A Monument to History: Honoring Native American Veterans and the Gabrielino Tongva

SITES

Norine Holguin

8/21/20233 min read

In the heart of the bustling city of Long Beach, California, a monument stands as a testament to the enduring spirit of the Tongva people and the profound contributions of Native American veterans to the United States. This monument, unveiled by the VA Hospital, pays homage to the Gabrielino Tongva and all Native Americans who have served or continue to serve in the armed forces of the nation.

Paying Homage to a Rich Legacy

For thousands of years, before European settlers arrived in North America, the Gabrielino Tongva peoples thrived in the expansive Los Angeles Basin. Their villages spanned from the rugged San Gabriel Mountains to the shimmering shores of the Pacific Ocean and from Topanga Canyon to Laguna Beach. Due to their proximity to the Catholic San Gabriel Mission, they became known as the San Gabriel Mission Indians.

A Monument to Remember

Rich Beam, the VA Hospital's public affairs officer, shared the two-fold purpose behind the monument's creation. First and foremost, it stands as a physical testament to the immense contributions of Native American veterans throughout the nation's history. He emphasized that Native Americans played a pivotal role in several major military victories, often using their unique languages to communicate securely during conflicts, such as in the famous World War II film, "Windtalkers."

Beyond military valor, the monument demonstrates the positive aspects of the Native American warrior spirit. Native Americans have long been known for their resilience in protecting their lands and people. When the call came to defend the country, they answered with distinction, contributing significantly to various military campaigns.

Paying Tribute to the Gabrieleno Tongva

The second reason for the monument's existence is to pay tribute to the Gabrieleno Tongva people. This gesture acknowledges the enduring connection between the land and its original inhabitants. Puvunga, the village that once thrived on this sacred ground, held immense spiritual significance for the tribe. The monument serves as a symbol of respect and recognition for the Tongva people and all Native Americans who once called this land home.

A Message Etched in Stone

The monument itself, nestled in the northwest corner of the VA Hospital's campus, bears words of remembrance and gratitude. It speaks of being part of the land, the wind, and the air, with the spirit of the Gabrieleno Tongva flowing through the hallowed ground. The souls of the Tongva rest beneath this memorial, and while their sacrifice can never be fully repaid, it will be remembered, celebrated, and honored for eternity.

"I am part of the Ground, the Wind, and the Air. The spirit of the Gabrieleno Tongva flows through this sacred ground. Their souls rest in peace below this memorial. Our nation's debt to our Native American warriors can never be repaid. But their sacrifice will be remembered, celebrated, and honored forever. With deep respect from one warrior to another, this memorial is dedicated to the Gabrieleno Tongva by the Department of California Military Order of the Purple Heart."

The monument's dedication message expresses deep respect from one warrior to another, affirming the enduring bond between Native American veterans and their fallen comrades. It is a heartfelt tribute to the Gabrieleno Tongva by the Department of California Military Order of the Purple Heart.

Preserving a Rich Legacy

Adjacent to the monument, a lectern carries a printed message that reminds us all of the ancient heritage that this land holds. It speaks of the time when the village of Puvunga thrived, and the graves of their ancestors overlooked and protected their land, guided by the setting sun.

As Rich Beam aptly puts it, it is essential for all of us to recognize the profound contributions of Native American culture. Through this monument, we pay homage to the enduring spirit of the Gabrielino Tongva people, honor Native American veterans, and celebrate the rich heritage that has shaped our nation in ways we may not always fully appreciate.

Citation:

Diamantides, Nick. “On Gabrieleno-Tongva Land, Long Beach VA Hospital Pays Tribute to the Tribe.” Signal Tribune, 18 Sept. 2009, sigtrib.com/on-gabrieleno-tongva-land-long-beach-va-hospital-pays-tribute-to-the-tribe/.

Related Stories