mass killings of Native Americans.
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