An acre of land in Altadena has been formally transferred to L.A.’s first people

Three people stand on rolling rural hills, holding two signs that read "I am on Tonvga lands."
Samantha Johnson, left, Kimberly Morales Johnson and Tony Lassos visit the one-acre property in Altadena that has been transferred to the Tongva community.
(Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)

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Before it was called Los Angeles, this land was Tovaangar — the home of the Tongva, the first human inhabitants of what is now Los Angeles County. Long before the first Europeans set foot on this part of North America, the Tongva lived in nearly 100 interconnected villages that ranged from what is now called Saddleback Mountain to Long Beach and San Bernardino.

The Spanish mission system decimated Tongva villages, removing people from their homes and forcing them into labor. Today, well over a century after the last mission was established, the surviving members of the Tongva have land that is legally recognized as their own.

[Read “After nearly 200 years, the Tongva community has land in Los Angeles County,” in The Times.]


A private owner has transferred an acre in Altadena near Eaton Canyon to the Tongva Taraxat Paxaavxa Conservancy, a nonprofit set up by the community to receive the land. The property, which includes a Spanish-style home finished in 1931, is covered with indigenous oak trees, whose acorns are both spiritually symbolic to the Tongva and a staple ingredient in traditional foods.

A community elder who walked the land before her death in November 2020 described it as “a place where we need to come together, to be ourselves and where we can share ourselves,” conservancy President Wallace Cleaves told Times reporter Jonah Valdez. “It felt right — you could feel it, you could see it.”

The transfer was made public on Monday, which is recognized as Indigenous Peoples Day in the U.S.

In 2019, Gov. Gavin Newsom issued an apology for the state’s role in violence and displacement of Native Americans in California. He has since signed an executive order encouraging state agencies to seek out opportunities for Indigenous groups in California to co-manage land or acquire “lands in excess.”

The Esselen Tribe of Monterey County had a 1,199-acre parcel of wilderness along the Little Sur River returned to it in 2020, in a $4.5-million land deal brokered by the Western Rivers Conservancy environmental group. Earlier this year, a conservation group returned guardianship of more than 500 acres of redwoods in Mendocino County to a coalition of Native communities indigenous to that area.

Yet, as Valdez points out, this kind of legal reclamation of ancestral land still remains rare for any Native American nation, tribe or band. For communities like the Tongva that lack federal tribal status, securing land can be even tougher.

The Altadena parcel was assessed at $1.4 million. After learning of the land’s significance to the Tongva community, its previous owner, Sharon Alexander Dreyfus, agreed to transfer the land in exchange for a few months of rent payments she’d lost on a previous tenant. The Tongva nonprofit was able to acquire the parcel for $20,000 including legal fees.


But in terms of its cultural value to the Tongva, the land is priceless. Plans for an acorn harvesting day are already underway, said Samantha Johnson, a member of the community.

“This is a place where we can grow our plants and say, ‘This is how we take care of it, and how it takes care of us,’” Johnson told Valdez. “It will really help with our cultural revival, because our plants are a part of us.”

[Read “After nearly 200 years, the Tongva community has land in Los Angeles County,” in The Times.]

And now, here’s what’s happening across California:

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Calls for council resignations mount. U.S. Sen. Alex Padilla, Mayor Eric Garcetti and both L.A. mayoral candidates have all publicly called for the resignations of Los Angeles City Councilmembers Nury Martinez, Kevin de León and Gil Cedillo a day after the emergence of a recorded 2021 conversation in which Martinez made racist comments in a discussion with two fellow councilmembers and a powerful labor leader. Los Angeles Times

Labor federation seeks investigation. The L.A. County Federation of Labor said the leaked audio was part of a “serious security and privacy breach” at its offices involving “illegal” recordings of “many private and confidential conversations in private offices and conference rooms,” the federation told affiliates in an email seen by The Times. The federation also said it planned to investigate and “make sure these crimes are prosecuted to the full extent of the law.” Los Angeles Times

