Gabrielino-Tongva State Indian Reservation Act: A Step Towards Recognition and Empowerment


Norine Holguin

5/18/20232 min read

grass field and body of water
grass field and body of water

The Gabrielino-Tongva Tribe, a tribe with a profound connection to the Los Angeles Basin, has long sought recognition and a secure land base to preserve their cultural heritage and promote self-determination. In 2008, The Gabrielino-Tongva State Indian Reservation Act, a groundbreaking piece of legislation, aimed to address these concerns. However, despite its promising potential, the bill eventually met an untimely demise in the Senate, leaving the tribe's dreams unfulfilled.

Recognizing the Gabrielino-Tongva Tribe

The State of California's official recognition of the Gabrielino-Tongva Tribe in 1994 through Assembly Joint Resolution 96, Chapter 146, was a significant achievement. It acknowledged the tribe's historical significance as the aboriginal inhabitants of the Los Angeles Basin and celebrated their ongoing existence and contributions to the region's history. In the years that followed, the tribe's cultural heritage gained recognition through various historical sites, exhibits, and academic collections.

A History of Struggle and Resilience

The Gabrielino-Tongva Tribe's journey has been marked by numerous challenges, including their enslavement during the construction of San Gabriel Mission and San Fernando Mission. Despite signing Treaty D in 1851, which designated a reservation near Fort Tejon, the Senate's refusal to ratify the "lost treaties" led to the misappropriation of the reservation. As a result, Gabrielino villages remained in their historical ethnographic area, eventually becoming absorbed into the burgeoning cities of Los Angeles County and Orange County.

Addressing Historical Land Claims

Over the years, several attempts were made to address the land claims of the Gabrielino-Tongva Tribe. The California Jurisdiction Act of 1922 authorized the California Attorney General to represent the tribe's members and present their claims before the United States Court of Claims. In 1946, the Indian Claims Commission addressed individual claims, leading to a settlement for each tribal member. However, the tribe's broader land claims were left unresolved.

The Dream of a State Indian Reservation

The Gabrielino-Tongva State Indian Reservation Act fail in 2008 but sought to provide the tribe with a designated land base and create a state Indian reservation. The reservation, known as the "Gabrielino-Tongva State Indian Reservation," was to be authorized by the host city or cities, with careful consideration given to planning, infrastructure, services, and agreements between the tribe and the host city.

An Unfulfilled Promise

Despite its noble intentions and potential benefits, the bill faced opposition and failed to pass in the Senate. As a result, the Gabrielino-Tongva Tribe's dream of having a state Indian reservation and securing their cultural heritage remains unfulfilled. The bill's failure means that no further action has been taken, leaving the tribe without the land base and recognition they sought.

The Road Ahead

Though the bill may have died in the Senate, the Gabrielino-Tongva Tribe's quest for recognition and empowerment continues. The tribe and its supporters remain committed to their cause, hoping that one day their dreams will become a reality. As they look ahead, they strive to find new ways to preserve their cultural heritage, promote self-determination, and achieve the recognition they rightfully deserve.


The Gabrielino-Tongva State Indian Reservation Act represented a significant step towards recognizing the rights, sovereignty, and cultural heritage of the Gabrielino-Tongva Tribe. Despite its promising potential, the bill's failure in the Senate leaves the tribe's aspirations unfulfilled. However, the spirit of the Gabrielino-Tongva Tribe remains strong, and they continue their journey towards recognition and empowerment. As the tribe perseveres, they remind us of the importance of honoring indigenous communities and preserving their cultural legacies for generations to come.


“Status: Bill Status - SB-1134 Gabrielino-Tongva Tribe.” California Legislative Information, 31 Jan. 2008,

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