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Festival celebrates Tongva history

Anthony Morales, also known as Chief Red Blood, leads Tongva dancers in traditional dances and songs at the annual Acorn Festival Sunday at the Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden in Claremont. Acorns hold cultural significance to the Tongva people, making the festival special. / photo by Maydeen Merino

Maydeen Merino
Assistant Editor

The annual Acorn Festival was held Sunday in the Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Gardens in Claremont, celebrating and recognizing Tongva traditions. 

The Gabrielino-Tongva people’s land is all throughout the Los Angeles County and the coastal areas.

Throughout the event, Tongva dancers performed and taught the audience about the history of their people and many traditions. 

“It is important to teach the culture, making sure that people know our culture,” said Mary Garcia, who has participated in the festival for the past 25 years.

The Tongva people have been involved with the Acorn Festival for the past 15 years, the acorns have been a part of the Tongva culture for years. 

The native people would gather acorns before the cold season to later on be made into a dish similar to oatmeal.

Anthony Morales, who is also known as Chief Red Blood, was the head of the Tongva dance group and taught the audience about the Tongva culture. 

The Tongva dance group has been together for about 25 years traveling to different cities through California and teaching their culture to others. 

Guests are able to walk through the Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden to get to the event and witness all of the California native plants the botanic garden offers.

Native plants are emphasized at the festival because the native plants helped sustain these people and still sustain Californians. 

“It is important for people to know, especially what we are doing with the Earth now, we need to start looking at how people sustained themselves for thousands of years before we came along and started making plastic and ripping up trees,” Community Education Coordinator Lisa Pritchard said. 

The event had several activities such as basket making and natural dyes to show the relationship between nature and human beings. 

The festival also provided many handmade crafts made by Tongva tribe members such as jewelry, art and decor.

Two Moons Deeroybel has participated in the Acorn Festival for the past 25 years She had a booth at the festival where she displayed handmade jewelry made out of bones, beads, feathers and deer skin. 

“Acknowledgment that we are still here the Tongva people, the indigenous people from L.A. County, which are related to the San Gabriel Mission, just teaching our songs and dances that we still exist,” Deeroybel said. 

Many of the activities at the festival are welcomed for all ages and the Tongva people emphasized the importance of having the youth at these events because it provides for a greater understanding of the tribes that lived on the land before.

“Chief Anthony was mentioning it’s always important keeping the younger generation close by when sharing and continuing culture,” said director of visitor experience David Bryant. “So in the same way we find it important to bring families and young children to this event so they can experience those cultures.”

Maydeen Merino can be reached at maydeen.merino@laverne.edu.

Maydeen Merino

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