By Sandra Moore
This Friday marks Native American Day, a holiday exclusive to California and North Dakota.Yet this date does little to honor many tribes, including the Hahamongna Native Americans, the tribe that once inhabited the lands of Pasadena and Glendale before the San Gabriel Mission was built.
The Hahamongna Native Americans (pronounced: hah-HAH-mow-gnaw) were a small group of Tongva Native Americans that lived behind the modern Jet Propulsion Laboratory in what is now known as the Hahamongna Watershed Park. Hahamovic was the name of the tribal chief and extended to the rest of the tribe. This is not ancient history; South Pasadena coexisted with the Hahamongna, and our first governor, Governor Portola, smoked the peace pipe with Hahamovic in 1770.
However, not many know of their existence. Even the Hahamongna Watershed park contributes to this general ignorance; though named after the Hahamongna, there is no informational center or sign mentioning the origins and history behind the name. And if there does happen to be some informational plaque, it’s impossible to find, only emphasizing the lack of awareness.
Julia Bogany, a respected Tongva tribal elder and Cultural Affairs officer of the Tongva nation, describes California’s history as erasive of the Native Americans that lived there. With the arrival of the Spanish, the Hahamongna were christened with a new, more Catholic-friendly name: Pascual. This led to the Hahamongna tribe also being called the Pascual Indians and the Pascualites. The Tongva have also been referred to as Gabrielinos, a name also deemed more Catholic.
“Gabrielino is the name that a priest gave us. Some people still say it, but in the middle of the 90’s some started going back to Tongva, which translates to ‘people of the earth,’” Bogany said. The Tongva nation, unlike some other Native American tribes, are only state-recognized and therefore lack the medical benefits and allotted lands that federally-recognized Native American tribes receive. However, over the past few decades, awareness of the Tongva nation has slowly increased.
“Arcadia’s Gold Line Bridge features baskets that honor the Tongva Native Americans. Some schools have started to teach children in fourth to sixth grade about the Gabrielinos and take them to murals around LA,” Bogany said. “I myself teach at the Claremont Colleges about the Gabrielinos. All of these have helped raise awareness.”
Though students are not taught about the Hahamongna tribe in elementary, middle, or high school, resources to educate oneself about the tribe that used to live here are prominent. The annual Acorn Festival hosted in Claremont and the Gabrielino (Tongva) Museum and Culture Center in downtown LA both celebrate the Hahamongna people. UCLA professor Pamela Munro is helping revive the language by maintaining a Facebook page where she posts a new Tongva word daily (Tongva Language). The Hahamongna, and therefore the Tongva nation, is integrated in our culture and our history. It’d be a shame to let that all fade away.