Heritage

History

Fernandeño Tataviam Band of Mission Indians is a native sovereign nation of northern Los Angeles County.

The citizens of the Fernandeño Tataviam Band of Mission Indians are the people of northern Los Angeles County. After thousands of years, foreign powers began colonization in the late 1770s with the arrival of the Spanish followed by the establishment of Mexico and the United States. Despite settler colonization, the Tribe continues to operate as a tribal community.

Before Colonization

Prior to colonization, the ancestors of the Fernandeño Tataviam Band of Mission Indians originally inhabited the villages originating in the Simi, San Fernando, Santa Clarita, and Antelope Valleys. Before settlers arrived, the village organization structure in Southern California was unique in that there was no single leader that ruled over all the villages. Instead, each village was an autonomous self-governing entity that had its own structure of leadership, cultural practices, economy and territory. To strengthen economic and social relations with villages outside of their own, the members of a village practiced exogamy and thus, spoke the languages and dialects that existed at the neighboring villages. Villages were linked by their beliefs about the afterworld, and thus, were known as regional groups. For example, the villages located in the Santa Clarita Valley and surrounding mountain ranges were sovereign, but their beliefs about the afterlife linked them together as the Tataviam people. The name Tataviam comes from the word “táta’viam,” which is the name given to them by their Kitanemuk neighbors to the north known as the Tejon Indian Tribe.

Spanish Regime

Enslavement at Mission San Fernando by the Spanish drastically changed the daily lives of the Native Americans who would be called Fernandeños. Families were separated, children were married off, sacred sites were demolished, culture was suppressd, traditional ways of life were destroyed, food sources were removed by environmental degradation from invasive species, and the Fernandeños were massacred through Spanish-brought disease, hunger, violence, and slavery. The life of a Fernandeño person was completely overseen and controlled by the Mission Padres. For example, the Fernandeños could not leave the Mission grounds without the Padres’ permission and often received corporal punishment for violating the rules. Against incredible odds, some Fernandeños survived and maintained aspects of their cultural practices privately while others refused to identify publicly as Native as an act of survival.

Mexican Regime

In 1821, Mexico gained independence from Spain and California fell under the jurisdiction of the First Mexican Empire. After the Missions were secularized by Mexico, approximately 50 surviving Fernandeño leaders negotiated for and received several land grants amounting to over 18,000 acres (10% of the San Fernando Valley) that were held in trust by the Mexican government. These land grants included Rancho El Escorpion (Chatsworth), Rancho Encino (Encino), Rancho Cahuenga (Burbank), and Rancho Tujunga (Tujunga), and were meant to be preserved in the American period.

American Colonization

Throughout the 1800’s, the United States was on a mission to eradicate Indigenous nations.  In the era of California’s State and Federally funded Genocide and campaign to exterminate California Native American people, Fernandeños lacked U.S. citizenship and yet, fought to defend their lands in local state courts for several decades to no avail. In the first years of its statehood, California also passed the 1851 Land Claims Act, which would pass lands into public domain that was not filed within a two-year period. Land in northern Los Angeles County, particularly areas with natural water sources such as the Native-owned land grants, became extraordinarily valuable. The Fernandeño ancestors, who could not read or write English, lost their lands within this two-year period to encroaching settlers. Several Fernandeños had cases heard in the Los Angeles Superior Court [for example, see Porter et al v. Cota et al.] but the local state courts were against the Fernandeño ancestors’ claims to the land, which made it impossible for the San Fernando Mission Indian defendants to affirm rights to land that would have formed the foundation for a reservation.

By 1900, the Tribe lost all its lands and members were left as refugees on their own homelands. As result of the land evictions, the Tribal leaders were defended by attorneys commissioned by the federal government. For example, official representatives of the United States, such as Assistant United States Attorney G. Wiley Wells and United States Special Indian Agent and Special Attorney for Mission Indians Frank D. Lewis, pursued land for the evicted Fernandeños. Yet, the historic Fernandeño tribe was not made a federally recognized tribe. Today the Tribe, the descendants of the historic Fernandeño Indian tribe, consist of 3 surviving lineages of 900+ people. These lineages are known by the surnames of their family leaders: Ortega, Garcia, and Ortiz.

Every single part of the landscape was and continues to be of great importance to the Tribe. Today, the Tribe views the lands of Tataveaveat as a sacred cultural space containing thousands of years of activity, memories, stories, and ancestral lifeways.

The Historical Timeline is an interactive timeline that provides information on dates of significance to the Fernandeño Tataviam Band of Mission Indians from time immemorial to present.

Please note that this is not, and is not intended to be, an all-encompassing history of the Tribe.

  • Time Immemorial

    Creation stories tie the Tribe to the land since time immemorial. Ancestors of the Fernandeño Tataviam are believed to have been birthed from the land that is now known as Los Angeles County.

  • Spanish Colonization & Mission San Fernando

    Mission San Fernando was established on September 8, 1797 and for the years following, enslaved natives from the geographically surrounding regions of Simi Valley, San Fernando Valley, Santa Clarita Valley, Antelope Valley, and parts of the Angeles National Forest. Enslavement at Mission San Fernando by the Spanish drastically changed the daily lives of the Native Americans who would be called Fernandeños.

  • Resisting Assimilation at the Mission

    Fernandeños continue to practice their culture and ceremonies, even with the threat of punishment by the Padres. In 1813, at Mission San Fernando, the padres reported: “The Indians respect only those who were the chiefs of their rancherias in paganism; They still preserve the customs of their forefathers."

