With hands clasped interlaced by a strip of otter skin and a strip of rabbit skin, bride Christy Villaseñor and Alex Loera received blessing on their marriage through Tongva tradition Saturday on the southwest edge of University High at their sacred site in West Los Angeles.
While water gurgled out of the idyllic springs under the shade of a Mexican Cypress tree, Andrew “Guiding Young Cloud” Morales burned incense, danced a traditional dance, sang in native tongue and performed symbolic rituals for the newly united couple.
The Tongva lost their land and freedom to the Spanish colonizers, who forced them into the equivalent of plantation slave labor and “eliminated Indians with the effectiveness of Nazis operating concentration camps,” according to author lawyer Carey McWilliams.
Originally spread out in villages around the Los Angeles basin, the Tongva lived off the richness of the land until Gaspar de Portola with Junipero Serra established Spanish presence in the area. The springs, which gush about 25,000 gallons of fresh water daily, were a center for existence and gave rise to the name of “Santa Monica” because the Spaniards, seeing the water flow, were reminded of the tears Monica cried for her errant son Augustine.
Today, the Tongva, who number around 3,900, are deeply divided over those who favor establishing a reservation casino and those who oppose it. The Tongva were never federally recognized or never granted land like other tribes.
Instead, California has conceded a smattering of sites for the Tongva, including one on the California State University Long Beach campus and one on Uni High. The Santa Monica contingent of Tongva, numbering 500, oppose the gambling ambitions of their fellows, believing the disadvantages outweigh the supposed benefits of generating income each tribe member.
While competing petitions for federal recognition from different contingents wend their way through federal bureaucracy, self-identifying tribes people keep alive their traditions at the sacred sites.
The springs are a charming oasis in the wearisome development of concrete and materialism just 100 yards away on Barrington and Ohio Avenues. It would make an enticing wedding venue but is not open as such to the public.
As Saturday demonstrated, the ambitions for a land base — a reservation — is only one concern of the Tongva. Another is… Read the rest: Tongva wedding at Tongva Springs in West Los Angeles