Outreach: The Tongva are the Native People of Los Angeles

Tonantzin Carmelo talk to students at LFCSA

Students from the Los Feliz Charter School for the Arts (LFCSA) and the Living Museum Sycamore Grove are collaborating with Departures Youth Voices to document their exploration of the area and develop interactive tools that will become part of the Living Museum's community resources. Follow the students here as they work with community residents and learn about the history of the neighborhood, urban planning, and placemaking.


Tonantzin Carmelo visited the students at LFCSA to share some of the culture and history of the Tongva people and answer any questions they may have regarding the original people of Southern California. Tonantzin is a dancer, musician, and a multifaceted actress whose maternal native ancestry comes from the Tongva and Kumeyaay.

On this day she imparted information on the arts and customs of the Tongva, as well as her own personal story. She went over how the Spaniards, then the Mexicans, and finally the Americans, came and took the land and oppressed the native people. Throughout her presentation she emphasized how modern day Tongva are working to keep their culture alive and continuing their role in the community. The Tongva are not just about the past of Sycamore Grove and the Arroyo Seco, but also its present and future. The students asked questions and listened attentively while they wrote notes in their notebooks.

Below some of the students share what they learned during their time with Tonantzin.

"Tonantzin Carmelo is a member of the Tongva tribe. She is an actress and a singer. She sings in the Tongva language. Her mother and her are trying to revive the Tongva language." --Isaac Plancarte

"She did not grow up speaking her tribe's language, but as a kid she went to visit her family every weekend and learned the importance of her culture." --Tessa Bandouveris

"She talked about Native American culture, including hunting, food, jewelry, music, lifestyle, and language. The Tongva are the native people of the Los Angeles area." --Maxine Trujillo

"Traditional Tongva life was different from today but it has adapted to the 21st century; traditions are still very important to modern Tongva. Tonantzin believes it's very important to revive and preserve the Tongva language. The Tongva live in lots of places around Los Angeles. History is a sensitive topic." --Dempsey Bradshaw

"Tonantzin sang songs to bless animals, she talked about how the Tongva worshiped many deities, and how important and beautiful basket weaving is to the Tongva." --Remali De Silva

"Tongva tradition can still be restored, it is important to keep it alive. The Tongva tribe was an important historic feature of Sycamore Grove. Many historic artifacts would be lost if the Southwest Museum closed. It is important to make this known. The Southwest Museum is an important part of Sycamore Grove, just as the Tongva are." --Pauline Bissel

"Famous Tongva include Juana Maria, the real person from the story, 'The Island of The Blue Dolphins' and Toypurina, who fought against the Spanish." --Pauline Bissel

"Tonantzin's talk connects to what we are doing with the Living Museum project and Lummis Day because she is a big part of that museum and it's collection of artifacts. It would educate more people about Tongva history." --Romali De Silva


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