Open Thread: Closing Thanksgiving Thoughts

Thanksgiving invites us to remember our American history. Part of that history is: who lived here when we arrived?

(Hat tip for this story to Octavia Tuohey, who posted about its appearing on NPR.)

A website now allows you to figure out exactly whose land you sleep on. Such land was owned communally by Indigenous tribal nations, rather than by a system of recorded deeds and land grants — and generally it was never ceded to Europeans (or was ceded only upon duress or trick.)

Of necessity, the map is an approximation in spatial dimensions and, presumably, is not necessarily going to hold for all times. (The weather and the fishing were probably better than most alternatives even way back when.) But it appears to be a consensus understanding of what nations lived where, backed up by anthropological, historical, and linguistic research. I’m borrowing the relevant potion of it for educational purposes.

Spaniards assigned their own names to the tribal nations they encountered based upon the missions they had created in their areas. Collectively, they and others are known as the “Mission Indians.” In Orange County, these were primarily the Gabrieleño (around Mission San Gabriel); the Juaneño (around Mission San Juan Capistrano), and the Luiseño (after Mission San Luis Rey de Francia in Oceanside).

Those were not the names that these called themselves, though. Disagreement exists over whether the Gabrieleño referred to themselves as the “Tongva” or the “Kizh” peoples, to the extent that they referred to the collective at all. (Tongva seems to be the predominant usage, though Wikipedia redirects to Kizh. It’s a big fight among factions.) They dominated most of LA County, including the Gateway Cities and northern slope of the Puente Hills, which border us. They also lay claim to almost all of Orange County, challenged mostly by the Juaneños, especially north of around Edinger.

The map shows that the Juaneño nation, who referred to themselves as the Acjachemen, seem to have had the upper hand the territory between the south slopes of the Puente Hills down to Edinger. (In other words, “further from the beach.”) They apparently lived in fixed villages and camps, and Wikipedia quotes (but doesn’t cite) archaeologists as asserting that they had done so for at least 10,000 years. This nation also held territory in western Riverside and Northern San Diego Counties, as well as the area in and around Cal State Long Beach. (I’d think that the Gabrieleños were still dominant, though; I learned while attending Long Beach that it was built on Puvunga, which was a Tongva-style place name, like Cahuenga, Cucamonga, Topanga, and Tujunga. It was apparently considered a significant sacred spot by both of these nations, as well as others; one meaning ascribed to it has been “The Place of Gathering.”)

The Luiseño nation referred to itself as the Payómkawichum. (Seems to be “Pah-YOM-kah-wih-CHUM.”) It was located mostly in western Riverside and northern San Diego County, mostly skirting alongside Orange County’s eastern border. But it did reach down and claim San Clemente, as did the Juaneños — and all three of the above-mentioned nations lay claim to Dana Point. (That’s not the only contentious place; the one in the graphic, somewhere in the canyons, is another.)

If you read that link just above, you will be reminded of how badly the native nations were treated and why they did deserve compensation and privileges. The Luiseños did gain federal recognition and get to put up some notable casinos, though, including Pechanga and Pala in Temecula, Soboba, Rincon, and the state’s only Harrah’s. (Does it make up for losing their land? I leave that question as an exercise for readers.)

We might want to venture outward a bit to discuss the Cahuilla to our east, the Chumash to our west, and the Serrano and Western Shoshone to our northeast — but that’s enough for one long holiday weekend. Enjoy the map, and the site hosting it, if you’re interested.

Let’s make this an Open Thread. Write about anything you want within reasonable bounds of decency, dignity, and decorum. And I mean that.

About Greg Diamond

Somewhat verbose attorney, semi-disabled and semi-retired, residing in northwest Brea. Occasionally ran for office against jerks who otherwise would have gonr unopposed. Got 45% of the vote against Bob Huff for State Senate in 2012; Josh Newman then won the seat in 2016. In 2014 became the first attorney to challenge OCDA Tony Rackauckas since 2002; Todd Spitzer then won that seat in 2018. Every time he's run against some rotten incumbent, the *next* person to challenge them wins! He's OK with that. Corrupt party hacks hate him. He's OK with that too. He does advise some local campaigns informally and (so far) without compensation. (If that last bit changes, he will declare the interest.) His daughter is a professional campaign treasurer. He doesn't usually know whom she and her firm represent. Whether they do so never influences his endorsements or coverage. (He does have his own strong opinions.) But when he does check campaign finance forms, he is often happily surprised to learn that good candidates he respects often DO hire her firm. (Maybe bad ones are scared off by his relationship with her, but they needn't be.)