When Kimberly Morales Johnson gazes up toward the San Gabriel Mountains, she sees the story of her community, the Tongva, Los Angeles’ first people, written on the granite.
For thousands of years, the Tongva turned to these chaparral foothills and mountains during spring and summer months for food. Its canyons served as trading routes, connecting the flourishing communities of the Los Angeles Basin with Native communities from the Mojave desert.
Johnson recounted the history this month from the edge of a property with a Spanish ranch-style house in Altadena built along Eaton Canyon. By the time the house was completed in 1931, after centuries of displacement, enslavement, incarceration and genocide during successive waves of settlers — the Spanish, the Mexicans and then white Americans — the Tongva were largely invisible in their ancestral home of Southern California.
But Sharon Alexander Dreyfus, the owner of the Altadena home and its one-acre property, learned of the community’s desire to obtain ancestral lands. And in a land transfer made public Monday, Dreyfus agreed to return the parcel to the Tongva people, marking the first time in nearly 200 years, since the California mission system ended in 1833, that they would have land to call their own.
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