  • Mexican Colonization and Secularizatoin of Missions

    The new Mexican republic was determined to remove the natives and the mission property from the control of the Franciscan missionaries. The Secularization Act of 1834 gave Mission land and the right to organize electoral village governments to the Fernandeños.

  • Reservation Lands

    Fernandeños petitioned for and received over 18,000 acres of land from the Mexican government between 1843 - 1845.

  • Last Mission-Alcalde Elected and Genocide

    Up until the 1840s, Mission San Fernando enslaved ~3,000+ ancestors, also called "Fernandeños," from their villages. After June 1846, San Fernando Mission ceased to exist as an institution for the enslavement of natives. The Mission was repurposed into Rancho Ex-Mission San Fernando, a farming and grazing enterprise. Also began the start of California's state and federally-funded genocide of Native Americans.

  • American Colonization

    California became an U.S. holding with the Treaty of Guadalupe, which ended the Mexican War. The 1848 Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo provided a legal basis for the protection of land and continuity of self-government among the Fernandeños. The administration of Governor Pico, however, ignored the secularization regulations, and sold the mission assets and land, though he did confirm some land grants given to Fernandeños.

  • Indian Extermination & Land Loss

    Indian extermination and loss of Fernandeño land holdings. In 1851, California Governor Peter H. Burnett signed an executive order to exterminate all Indians in the state. An Act to Ascertain and Settle the Private Land Claims in the State of California, passed on March 3, 1851. Land holdings where private titles were not confirmed, including by the Fernandeños, were lost. This led to the majority of Fernandeños losing rights to their land and properties.

  • Porter et al v. Cota et al

    On June 1, 1876, a group of Fernandeños and married relations purposely "occupied" their village land to test American law. They were taken to court by ex-California Senator Charles Maclay and later the judge, a relative of Maclay, reaffirmed Maclay’s rights to the land. As result, the Fernandeños were evicted from present-day San Fernando and surrounding areas.

  • U.S. Attorney Represents Fernandeños

    In 1885, U.S. Special Attorney for Mission Indians, Guilford Wiley Wells represented Rogerio Rocha and the Fernandeños in an official government capacity to prevent the Tribe's eviction from Indian land. On November 2, 1885, Wells’ petition on behalf of Rogerio Rocha and the Fernandeños' land interests was denied in Los Angeles County Superior Court.

  • Federal Agent Recognized Fernandeños

    Frank D. Lewis, the Special Assistant U.S. Attorney for Mission Indians, pursued a solution for the Fernandeños' eviction from San Fernando through the length of his tenure until 1897.

  • Fernandeños on U.S. Census

    By 1900, only five families are known to have survived to see the 20th Century.

  • Fernandeño Speakers Maintained Their Privacy

    Ethnologist J.P. Harrington's notes on June 9, 1933 state: "...Antonio Maria Ortega (FTBMI leader) is still alive at San Fernando and 90 years old, talks indian. He will ask him some Indian words." Antonio feared that publicly identifying as Indian would lead to the Fernandeños’ removal from traditional lands and onto reservations. This same year, Fernandeños are enlisted in military service abroad and identify as “Indian” on their military cards.

  • Cultural Presentations to External Community

    With the rise of American Indian activism, the Tribe became more publicly active in their educational programming and events which increased their visibility in the press.

  • BIA visits Tribe

    The Tribe met with Bureau of Indian Affairs at Mission San Fernando.

  • Pursuit of Reservation Lands

    Tribe issues letters to Robert Finch, President Nixon’s Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare, requesting recognition and designation of Rocketdyne land in Chatsworth as a San Fernando Mission Indians of San Fernando reservation. Finch responds, directing the Tribe to contact the Bureau of Indian Affairs and the General Services Administration.

  • Nominating Burro Flats as a heritage site

    Captain Rudy Ortega Sr. is cited by the Valley News as leader of the Tribe in orchestrating negotiations and election of a group that will discuss the future of the cave paintings impacted by a nuclear contamination site within the Tribe's territory.

  • First LA Tribe Social Services Non-Profit Established

    The Tribe formally incorporated its social services non-profit Pukúu Cultural Community Services in 2000. However, the non-profit originated in 1974.

  • Tribe Advocates for Dignity of Burials

    Tribal members mobilized around the long overdue reburial of their ancestors at Encino, California. Multiple lineages of the Tribe continue to come together to visit and protect sacred sites. Pictured are FTBMI Captain Rudy Ortega Sr. (descendant of Encino) and Charlie Cooke.

  • City Formally Welcomes LA Tribe Back to San Fernando

    The Tribe enters into a co-management partnership with the City of San Fernando. The park is located at 2025 Fourth Street, San Fernando, CA, on a parcel of land maintained by Tribal Leader Rogerio Rocha’s for the Tribe in the 1800s. This became the City's formal welcome back to San Fernando since the historic eviction of the Tribe.

  • First LA Tribe Land Conservation Established

    The Tribe established the Tataviam Land Conservancy to acquire and protect sacred cultural sites throughout Los Angeles County.

  • First LA Tribe Conservation Corps

    The Tribe launched the Tiüvac’a’ai Tribal Conservation Corps Program- the first of its kind in Los Angeles County.

  • First LA Tribe MOU with CA State Parks

    California State Parks and the Fernandeño Tataviam Band of Mission Indians (Tribe) enter into a historic agreement to formalize their cooperation and collaboration in the management and protection of natural and cultural resources and interpretation for state parks within the Tribe’s ancestral lands.

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