After nearly 200 years, the Tongva community has land in Los Angeles County. While much of the valley has been absorbed over the years by other Indian communities, the Tongva have a lot left to do, much of it in the form of public lands, from state parks and wilderness areas to local parks and beaches.
Most people in this region know the Tongva as one of the largest tribes in Western North America, numbering approximately 3,000 people, or fewer than one-in-five, but there are a few misconceptions about Tongva language use.
The main confusion, which I have seen on my many travels backpacking through the valley, is the idea of how much the Tongva use their language.
The Tongva are not one tribe, but many. Their language is spoken by over 300 clans, which are descended from one branch of the Tongva, which moved to California in the mid 1900s. This branch was the largest, and the rest of the Tongva’s tribes scattered here later.
So in addition to speaking the Tongva language, the Tongva also speak several other tribes and dialects. I think the easiest way to explain it is to consider them as a single tribe, which has different branches, but all speak the same language.
This is a common misconception among people who are unfamiliar with tribal communities in rural places. In fact, this is a common misconception for people who aren’t familiar at all with Tongva communities, because the Tongva themselves are very vocal about their separate identity.
I’ll say a few things about Tongva languages, and then I’ll show you their unique dialects.
So where do Tongva language families come from?
What makes the Tongva the only tribal group on the U.S. West Coast that speaks more than one language? They come from a single language family.
One of the main branches of the Tongva language family is the Pomo (or Tongva) language. The Pomo are one of the first tribes to arrive in this region, moving here from the Pacific Northwest more than a century ago.
The Pomo are descended from one of only two tribes in the west to still speak their original language, and it’s the only one that