At its Oct. 2 City Council meeting, council members decided to open up to public voting the naming of our new magnificent park (previously called Palisades Garden Walk) across from City Hall and Ken Genser Square. One of the choices will be “Tongva Park,” which reflects the name of the indigenous people of the area.
Long before Spanish explorers set foot on California’s shore, what is now Santa Monica, the Los Angeles basin, and parts of Orange, Riverside and San Bernardino counties as well as the San Gabriel Mountains and four of the Channel Islands were occupied by the Tongva, later called the Gabrielino. Santa Monica was long inhabited by the Tongva people and they called the place Kecheek. One of the stories about how Santa Monica got its name was that the nearby Tongva village of Kuruvungna (which means “Place Where We Are in the Sun”) had springs that the Spanish padres referred to as “Las Lagrimas de Santa Monica” (“The Tears of St. Monica”) to recall the tears that St. Monica shed for her reckless son Augustine. Indeed, the water from this spring served as the water supply for the city of Santa Monica in the 1800s. The springs continue to be sacred and a center of cultural activities for the Tongva people today.
The Tongva (“People of the Earth”), later called the Gabrielino by the Spaniards because of the association with Mission San Gabriel, were a sea-faring people and that tradition is being revived. Moomat Ahiko, the street here in Santa Monica adjacent to the new park, is a Tongva word that means “Breath of the Ocean.” It is also the name of a Tongva ti’at, or canoe, that was built about 13 years ago. The new park is within view of the ocean that the Tongva people once sailed to reach Catalina and the Channel Islands.
Because of these links between the Tongva people, land, history and ongoing culture and the city that we now know today as Santa Monica, it is only fitting that we name the new park in their honor and endow the location with meaning, respectfully reflecting this heritage. When you see the opportunity to vote for the name of the new park, either in person or on the city’s website, please consider voting for “Tongva Park.”