Readers comments 2-26-21

Tongva concerns

Dear editor:

This is a response to an opinion letter published in the recent issue of the COURIER. While I appreciated John Neiuber’s recent and informed articles on the Tongva, the letter by Mari Pritchard Parker makes a number of factually incorrect claims about the Tongva community. 

First off, I deeply appreciate the work of John Neiuber in documenting the history of our Tongva people in this region. As happy as I was to see this recognition of our local Indigenous community, of which I am a proud member, I was very disappointed to see that the COURIER chose to print the letter from a white anthropologist attempting to claim the right to determine what endonym we use to define ourselves. It is a bit shocking in this day and age that an anthropologist with no connection to the Tribal community would make such a claim and it is also disturbing that the COURIER would choose to publish it without first checking some of the easily verifiable and provably false claims made in the letter.

The first is a claim that the term Tongva was created in 1992. This is quite surprising, coming from someone claiming to be an anthropologist, as C. Hart Merriam recorded this term in the first decade of the twentieth century from Mrs. James V. Rosemyre whose mother was Gabrieleno, as we were called by our colonizers. His research was presented in scholarship in 1906, and it is authoritatively historically attested in “Studies of California Indians” (77-86). The term is also found in his holographic notes, and it is even used on the wax cylinder recordings at the Smithsonian that contain the only recordings of our language, also from the first decade of the twentieth century, and also from Mrs. Rosemyre. I am myself a lineal descendant of Mrs. James V. Rosemyre, also known as Narcissa Higuera, and that endonym has been in continuous use in our family. It was also used by the community prior to our work to save Kuruvungna (of which I was also a founding director).

Kizh simply means “house” in our language. It was never an endonym and the small family group currently using the term, which they have every right to do, has only used it for the last two decades. In fact, a number of the current members of the Kizh group used the Tongva endonym in correspondence and even Tribal paperwork in the early 90s, which we still have in our records. The claim that the Kizh group is the only one recognized by the state is flat out false. In fact, that group did not even exist at the time of the state recognition. A number of the institutions the letter claims recognize the Kizh do not actually have a process for doing so, and those governmental organizations that do recognize Indigenous communities also recognize Tribal governments and organizations that use the term Tongva. The statements in Pritchard Parker’s letter are at best misinformed, at worst intentionally misleading.

There is also a historically inaccurate portrayal of the reason the term Tongva was not used in the 1994 resolution. This point is admittedly less widely documented, but I do know the history as I was part of the team that helped draft the language of the resolution and worked with the state assembly members supporting it and was present at its passage. The term Tongva was not rejected by the state, but rather it was not used as one Tongva community claimed to have the exclusive right to use the term and there was a desire to make the recognition as broad and uncontroversial as possible. Again, I was present at these discussions and if there is any documentation to back up an alternative account, I have yet to see it (and I have asked for it, repeatedly). While I do recognize that this could be a simple mistake, the claim that seems to be made here that the State of California somehow rejected the term is both false and problematic.

The other, more disturbing claim is about the lineage of the people who use the term Tongva. Mari Pritchard Parker wrote:

“The term “Tongva” and the individuals who created and continue to use the term are not the descendants of the Kizh of the Greater Los Angeles Basin and surrounding areas. The creation and use of this name and the co-opting of the indigeneity of the true descendants has created confusion and caused harm, whether intentional or not.”

I’m afraid this comment is beyond the pale and borders on or may be actual libel as it attempts to imply that we who use the term Tongva are not true descendants or Indigenous. I served as membership and certification chair in the 1990s and can confirm and attest, as I have done at the request of the state assembly in session, that all enrolled members can prove clear lineal descent to an Indigenous Gabrieleno ancestor. A number of the community who use the term Tongva, including myself, have BIA degree of Indian Blood certification. My family is also recorded on the Census roll of Indians from 1928 as hailing from San Gabriel and of Indigenous descent, a Gabrieleno. 