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The big money for — and against — Prop. 30. The measure would raise the income tax rate on people in California earning more than $2 million per year by 1.75%, with most revenue going to rebates and infrastructure for electric vehicles. Opponents say it’s a “cynical scheme” by companies legally obligated to reduce their fleets’ emissions, while supporters say wealthy donors are pressuring Gov. Gavin Newsom and others to defeat it. San Francisco Chronicle

Residents seek shelter, again. Sacramento officials have cleared a homeless encampment along Morrison Creek to make way for repair work on a nearby levee. “All of a sudden, everything is gone,” one resident said of the community, whose residents were primarily Hmong refugees. Sacramento Bee


Suspect charged in Merced family’s killings. The Merced County district attorney’s office has filed four counts of first-degree murder with special circumstances against Jesus Manuel Salgado, the 48-year-old man accused of abducting and killing 8-month-old Aroohi Dheri, her parents, Jasleen Kaur and Jasdeep Singh, and her uncle Amandeep Singh. Fresno Bee

Dogs kill elderly woman. Two dogs mauled to death an 80-year-old woman out for a walk in Baldy Mesa, an unincorporated area of San Bernardino County. The county’s animal control agency has taken two Dogo Argentinos into custody while the investigation is pending. Los Angeles Times

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No clarity yet on heat fatalities. Lags in the state data collection system mean that California officials still can’t say how many people died from heat-related causes during September’s record-breaking heat wave. A Times investigation last year found that California was chronically underestimating heat fatalities even as the frequency and intensity of deadly heat waves grew. Los Angeles Times

A ”ghost boat” surfaces. California’s ongoing drought has uncovered yet another artifact in a receding lake. Shasta-Trinity Forest Service officials shared photos of a rusted World War II-era boat found at the bottom of drying Lake Shasta. How did an amphibious landing boat once assigned to the Monrovia end up at the bottom of the state’s largest drinking water reservoir? Officials have no idea. San Francisco Chronicle

California to offer recycling rebates for wine and liquor bottles. Starting in July 2024, the more than 1 billion wine and liquor bottles generated in the state each year can be returned for rebates alongside beer cans and bottles. Desert Sun


San Diego shuts out L.A. (at the ticket booth). After a 6-0 victory in the third game of their wild-card series against the Mets on Sunday night, the San Diego Padres will face the Dodgers in the National League Division Series. In an apparent attempt to limit the number of fans in Dodger Blue at Petco Park, the Padres are barring postseason ticket purchases with credit cards linked to L.A. County addresses. Orders placed from addresses outside San Diego County, Baja California, Imperial County, southern Orange County and other pre-approved areas “will be canceled without notice and refunds given,” according to the Padres website. Sports Illustrated

Art Laboe has died. The famed radio host died Friday at the age of 97 after more than 70 years on Southern California airwaves. Laboe, who coined and trademarked the phrase “oldies but goodies,” was one of the first West Coast deejays to play rock ‘n’ roll, hosting live shows that welcomed diverse crowds of music fans. Los Angeles Times

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Los Angeles: 79, sunny. San Diego: 73, partly cloudy. San Francisco: 64, partly cloudy. San Jose: 80, sunny. Fresno: 91, sunny. Sacramento: 89, sunny.


Today’s California memory is from Denise L. Patmon:

I’m from Santa Ana. Three orange trees, a miniature banana tree and grapevines grew in our backyard. Summer chores for us kids included gathering and trashing rotten fruit. One evening when my cousins were visiting, my mother told us to clean up the yard while she went to the grocery store. We decided to have a rotten orange fight first. Time flew by. Suddenly my mother was on the patio. As she turned on the light, a rotten orange smashed right into her face. We froze with fear, but she was a great sport. And cousin JJ did chores and waited on her throughout the weekend.

If you have a memory or story about the Golden State, share it with us. (Please keep your story to 100 words.)

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