After nearly 200 years, the Tongva community has land in Los Angeles County that’s under threat of losing its cultural identity.
The Tongva people are based in Tonga, an island nation off the western coast of Africa, where they live in an area known as “Tongva country.” They live there without electricity, water or sanitation. The Tongva have no formal government, while the U.S. government considers them to be a tribe under Section 6 of the Indian Reorganization Act.
Their land, which is designated Tongva Country Monument No. 2, is the largest undeveloped area in the county, covering over 60,000 acres. In 2018, the Tongva submitted a petition to the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors to preserve the Tongva lands. The petition, which was passed by the Board on June 5, was submitted by Tongva leader Tonga John.
On the last day of the Board’s meeting, Tonga John and several members of his community attended Wednesday night’s Board meeting. In addition to Tonga John, leaders from the Tongva, Tongva Country Alliance and Tumui Tongva also made a brief appearance. The Board discussed the Tongva’s petition the morning before the hearing.
During the meeting, representatives from the Tongva Country Alliance and Tumui Tongva said Tongva Country Monument No. 2 is a cultural asset that will be irreplaceable in the area. Tonga John said he hoped the Board would take his petition seriously.
“The Tongva community is in jeopardy of losing one of its most valuable assets, which is Tongva Country Monument No. 2,” he said. “Please understand that the Tongva community and the entire Tongva country has been fighting for Tongva Country Monument No. 2 for decades. It is not just our culture, it is our cultural identity, and our identity is threatened by the loss of Tongva Country Monument No. 2. The Tongva community wants to protect and