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The Gabrielinos

The Gabrielinos lived on Santa Catalina, San Clemente, San Nicholas, and on the mainland in what is now the Los Angeles basin and surrounding valleys. Their ancestors came to California from the Great Basin of North America ( Southern Oregon and Nevada ) and spoke a Shoshonean dialect or the Uto-Aztecan language, much different than the language of the Chumash who were the existing inhabitants to their north. There is archeological evidence that Native Americans were living in what became the Shoshonean region as far as back as 10,000 years ago, and the specific date of the Shoshonean’s arrival is not known. Archeologists have found that there were prehistoric settlements up and down the coast of the Los Angeles basin, from Malibu in the north past Laguna Beach in the south, and inland to the San Gabriel Mountain foothills. The Gabrielino village names - Xujungna, Tovemunga and Kingingna - are noticeably different than the Chumash language place names.

The early Gabrielinos lived by gathering roots and seeds, hunting wild deer and antelope, by fishing and by shellfish harvesting on the mainland. They came to learn to build plank canoes from their neighbors to the north, the Chumash. And eventually they migrated out onto Santa Catalina Island. The tomol enabled the Gabrielino to begin fishing deeper waters for shark, bonito, halibut, sardines and yellow tail fish. The islanders brought steatite back to the mainland to trade for seeds, deer hide and rabbit skin, continuing the link between the island and mainland peoples through ongoing trade. The Gabrielinos had their own art, music and cosmology - and their distinctive art forms were sand paintings and rock art.

Migration across the Channel to the islands can be dated from charcoal deposits at Little Harbor on Santa Catalina that date back 4-5,000 years, neighboring San Nicholas Island was also heavily occupied 2,500 - 4,000 years ago, and findings on San Clemente date back further to nearly 10,000 years ago. It is probable that these earliest remains are from native peoples who preceded the Shoshonean group on the islands - most likely relatives of the Chumash group to the north. The most recent native islanders are believed to have arrived on the Southern Channel Islands approximately 2,500 years ago.

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