It is particularly egregious when an outsider, a person who is not of Tongva, Gabrieleno (or whatever term is preferred) descent makes claims about the lineage, heritage, and membership of an Indigenous community. As an academic with a focus in Anthropology I would hope that Mari Pritchard Parker would be aware of this. It should be particularly embarrassing for her as her own academic institution, Pasadena City College, recognizes the Tongva, “our college is built on land historically inhabited by the Tongva people more than 3,500 years ago” (Resolution No. 631 Pasadena Area Community College District – Pasadena City College, November 2019). I really don’t have any idea of what her stake in this issue is, but numerous anthropologists and historians at prominent institutions in our region recognize the use of the term Tongva as the only historically attested endonym of our people. You can also see the Tongva endonym used in the work done at institutions like UCLA and in their Mapping Indigenous LA project (, and in the land acknowledgments of both UCLA and UC Riverside which recognize the endonym Tongva, as do all reputable scholars.

I do understand that issue of Tribal identity can be complicated and vexed.  I hope that you will repudiate this racist and uninformed attack and discuss these issues with myself and other Tongva and Gabrieleno community members who live in this area, and we can work towards a more accurate understanding of the complexities and that you can be convinced by the copious evidence, much of it widely available.  The printing of the defamatory attacks made in this letter is incredibly problematic, and I hope that you will respect the wishes of the vast majority of our community who do recognize both the Indigenous endonym of Tongva and the colonial term of Gabrieleno which we continue to use.

Thank you, ‘Aweeshkone xaa, for your time and consideration and please feel free to contact me for further discussion.

Dr. Wallace Cleaves

Member of the Tongva

Associate Professor of Teaching, UC Riverside 


Claremont Heritage Tongva Articles

Dear editor:

The archeological dig at the Indian Hill mesa site produced pottery shards. The Gabrieleno/Tongva did not make clay pottery. The Cahuilla Indians did. (Honnold Special Collections)

The burial on the SW corner of the mesa site is a Cahuilla burial site, as is the burial site at Ganesha Park (Toibinga). Cahuilla elders shared this information with Pomona Valley Native American Elders Robert John Knapp  (Claremont) and Tony Cerda (Pomona) some 35 years ago. The Cahuilla elders shared that they died as a result of the small pox epidemic of the 1860s.

Tooch Martin, Claremont’s first white settler who lived in Palmer Canyon, identified his neighbors as Cahuilla. (Honnold Special Collections)

The village of Torojoatnga is pure mythological  fiction. There is no physical evidence this Indian Hill mesa village ever existed. Maps by the first Spanish Franciscan priests and military soldiers does not include Torojoatnga. Torojoatnga is not included as a village in the Bernice Eastman Johnson map (The Gabrielenos) nor Crawley’s The First Angelinos map. But the strongest evidence are the 120 Indian villages documented by the Franciscan priests (from the San Gabriel Mission records), which also included Serrano and Cahuilla villages but does not include  the Indian village of Torojoatnga. Native American land acknowledgement must include the ancestral village site that once existed.

The Indians that lived in the San Gabriel Mission area when first encountered by white people (Franciscan priests) identified themselves through Sonoran Indian interpreters as “gente de razon.” meaning “people who can reason.”  Translate this Spanish into the Gabrieleno/Tongva language, and you will have the real name of the Gabrielenos. The only problem is the language is extinct and the culture was destroyed and decimated by Western European invasion. As the Pritchard letter to the editor (COURIER 2-19-21) stated, “Tongva” was first introduced in the early 1990s by the Anthony Morales faction from San Gabriel, The other factions are the Kizh faction from Whittier (where the first San Gabriel Mission was built) and the Stein faction from Santa Monica.They are all fighting and suing each other. All three factions are not sovereign Indian Nations and are fighting for federal recognition so they can bring Indian gaming to Southern California. The majority of the them used to be middle class Mexican Americans prior to 1988, the year Indian Gaming was permitted by the US government.

The semi-feudal Spanish mission at San Gabriel categorized all Indians assigned to this mission as “Gabrieleno,” and did not distinguish them from each other by tribe or language. Serrano and Cahuilla Indians were also enslaved at the San Gabriel Mission.

