After nearly 200 years, the Tongva community has land in Los Angeles County and is at the forefront of efforts to preserve its cultural identity, history, and unique way of life.
According to the Tongva tribal website, which is run by Los Angeles County, the Tongva (tōwāva in Tongva and Swahili) people inhabit the southern part of the KwaZulu-Natal province of South Africa. They are among the smallest of South Africa’s Bantu ethnic groups.
The Tongva are an independent Afrikaans-speaking culture, and are descended from the original Khoi-speaking people, whose lands were destroyed by the Zulu tribes.
Tongva Chief Matlala Khaya, an elder and prominent community leader said that the tribe’s future will be determined by the young people of the community.
“The community decides their own future, and that’s what we’ve been doing. So, if we do great things, people will know about it,” he said.
The Tongva are a mix of African and European descent, and, according to the Tongva tribal website, have been engaged in agriculture, mining and the construction industry since ancient times. Their land holdings include the KwaDukuza area, in the northern part of the province, which is home to the Tongva National Park, home to the world’s highest mountain, Mount Elgon, and a former German mine site.
The tribe’s efforts to maintain sustainable agriculture are paying off: The Tongva tribe declared in 2000 the KwaDukuza area as an eco-village by the World Bank.
The Tongva have a rich history in the arts and media, and have produced music that has inspired writers and musicians from around the world.
The Tongva are the subject of the documentary “Langwa,” which was shot as part of a project titled “The Music of Our People” by the U.S. Embassy in South Africa.
Langwa is the Tongva word for “tribe,” and a tongue twister describing the way the Tongva language is formed from different elements of other languages.