Global Ebook Award Nomination Honors L.A.’s Original People, The Tongva

If you asked a person on the street who the original inhabitants of Los
Angeles were, many would say the Spanish, and others the Mexicans. And
some might say the film companies! None of these would be correct.

The original peoples of Los Angeles were a culturally rich tribe called
the Gabrielino-Tongva, or just the Tongva, which means “People of the
Earth.” The name “Gabrielino” was used because so many Tongva lived and
worked in association with the San Gabriel Mission after its
establishment. But their native heritage outstrips the Spanish Mission
era by thousands of years: Southern California has been their homeland
for at least 2500 years, and some sources say 5000.

Relatively few people are aware of this tribe because they were nearly
exterminated in the period between the Spanish Mission Era and the
nineteenth century. It was so close, in fact, and their numbers and
culture were so decimated by missionization, disease and persecution
that some historians mistakenly believed they were extinct.

The good news is that the Tongva community is still in Southern California in its
original homeland. As of this writing, more than 300 enrolled members of the Gabrielino-Tongva San
Gabriel Band of Mission Indians, and an estimated 2,000 or more
descendants of the tribe, live throughout the Los Angeles-Orange County
area. There is no tribally owned land or reservation and the Tongva
Nation has yet to be federally recognized, but various Tongva tribal
groups and bands are organized and have been recognized by local
governments.

The Tongva community works hard to recover and
preserve their culture, language, and native identity. The Tongva
community gathers for meetings and celebrations, to dedicate cultural
sites, and to participate in other community events. They also work to
prevent the destruction of sacred burial sites by developers.

An increasing number of Tongva historical sites, village sites and
markers have been formally dedicated. The story of how a peak in the
Verdugo Mountains came to be dedicated as Tongva Peak is linked here: articles.latimes.com/2001/aug/13/local/me-33740

As of February, 2012, the illegal and secret excavation by Los Angeles County of the remains of
Tongva tribe members and other early inhabitants of the original site of the city’s founding during the construction of the downtown LA
Plaza de Cultura y Artes project was still unresolved. Federal grant
money was still being withheld. See article: “Concerns over Indian
remains stall LA museum grant” indiancountrynews.net/index.php; blog.theautry.org/2011/05/05/george-harwood-phillips-on-stitching-together-the-story-of-a-people/

Author D.E. Lamont wished to honor the Tongva and let more people know
about them by writing a story about them set in the period before the
arrival of the Spanish in 1542. Her ebook novella, The Way of the Eagle: An Early California Journey of Awakening,
is a historical fantasy. It portrays a young Tongva brave’s adventures
in surviving the dangerous lessons given him by his mysterious spiritual
mentor and finally coming to know who he really is. Its well-researched
details can give readers a taste of what life for the Tongva might have
been like.

The Way of the Eagle has been well received. The softcover edition was designated a Weekly Pick by Kirkus, which wrote in its review,

“There is hardly a word out of place … what is most commendable is
the precision and unpretentiousness of the prose while still managing to
invoke the intense quality of Tacu’s visionary quest and moving nature
of his movement.”

The book was honored as an Award-winning Finalist in USA Book News’s “Best Books 2011” in the
category of Visionary Fiction. A judge in another competition stated:


“I found this ‘journey’ easy to follow, easy to enter into with
Tacu, easy to rejoice, hurt, and cry with him on his path to maturity.
… This book is nearly flawless and I found few areas, if any, that I
could comment on in the area of improvements. It was very
inspirational.”

– Judge’s Commentary, 19th Annual Writer’s Digest Self-Published Book Awards, Jan. 2012

 

Lamont was raised in the rapidly developing San Fernando Valley during
the 50s and 60s, but was never taught that Native Americans were the original inhabitants. When she and her brothers found arrowheads, an ancient
cave, and the vestiges of a native village site in the wild
chaparral-covered hills and canyons surrounding the Valley, she wasn’t
sure if these artifacts were real. Later, as an adult, Lamont felt that
it was ironic that thousands of years before Hollywood, a creative,
resourceful and fun-loving people lived a rich, bountiful life in the
same locations.

The Way of the Eagle has been
nominated for a 2012 Global Ebook Award. Now in its second year, the
Global Ebook Awards honor and bring attention to the future of book
publishing—Ebooks. The Awards are presented in 72 specific categories.
They are open to all publishers large and small so that a winner is the
best in its category, not just the best of small or regionally-published
ebooks. globalebookawards.com/