To make matters more confusing, my maternal grandparents resided at the Serrano tent encampment on the west side of the Indian Hill mesa site near Webb Canyon for one year while their home was being built in the Arbol Verde Mexican Indian neighborhood circa 1913-14. My grandfather and my mother passed these oral traditions on to me.

Further research needs to be con-ducted to empirically conclude who the original inhabitants of Claremont were.  

Al Villanueva

Claremont First Nations Purepecha Elder Claremont

50-year resident and elder



Response to Tongva/Kizh

Dear editor:

I am a former Chief of the San Gabriel Band of Mission Indians and a 28-year resident of Claremont. 

The San Gabriel, San Gabriel Band of Mission Indians has existed and maintained community before and after the establishment of the San Gabriel Mission in 1771. The only tribe from San Gabriel is the San Gabriel Band of Mission Indians. We are not known or share our name with or by any other organization. The State Recognition was specifically given to the San Gabriel Band of Mission Indians. The San Gabriel Band of Mission Indians has been recognized by a Los Angeles Court to be the legitimate tribe of the Gabrieleno/Tongva tribe. We are actively contacted and consulted by government entities as the most likely descendants to conduct reburials and monitoring of newly discovered Native American sites in Southern California.  

Tongva remained unknown to the San Gabriel Band of Mission Indians until the 1970s. It was not readily accepted because we were indoctrinated to identify ourselves by our Spanish Mission given name, Gabrieleno. Over time, documents and records confirmed Tongva as our Native name. Tongva has been accepted into our Tribe and the community at large. 

Kizh was one of hundreds or more small villages spread throughout the entire Los Angeles and Orange Counties. To include the Southern Channel Islands. Ms. Pritchard is apparently speaking for a few people who claim they are descendants of a small village called Kizh, a vast difference from the territory of the San Gabriel Band of Mission Indian  approximately 5,866 sq. miles.  

This Kizh group, claiming to be descendants of this small village should not be construed as people or a group that speaks for all Gabrielenos or Tongva people. 

The Kizh group does not have a significant historical footprint or established legitimate historical records other than their own personal claims, all made sometime after 1994.

Mari A. Pritchard Parker, RPA, has no historical confirmation or proof on many of her inaccurate or misinformed statements. It also appears she is sharing stories from ill informed sources that are passing on unconfirmed stories as true.

The history of the San Gabriel Band of Mission Indians and the Gabrieleno Tongva history is far too complex for this article. Colonization stripped us of all our identity starting in 1771 and now we have to contend with people that further try to strip us of our name.  Our native story is one of survival and perseverance. We have weathered the storms of the past and we are still here.  

We need to spare ourselves the lack of knowledge and shaming for not knowing it all by those who have not traveled our journey.

All one has to do is ask Kizh members or others to provide the original State Recognition certificate which of course they cannot. They would also not be able to share or provide the specifics of the ceremony, who was present and who initiated the recognition. They were not around or in existence as a group.

Members of the Kizh nation are welcomed to be their own entity but they do not represent the San Gabriel Band of Mission Indians nor do they speak for all Gabrieleno/Tongva People who they apparently do not recognize. 

Art Morales

Elder/Former Chief

San Gabriel Band of Mission Indians


Kimberly Morales Johnson 

Tribal Secretary 

San Gabriel Band of Mission Indians


We live on Tongva land

Dear editor:

Thank you for the well researched articles by John Neiuber about the history and culture of the Gabrielino-Tongva Band of Mission Indians, which appeared in the January 29 and February 5 issues of the Claremont COURIER. We understand that the term Gabrielinos, a name coined by the Spanish missionaries and rancheros, included people from many Indian bands in the Los Angeles basin. We also read the response by Mari Pritchard Parker on February 12, related to the history of the Gabrielino-Kizh people. Ms. Parker implies in her letter that the name Tongva is not a legitimate name. Apart from whatever political, economic, or land issues the eleven bands of Indians who currently live in the Los Angeles basin engage in, we believe in the right for a band to name itself and have that choice honored. 

According to the book “The First Angelinos: The Gabrielino Indians of Los Angeles” by William McCawley, published in 1996 by the Malki Museum Press, California’s first museum of Native Americans, the Tongva people lived in the area close to the San Gabriel Mountains including the geographical area that is Claremont. The Kizh people lived in the Whittier Narrows. Tongva means people of the earth and Kizh means houses. 

