Echoes of the Earth: The Tongva Memorial at LMU


Norine Holguin

9/4/20233 min read

There exists a hidden gem—a tribute that bridges the gap between the past, present, and future within the vibrant and bustling campus of Loyola Marymount University (LMU). The Tongva Memorial, established in 2000, is not just a physical structure; it's a poignant reminder of the enduring legacy of the Gabrielino/Tongva tribe, known as the "People of the Earth."

Unearthing a Thousand Years of History

The story begins over a millennium ago when the Gabrielino/Tongva tribe called the area surrounding LMU home. Their connection to the land was profound, spanning back to around 1000 A.D. This ancient presence left an indelible mark on the landscape, a mark that would be rediscovered in the most unexpected way.

During the construction of LMU's student residence halls, artifacts from this bygone era began to surface, bearing witness to a history that had long been buried beneath the soil. These artifacts whispered stories of a people deeply intertwined with the land, stories that deserved to be told and remembered.

A Fitting Tribute

In the year 2000, LMU took a significant step towards honoring the memory of the Gabrielino/Tongva tribe. The Tongva Memorial was established, a place where the past and present converged. Situated on the bluff overlooking Playa Vista, where Tongva artifacts had been uncovered during the residence halls' construction, it became a sanctuary of remembrance.

Visitors to the memorial are greeted by a breathtaking vista—a panoramic view of the Pacific Ocean and the majestic Santa Monica Mountains. It's a view that connects us to the Native Americans who once stood on this very spot, gazing towards the horizon, pondering the mysteries of the world.

A Place of Reflection

At the heart of the Tongva Memorial lies a circular dolphin-motif pavement circle, a profound symbol of the tribe's relationship with the sea. Dolphins, or Torovim in the Tongva language, held sacred significance. They were the "ancient ones," speaking a language intertwined with the tribe's creation story.

The circular design of the dolphin circle draws inspiration from the Yuvar, a circular structure used by the Tongva for their ceremonies. This design choice pays homage to the tribe's spiritual and cultural practices, preserving their heritage for generations to come.

Preserving Cultural Beliefs

The Native American Gardens at Loyola Marymount, which house the Tongva Memorial, represent a dedication to preserving the cultural beliefs and values of the Gabrielino/Tongva people. It's a reminder that their legacy lives on, not as a distant memory but as a vibrant and enduring part of our shared history.

As we walk through these hallowed grounds, we connect with the Tongva's ideal environment—one that revered the Earth and its creatures. The establishment of the memorial is a testament to the university's commitment to ensuring that the Gabrielino/Tongva are not forgotten. They continue to exist as a nation, woven into the tapestry of Southern California's rich heritage.

A Perpetual Exhibit for Future Generations

Choosing the right proposal for the construction of the Native American Gardens and the Tongva Memorial was no small feat. It was a decision that carried the weight of history and the responsibility of passing down this cultural legacy to future generations.

In the midst of the bustling campus, the Tongva Memorial stands as a place of quiet reflection and remembrance. It invites us to pause and connect with the land's ancient guardians, the "People of the Earth," whose spirit endures in the whispers of the wind and the timeless beauty of the Pacific Ocean.

The Tongva Memorial at LMU is more than just a monument; it's a bridge across time, a tribute to a people who lived in harmony with the Earth, and a reminder that their story lives on in the hearts of those who pause to listen.


Imani, Alireza. “The Tongva Memorial Proposals.” Promoting Social Justice, 2020,

University, Loyola Marymount. “Tongva Memorial.” Loyola Marymount University,

Wakelee-Lynch, Joe. “Tongva Influence.” LMU Magazine, 11 Oct. 2021,

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