Early HistoryRecent archaeological studies show there was a seafaring culture in Southern California in 8,000 BC. By 3,000 BC, the area was occupied by the Hokan-speaking people of the Milling Stone Period who both fished, hunted sea mammals, and gathered wild seeds. They were later replaced by immigrants – probably fleeing drought in the Great Basin – who spoke a Uto-Aztecan language. By the time of the arrival of the Spaniard in the 18th century AD, there were 250,000 to 300,000 native people in California and 5,000 in the Los Angeles basin. Since contact with Europeans, the people in what became Los Angeles were known as Gabrielinos and Fernandeños, after the missions associated with them. The land occupied and used by the Gabrielinos covered about four thousand square miles. It included the enormous floodplain drained by the Los Angeles and San Gabriel rivers and the southern Channel Islands, including the Santa Barbara, San Clemente, Santa Catalina, and San Nicholas Islands. They were part of a sophisticated group of trading partners that included the Chumash to the north, the Cahuilla and Mojave to the east, and the Juaneños and Luiseños to the south. Their trade extended to the Colorado River and included slavery. The lives of the Gabrielinos were governed by a set of religious and cultural practices that included belief in creative supernatural forces. They worshipped a creator god, Chinigchinix, and a female virgin god, Chukit. Their Great Morning Ceremony was based on a belief in the afterlife. In a purification ritual similar to the Eucharist, they drank tolguache, a hallucinogenic made from jimson weed and salt water. Their language was called Kizh or Kij, and they practised cremation. Generations before the arrival of the Europeans, the Gabrielinos had identified and lived in the best sites for human occupation. The survival and success of Los Angeles would depend greatly on the presence of a nearby and prosperous Gabrielino village called Yaanga. Its residents would provide the colonists with seafood, fish, bowls, pelts, and baskets. For pay, they would dig ditches, haul water, and provide domestic help. They often intermarried with the Mexican colonists
European ArrivalThe first Europeans arrived in 1542 in an expedition organized by the viceroy of New Spain and commanded by Juan Rodríguez Cabrillo, a Portuguese-born explorer who claimed the area of southern California for the Spanish Empire. However, he continued with his voyage up the coast and did not establish a settlement. The next contact would not come until 227 years later, when Gaspar de Portolà, along with Franciscan missionary Juan Crespí, reached the present site of Los Angeles on August 2, 1769. Crespí noted that the site had the potential to be developed into a large settlement. In 1771, Franciscan friar Junípero Serra built the Mission San Gabriel Arcangel near Whittier Narrows, in what is now called San Gabriel Valley. In 1777, the new governor of California, Felipe de Neve, recommended to Antonio María de Bucareli y Ursúa, viceroy of New Spain, that the site noted by Juan Crespí be developed into a pueblo. The town was officially founded on September 4, 1781, by a group of 44 settlers known as "Los Pobladores". Tradition has it that on this day they were escorted by four Spanish colonial soldiers, two priests from the Mission and Governor de Neve. The town was named El Pueblo de Nuestra Señora la Reina de los Ángeles del Río de Porciúncula (The Town of Our Lady the Queen of the Angels on the Porciúncula River). These pueblo settlers came from the common Hispanic culture that had emerged in northern Mexico among a racially mixed society. Two-thirds of the settlers were mestizo or mulatto, and therefore, had African and Indian ancestry. More importantly, they were intermarrying. The settlement remained a small ranch town for decades, but by 1820 the population had increased to about 650 residents. Today, the pueblo is commemorated in the historic district of Los Angeles Pueblo Plaza and Olvera Street, the oldest part of Los Angeles.
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