At Pilgrim Place in Claremont where we live, the Tongva people used to hunt and gather tule reeds and willow branches on this land for their houses. We recognize that we live on Tongva land, the name that connects the Tongva people to the earth. We have a reciprocal relationship with the Tongva people as we learn from one another and share our cultures. 

Natalie Shiras and Maura Corley

Tongva Journey Group at Pilgrim Place



No to high-density development

Dear editor:

Keep Claremont a suburban oasis, not an urban density blight city. Keep seniors in their homes, not pressured to sell and downsize for younger family ownership. Keep our parks and sports venues, not cut and sized for building gurus/developers. Keep our Village always quaint, bustling and friendly to residents and visitors. Keep old homes and historic sites; our legacy is in danger of destruction by change scammers. Keep the sprawl out of all our neighborhoods (this is one reason we moved here).

We love our college town and our many trees. This pure tranquility and ambiance is another reason we are happy here in Claremont. Put a freeze on any more development, after 50-70 years living here we found our Shan-gri-La. Time to listen to the “elders of the Village” and current residents who are happy to keep the status quo.

During the past 15 years our city planned and added high-density dwellings throughout Claremont (720 homes all along Base Line Road; Colby Circle near Foothill; and soon, 1,000 to South Village/Indian Hill area (all with no lots and no parks, just density).

Coming this year is the plan for the La Puerta property, a north Claremont neighborhood of more than 100 single-family homes with minimum lots of 13,000 square feet, 85 percent one story and 15 percent two-story homes. The developer’s plans could include four to six two-story dwellings per lot plus ADUs, with no lots, no parks, no play areas. Plans also include destroying La Puerta Sport Park to establish more property to add to the high-density project. This sprawling neighborhood would be injected with a density per the south Base Line homes (no lots, no parks, no play areas) built in the middle of a suburban area.

The La Puerta Sports Park is the result of a 99-year lease between the city and Claremont Unified School District (CUSD) beginning in 1979 and was broken, illegally, by CUSD. They added parts of the sports park acreage to the sale for the developer to increase density. The city and CUSD appear to both be complicit with this lease demise; neither party informed residents of Claremont, nor the neighborhood. Perhaps the city was influenced by the developer’s incentive (bribe?) in 2019 of $1 million to the city for a sports park renovation or moving the fields elsewhere (i.e., Cahuilla Park???).

To those who pressure for density, pressure our stay-at-home elder generation to downsize or move to adult facilities, who want to chop up our parks and sports venues, I suggest an alternate solution for each—move to a city that meets your philosophical criteria and conscience. Don’t change Claremont!!!

If you are concerned about the direction our city is moving, be vocal and speak by letters, email, phone, Zoom meetings. Be sure your concerns are sent to: city manager, city council, city planning/development dept., planning commissioners, architectural commissioners and housing committee, CUSD Board of Education and CUSD administration. 

For city contacts—call 909-399-5460; letters to City Hall, 207 Harvard Ave., Claremont 91711 (or place in mailbox by the City Hall front door); contact, or participate in a Zoom meeting.

For CUSD contact and board of education — call the superintendent’s office at 909-398-0609 or send mail to CUSD, 170 San Jose Ave., Claremont 91711; and check their websites.

J. Sauter

50-year resident and elder



Reopening local schools

Dear editor:

As a parent of two public school children, I want them to be back in school as soon as it is safe to do so. However, as a person in a high-risk health category, I don’t want them to get COVID or bring it home to me and our family. 

As California continues to struggle to control the pandemic, which is still impacting many communities disproportionately, a phased-in approach that responds to local conditions and transmission rates has to be part of a responsible return to in-person instruction.

Any path to bringing students back to campuses will require implementing multi-layered mitigation strategies that consider community conditions and include robust cleaning and updated ventilation systems, asymptomatic testing of students and school employees, six-feet social distancing and enforcement.

To reopen schools for in-person instruction, the state must ensure all employees required to report in person have been provided the opportunity to be vaccinated before students return to campus. The vaccine distribution should prioritize educators in schools already open and schools in communities with high transmission rates.

