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The Gabrielino/Tongva Nation has been recognized by the State of California, the California General Assembly, and the City of Los Angeles. It is long past time for us to be formally recognized by the Federal government of the United States.

Despite the Federal Government’s long treatment of the Gabrielino/Tongva as a Tribe under Federal jurisdiction through the Mission Indian Agency, the Federal Government has missed numerous opportunities to grant Federal Recognition to the Gabrielino/Tongva.


A federally recognized Tribe is a sovereign nation, with control over its own laws and resources, and a special legal and political relationship with the United States government.

Once federally recognized, tribal nations have a government-to-government relationship with the United States, have inherent rights of self-government, and are eligible to receive certain federal benefits, services, and protections because of their legal relationship with the United States.

Bureau of Indian Affairs programs support and assist federally recognized tribes in the development of tribal governments, strong economies, and quality programs.The scope of Indian Affairs programs is extensive and includes a range of services comparable to the programs of state and local government, including education, job training programs, social services, law enforcement, courts, real estate services, agriculture and range management, and resource protection. Without federal recognition, the Gabrielino/Tongva Nation can access none of these benefits.


Without Federal recognition, we cannot claim and repatriate our ancestors’ remains. We cannot participate in scholarships for Native Americans. We cannot practice our religious traditions with full freedoms. We are not allowed to sell our traditional crafts and wares as Native Americans without facing the same $250,000 fine and 5 years imprisonment as any others that appropriate Native Culture for monetary gain. And we are generally not allowed to seek health care at the Indian Clinics. Fundamentally, we have no right or ability to realize economic self-determination.

We intend to purchase commercial property, which the Department of the Interior can take into trust under its standard protocols, providing us with our own Reservation where we can grow and thrive.

Our people know well what it means to be overlooked and underserved. Upon realizing federal recognition, we intend to become productive contributors in Los Angeles, stewards of the environment, and champions of those who, like us, have struggled against oppression. Federal recognition will correct an historic injustice, give us the opportunity to honor our ancestors, and preserve our history and culture for generations to come.


Congress has always needed to act when recognizing California’s Mission Bands of Indians.

All Federally acknowledged California “Mission Indian” tribes have been recognized through Congress, the Mission Indian Relief Act of 1891 or Indian Reorganization Act of 1934, or an executive order.


No California “Mission Indian” tribe has ever been recognized by the Bureau of Indian Affairs through the Federal acknowledgement process (25 CFR Part 83). Two that tried were rejected: the Juaneño Band of Mission Indians, and the Muwekma Ohlone Tribe.

There is a reason that is the case: The Federal acknowledgement process (25 CFR Part 83) requires a Tribe to provide evidence of its existence as an historical tribe during the 18th and 19th centuries, and the surviving Mission Era-sources simply cannot provide such evidence. Many of the historical records for the Mission Era have either been lost altogether, or obscure details of tribal community and political life.

Only one California tribe has ever been federally recognized by the Bureau of Indian Affairs through the Federal acknowledgement process (25 CFR Part 83), and it was not a “Mission Tribe.” It was the Death Valley Timbisha Shoshone tribe.


In 1951, the Bureau of Indian Affairs retained legal counsel for twenty-nine California Bands of Mission Indians, including the Gabrielino/Tongva. Twenty-eight of those bands were granted Federal Recognition, including those Southern California bands outside Los Angeles County; only the Gabrielino/Tongva remain unrecognized.

This trend began in 1891, when fourteen Southern California Indian Reservations in Riverside, San Bernardino, and San Diego Counties were established by executive orders, and inexpensive Reservation land was purchased for them by the federal Mission Indian Agency. Federal recognition was thereby, or soon thereafter, granted to those tribes.

The Gabrielino/Tongva were excluded from this land distribution, due in large part to the value of Los Angeles County real estate, which had only increased by 1951. The exclusion was likely further fostered by a contemporaneous finding by the Federal Indian Claims Commission:

The Federal Indian Claims Commission found that the Gabrielino/Tongva were wrongly deprived of 1,553,772 acres of Los Angeles County land.

Once federally recognized, we intend to buy back less than .005% of that land.


The Gabrielino/Tongva never received a reservation in our Los Angeles County homelands, where the population was booming and land prices remained high. As our tribal leaders, both past and present, have often said, there was simply no way 1950s Los Angeles was going to allow land to be given to "a bunch of Indians."

Yet, we are still here, as we have been since the beginning. We are part of this land. We will remain. We will endure. And we will achieve recognition and fulfill our destiny. Because we are Tongva.



Historically, Indian tribes in California were Federally recognized in three different ways: Treaty, Executive Order, and Congressional legislation.

Historically, Indian tribes in California were Federally recognized in three different ways: Treaty, Executive Order, and Congressional legislation. Congressional legislation is how nearly all California Mission Indian tribes have received Federal acknowledgement.

Most gained it through the Congressional Act of January 12, 1891 (26 Stat. 711), known as the Mission Indian Relief Act. This Act created the Mission Indian Agency which held trust responsibilities over “Mission Indians.”

The law was quite simple: Congress directed the Mission Indian Agency to purchase reservations for all Mission Indian villages or bands. It applied to all the bands or villages associated with Spanish Missions in California, and sought out those groups living on the same land parcels.

The Mission Indian Agency only ever acquired reservation lands outside of Los Angeles County, specifically San Bernardino, Orange, Riverside, and San Diego Counties. Not only did the Mission Indian Agency not acquire reservation lands in Los Angeles County, but there is also no known record of it attempting to acquire reservation lands in Los Angeles County.

Congress gradually added to the number of Mission Indian reservations through specific appropriations and through the Indian Reorganization Act of 1934. This process slowed to a crawl by the 1950s, when Congress began to contemplate legislation to terminate the Mission Indian tribes with reservations in Southern California. By this time, Congress had enacted legislation to terminate non-Mission Indians in California before the policy was abandoned nationally at the end of the 1960s.

But throughout, the Federal policy was consistent. Federal recognition simply followed the acquisition of reservation land in trust. Ultimately, the last Mission Indian tribe to receive Federal recognition this way was Jamul in 1978. It was only after this trust acquisition that BIA policy shifted to the Federal petition process. The option of land-to-trust recognition has since been closed to unrecognized tribes.