After nearly 200 years, the Tongva community has land in Los Angeles County to call its own. When the Tongva asked the city to allow them to build a community, L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa said no. He wrote a letter of protest and the Tongva lost the battle.
It also became a case study in the politics of development, a battle over the ability of the Tongva and their descendants to do what they had always done — create their own living space and community.
In the wake of the loss of the Tongva legal fight, Villaraigosa announced a community planning process to create a Tongva community on property they owned in Elysian Park, a few miles north of Century City. Tongva residents have asked the city for more than 17 years.
In late February, a group of Tongva, led by a dozen young men and women, marched a short walk from their community of 10 houses down La Cienegrella Boulevard to the entrance of the Tongva community.
They carried photographs emblazoned with the face of the Tongva, and signed a proclamation to the group of onlookers and the press that the Tongva people want the city to come back in.
“We were born here,” said one of the members, 25-year-old Yessica López, of Fresno, who said she was born in Los Angeles and spoke on behalf of Tongva culture. She recalled first learning of the Tongva’s existence as she was growing up. When she learned there were some Tongva families living in Los Angeles, she visited them and learned more. Years later she was invited to join them.
“When I first met them, they were very respectful,” said López, who has a master’s degree in anthropology, a specialty related to her community.
She said members of the Tongva community still feel misunderstood and the city