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This article first appeared on Congresswoman Kamlager-Dove.


Media Contact: Maya Valentine | [email protected]

WASHINGTON, DC – Congresswoman Sydney Kamlager-Dove (CA-37) introduced H.R. 6859, the Gabrielino/Tongva Nation Recognition Act, to Federally recognize the Gabrielino/Tongva Nation whose villages were located in the Los Angeles Basin for thousands of years. These villages were located near and around the ever-changing Los Angeles River, San Gabriel River, Santa Ana River, and the coastal areas, with over 2,000 Gabrielino/Tongva archaeological sites in Los Angeles County, Orange County, and the Channel Islands.

California is currently home to 109 Federally recognized Tribes across the state. In 1994, California officially recognized the Gabrielino/Tongva as “the aboriginal tribe of the Los Angeles Basin.” The Gabrielino/Tongva Nation Recognition Act would grant them up to 300 acres of land to be taken into trust by the Department of Interior if signed into law and would afford the Gabrielino/Tongva people the ability to participate in scholarships for Native Americans, access healthcare services through the Indian Health Service, obtain educational and housing assistance, possess eagle feathers to practice their religious beliefs, or acquire and honor the remains of their ancestors, among the many other privileges only given to Federally recognized Tribes.

“I am glad to introduce this legislation to Federally recognize the Gabrielino/Tongva Nation,” said Congresswoman Kamlager-Dove. “It is critical for Indigenous individuals to have access to the resources afforded to the Federally recognized Tribes from education and employment opportunities to health care and beyond. I will continue to work in Congress to support the Indigenous communities across California and the rest of our nation.”

“We are grateful to Congresswoman Kamlager-Dove for championing the cause of the Gabrielino/Tongva people and helping us right the wrongs of history,” said Gabrielino/Tongva Chairwoman Sandonne Goad. “Our history is one of enslavement and oppression. We have been wrongly denied federal recognition for generations despite our deep and formative connections to this region as well as our inclusion on the LA County seal. Federal recognition is the first step to bringing dignity to the Gabrielino/Tongva tribe and ensuring the longevity of our people and culture.”

The Los Angeles Basin as well as the islands of Santa Catalina, San Nicholas, San Clemente, and Santa Barbara (from Topanga Canyon to Lagana Beach) are the traditional homelands of the Gabrielino/Tongva Nation.

Spanish settlers first enslaved the Tonga people in 1772, forcing members of the tribe to build the Mission de San Gabriel Arcangel on their own land. This began a long and continuous subjugation of the Gabrielino/Tongva Nation lasting over 100 years, which included forced labor and mistreatment by European settlers and governments alike. Gabrielino/Tongva children were also removed from their homes, assimilated into settler cultures and stripped of their Gabrielino/Tongva identity at the St. Boniface Indian Industrial and Sherman Indian Schools.

To read the full text of the bill, click here.


Why Sovereignty Matters

Despite being the first true Angelenos, the Gabrielino/Tongva Nation is not recognized by the federal government. The Gabrielino/Tongva Nation is, however, recognized by the State of California, the California General Assembly, and the City of Los Angeles.

Federal acknowledgement is vital for the Gabrielino/Tongva Nation because it will allow the tribe to have a government-to-government relationship with the United States, have inherent rights of self-government, and importantly, access to the extensive benefits provided by the Bureau of Indian Affairs.

Gabrielino/Tongva Nation sovereignty will help correct a historic injustice and preserve our culture for generations to come.