Friday, May 20, 2011

Tongva Villages

Found a odd little book in the library--odd because it's published by The Unreinforced Masonry Studio in Los Angeles in 1999--I think a small press owned by the author, since he's published several books on L. A. history with that imprint. Titled Ancient L.A., it's a series of essays by one Michael Jacob Rochlin.

The first section is on the Tongva villages. and it's part collection of facts from sources like Hugo Reid and Indian history books, and part photos culled from the LA Library's collection. The photos are not well reproduced; none have titles or dates, though some are interesting.

Rochlin puts some fascinating information together in novel ways, but doesn't give a lot of context for understanding. So I'm not sure I'd recommend him to someone working on a term paper, but his book is a good read for Los Angeles history fanatics looking for a fresh viewpoint.

I photographed these two maps from the book; don't know where Rochlin got them.

The first map is of known Tongva Villages in the 1700-1800s, the second is of cities with a population greater than 500 in 1900. Rochlin points out that "a majority of Los Angeles County towns with a 1900 population of five hundred or more had been established by indigenous peoples."

The Tongva villages were set on high ground, near rivers or the ocean, and usually at the intersection of two environmental zones. Communication and trade flourished, so you found villages near a salt lake, a tar pit, or something that the villagers could trade.

Portola followed a native path that is now Wilshire Blvd, according to Rochlin (he cites 3 sources for this fact)(forgive me; I went to graduate school and love footnotes). Portola returned to the sea along a native route that the Spanish would call El Camino Real, and which the 101 Freeway now follows.

Anyway, I had great fun comparing the two maps. Pasekgna = San Fernando; Suangna = Wilmington; Sukangna = Whittier, and so on.

No comments: