Jane Duran, known by her Tongva Indian tribal name Morning Star, spoke at the Ludwick Center Sky Bridge on Tuesday.
Duran, a La Verne alumna and Claremont Graduate University arts management student, discussed her tribe’s history, as well as her own connection to it and gave resources on how to get involved.
“Was the culture always a part of your past or upbringing?” University Chaplain Zandra Wagoner, who was in the audience, asked.
Duran explained that Chief Red Blood, or Anthony Morales, Duran’s grandfather’s cousin, is the tribe’s current leader. When Duran was young, she overheard her father mention that her relative was the chief of the tribe, which came as a shock since she had never known her family was part of the tribe.
She explained that she had grown up Hispanic and strictly Catholic.
To follow anything other than the church’s teachings was frowned upon, she told the audience, which explained why her family had wanted to keep it repressed.
Duran said that after she learned the truth and decided to live her life honestly, she was profoundly impacted by the imposter syndrome she felt.
She said when she would tell people that she was part of the Tongva tribe, people would often ask her what percentage of her blood was Tongva.
An audience member asked if the Tongva tribe had a written language, to which Durnan responded yes, although the few who knew it had recently died.
Duran added that official information on the tribe is sometimes difficult to find since the tribe is not recognized by the federal government.
She speculated that was because they would then be obligated to give back part of the “rich land.”
She briefly discussed how different local plants and trees have been used by the tribe for decades as medicine, for faith healing ceremonies and children’s toys. Elderberry for instruments, wild rose for teas and cuts, California buckwheat for colds and the prickly pear cactus for jellies and jams were some listed.
Duran said that sage, a popular plant, was something she felt strongly about. It is something that needs to be respected and not just harvested for profit. She explained that in her tribe, it was only ever given for religious and coming of age ceremonies. If needed, she suggested that the audience members grow it themselves instead of purchasing it.
Duran concluded her presentation with a few locations around California that included tribute by or to the Tongva tribe. The Gold Line Bridge in Arcadia over the 210 freeway features two hanging baskets in the architecture symbolizing the gateway to the San Gabriel Valley of the overhang, the right one a tribute to the tribe. At Grand Park in Los Angeles, a tribute to many tribe’s included the removal of the Christopher Columbus statue.
“Always respect the land you are on, no matter where you go,” Duran said when asked if she had one resounding message she wanted to tell. “The land is a part of us, so it’s important that we sustain it.”
To find out more about the tribe, visit the tribe’s website at tobevisible.org.
Lindsey Pacela can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org