Monterey Park Historical Society Presents
Matthew Lovio also known as “Sky Eagle Sings with his Heart” was the guest speaker at the Museum at Garvey Ranch Park on July 8.
He gave a history of his people called the Tongva, who have lived in the California area for the last 19,000 years. They helped the Spanish Franciscan priests and Spanish soldiers to build the San Gabriel Mission.
He recalled how his people were peaceful and traded with other neighboring tribes. Their language changed from hand signals to an Uto-Azatacan dialect over the years.
His ancestors used Obsidian stone from volcanoes as knives, hunted deer and small game for food and clothing; they later used steel for knives, arrowheads and spears.
The Tongva traveled from the San Gabriel Mountain foothills to the Pacific Ocean and paddles their canoes to Catalina during the year.
The were curious about the Spanish who traveled up from Mexico to build Missions sometimes used as forts to protect New Spain for King Carlos III. They also traded goods with the Spanish who provided cattle, horses and metal for knives, arrows and spears.
The King wanted to protect his colony from the Russians who lived in the north.
The original San Gabriel mission was built in 1771 and was flooded out so the Spanish moved to higher ground.
In 1777 they build the mission in San Gabriel. The natives were used as slave labor and subject to horrible conditions as they built the mission church. It took 14 years to gather all of the building materials including trees used to support the walls and rocks, stones and mortar that created the walls. It took another 14 years to build the church.
The natives were also taught Spanish and Latin when they were converted into the Catholic Church.
The Franciscans treated the natives with respect and document their ill treatment in their diaries.
The Spanish soldiers held the women and children hostage so the men would work for them.
The Tongva traded furs and seashells with the Spanish and other tribes for tools and pottery.
The Spanish brought greed and metal to enslave the Tongva tribe and converted them as citizens of New Spain to help fight for the King. Some Indians felt betrayed but stayed to keep up the trading with them.
Mr. Lovio also explained his native regalia of deerskin trimmed with coyote tails and seashells and his ceremonial paint of red for blood or life, white for integrity and black for death or afterlife.
The Tongva used plants, charcoal and animal fats to make their paints.
He played the “Ocean Spirit Song” on his flute and provided a history on his flutes, rattle, clapping stick, knives and rabbit furs.
The Tongva history is lengthy and well documented at the San Gabriel Mission.
The Tongva tribe is always happy to share their history with interested people.
Members of the tribe will be attending San Gabriel Mission History Day at the Mission on August from 11 AM to 2 PM.