Native Americans

Before the City of Los Angeles was founded in 1781, the Los Angeles region was occupied for thousands of years by successive waves of Native Americans, many of whom came from the present-day American Southwest. Prior to the arrival of the first Spanish-speaking settlers in 1781, the Los Angeles basin was inhabited by a relatively dense Native Americans opulation of about 5 000 to 10, 000 people who inhabited a vast geographic area of 4, 000 square miles. This region was bordered by the Santa Susana Mountains to the north, the Mojave Desert to the east, Aliso Creek to the south, with the Los Angeles and Santa Rivers running through its heart. The region also extended west beyond the mainland. Out to the sea were the Channel Islands, Santa Catalina, San Clemente, San Nicolas and Santa Barbara. They were Shoshonean language-speakers, or speakers of the Cupan subgroup of the Takic family of the Uto-Aztecan language. Since colonization in the 18th century the indigenous people of Los Angeles were known as Tongva or Tobikhar, which means "people of the earth," or Gabrielino or Fernandeño-the names assigned to them from their association with Missions San Gabriel Archangel de Los Temblores and San Fernando Rey de España.

The contributions of the Tongva were essential to the survival of the early pueblo of Los Angeles. In addition to the rancheria (village) of Yanga providing a geographic reference point for siting the pueblo and its plaza, Tongva skills and knowledge of the local environment were transmitted to the pobladores (founders) of Los Angeles, many of whom intermarried with the Gabrielino. The Gabrielino's spoken language and cultural practice, specially indigenous medicine, gave the emerging pueblo a unique social context and the basis for its survival.

Gabrieleno TongvaIn 1803 Yanga's population was estimated at 200 people. But weather or not Yanga functioned as a true Tongva rancheria after the founding of the pueblo in 1781 is debatable. Yanga served as the main source of cheap labor for the growing pueblo of Los Angeles and surrounding ranchos. The village attracted Gabrielinos, as well as other Native American laborers from Missions San Diego and San Luis Rey. Because of this close interdependent relationship with the pueblo of Los Angeles, Yanga continued to function for over 50 years after the founding of the pueblo. The village was apparently abandoned after 1836. Today, the Tongva people continue to call Los Angeles and Southern California their home.


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