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Recognizing the city’s native roots

Ryan Carter

Glendale has been at the foot of the Verdugo Mountains for 97 years.

Gabrielino/Tongva Indians have been around the area a lot longer.

Spanish settlers found them here in the 1540s. On Sunday, a

dedication of a peak in the hills above the city reminded everyone

how recent an arrival Glendale really is.

A dedication Sunday at Tongva Peak, sponsored by the city, brought

together Native American dancers, local residents and city, state and

federal officials to celebrate the area’s indigenous roots and its

wilderness. Tongva Peak, a mountaintop in the Verdugos 2,656 feet

above the city and three miles northeast of the center of Burbank,

was christened. And later, officials and Indians came down to the

northern foot of the Verdugos to Camp Max Straus to celebrate.

The peak was named after the tribe, which for hundreds of years

lived in villages from Tujunga to San Bernardino and southwest into

the Los Angeles basin.

“It is an honor, on behalf of our tribe and in memory of our

ancestors, that we have not been forgotten,” said Anthony Morales,

otherwise known as Chief Red Blood, the tribal chairman and chief of

the Gabrielino/Tongva San Gabriel Band of Mission Indians.

It was the Tongva who were indentured by Spanish settlers to build

the missions. In time, disease and the force of settlement in the

West wiped out the villages, but Morales was quick to point out that

Gabrielinos still exist.

“As you can see, we are still very much alive,” he later told

nearly 100 people who gathered in the early afternoon at the camp,

just before going into a native blessing of the land ritual.

Last year, the City Council approved allocating up to $2,000 to

developing a memorial plaque for Tongva Peak in the Verdugo

Mountains. The U.S. Board of Geographic Names, county and state

officials have supported the naming of the peak.

“I’m glad,” said Gabrielino Michael Aviles. “It is like the city

of Glendale is recognizing who was here first.”

As the day progressed, a barbecue was held celebrating open space

in the Verdugo Mountains. It was sponsored by Volunteers Organized in

Conserving the Environment, or VOICE.

At the end of the day, “An Evening with John Muir,” a one-man show

on the pioneering preservationist, was to be performed by Lee

Stetson.


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