We must take a comprehensive and data-driven approach to reopening schools that includes addressing community spread. After all, no matter how safe of a bubble we put around our schools, the students and staff inside go home at the end of the day. If mitigation efforts are inadequate in the community, the risk of it being brought back to school increases significantly.

Angela Su

Rancho Cucamonga


Undefeated in hand-to-hand combat!

Dear editor:

Every day I see at least one person that I engage in public hand-to-hand combat with. On weekends I combat against multiple people, one after another. People underestimate me due to my average stature and relaxed demeanor.

Some of you are probably wondering, how has this guy not been arrested for assault? Even if the combat is agreed upon by both parties; public decency must be maintained! Right, I too would agree, why am I not behind bars? Well, it’s because you—all of you, are not up with the times and the terms; so let me educate you.

…keep in mind, I don’t have to do this. I can continue defeating people in hand-to-hand combat and getting away with it. The police can’t touch me!!!

If you think hand-to-hand combat involves martial arts like ju-jitsu, karate, etc., then you would be incorrect! This is how it used to work, but the definition has been changed. These are close contact sports and in a time of COVID with social distancing, hand-to-hand combat now consists of the raising of an arm and from a distance waving until your opponent submits by being the first one to stop waving their arm. What was once a normal hand wave is now a form of combat, hope you are ready for the future!

I pray you aren’t taking me seriously but I hope to get a serious point across with satire.

What I’m referencing is confusing because it is designed to be and it has social, economic and national discourse intertwined in it. Confused about what happened in 2020? You were supposed to be! Merriam Webster even got involved to ensure what you thought a word was defined as was incorrect; so you (the average American) could be knowingly targeted and then shouted at until you submitted simply out of being a reasonable person. This is a staple of the “woke” movement; here to disorient, deceive and distort. This is how they will beat you and you won’t even know there was a fight and that you lost.

Editor, be gracious, I hope to boil down more issues/topics to short form writing in order to keep people clued in on the radical changes that the younger generation is fighting to bring to our reality with or without consent.

Aaron Peterson



Class divide

Dear editor:

I am 100 percent in favor of vaccination. It appears to be the only way to get on top of community spread of COVID-19. Without some kind of vaccination immunity in our communities it looks as though the virus will only continue to spread and mutate. Right now, we are locked in a race to determine if we can get enough people vaccinated before the virus renders a new need for new rounds of, as yet, undeveloped booster shots for the mutating, virulent COVID-19 strains.

That said, it is sobering to realize that our vaccination roll-out plan in Los Angeles County has made the vaccine more accessible to the affluent populations rather than the populations that have been hit the hardest. When I read the list of cities in the Claremont COURIER’s February 22 article, it reports that Claremont along with the very affluent cities of Beverly Hills, Palos Verdes, San Marino, and others, are leading the County in the number of vaccinations per capita.

This good news accompanies the very hard truth that some of the cities who are suffering the most have also been the most underserved. According to the Los Angeles County Health Department, Hispanic or Latino members of LA County are almost 3 times as likely to die of COVID-19 as members of the white population. And, people who live in areas in Los Angeles County with a 30 to 100 percent poverty rate are more than 3 times as likely to die of COVID-19 than people who live in areas with less than 10 percent poverty.

If there is one thing that this pandemic has revealed, and heightened, is a very serious class divide. We can only hope that some serious political will to address this divide can provide some measure of relief and balance.

Pamela Casey Nagler



Claremonter goes the distance for landmark birthday

Dear editor:

Thank you for the inspiring article on Paul Simonian’s 5K run on his 90th birthday. 

We remember Mr. Simonian’s athleticism as BPHS coach going back 50+ years. He was respected and well-liked by our fellow BPHS students. Mr. Simonian, we’re happy you’re doing well. We’re also impressed that you credit your wife Roxanne for her “delicious and healthy home cooked meals”!         

Cheryl Dickinson Johnson

Evenda Elmen

Barney Path


P.S. Thank you Peter Weinberger and staff for all you do for Claremont.

Share This