Gabrielino-Tongva Annotated Bibliography Project: A Student Reflection

This post was written by RC Wright III (he/him), a senior history major from Irvine, California. Drawing from his eight years of experience in the United States Marine Corps, he desires to educate the present by utilizing the lessons from the past.

Early in spring 2022, I found myself in the office of one of my professors of history, Nicolas G. Rosenthal. I wanted to get involved in research as a history major contemplating graduate school, and Rosenthal suggested I reach out to the team at William H. Hannon Library working on updating the Gabrielino-Tongva Bibliography to make it more accessible. Having learned so much about the California Indigenous population in Rosenthal’s class. “History of California,” I was eager to apply my newfound knowledge and continue learning about this topic. After a brief introduction to the project with Jessea Young, project lead and scholarly communications librarian, I took on the role of finding recent sources through the library’s extensive digital catalog relating to the project. As my search progressed, I began finding source after source about the Gabrielino-Tongva people that spoke of topics from their tribe’s early history and first interactions with Spanish explorers, to present day issues including disputes over provenience and provenance information leading to lack of federal recognition for their tribe. Those first few weeks on the project were invaluable as I familiarized myself with the citation management software Zotero while scouring the library’s online catalog and Onesearch+. The vast amount of information was intimidating, and it was challenging to find a place to start, but with the guidance of the library staff I was able to quickly adjust my search parameters to find the most relevant information.

By far the most interesting part of my involvement was my trip to the Archives and Special Collections Department (ASC) on the third floor of the library. Upon my arrival, ASC had sectioned off an area for me to begin going through the Gabrieliño Indians Publications Collection, which contains 12 boxes of sources gathered curated by Ed Evans, who created the 1976 version of the Gabrieliño bibliography. Having the ability to physically touch history and manually record and input the citations into Zotero in support of this project made history come alive for me. This fact really hit home when I pulled out a book from 1921 that was titled “Die Kultur der kalifornischen Indianer in ihrer Bedeutung für die Ethnologie und die nordamerikanische Völkerkunde” which roughly translates to “The Culture of the Californian Indians and their Significance for Ethnology and North American Ethnology.” As I attempted to read the table of contents, I began wishing I had kept up those German lessons my grandmother taught me growing up. Holding this book, which was written over 100 years ago, and understanding that this piece of history could rectify the disputes of over provenience and provenance of the tribe, was an awe-inspiring experience that I will never forget.

One of the most helpful resources for my research came from the Los Angeles Times ProQuest database. From time-to-time the project would receive tips from Edgar Perez, a representative of the tribe working with Hannon Library on the bibliography, who reviews our Zotero citations and provides direction for additional areas to research. One such tip led me to research an individual named Jonathan Stein who at one point represented the Gabrielino-Tongva tribe. The most effective method of researching this tip was to dive into the Los Angeles Time ProQuest database and evaluate the few articles that would hit when I searched his name. After citing and exhausting those hits I revisited the first few articles and searched key individuals involved with Jonathan Stein. This took me down a rabbit hole where I was able to find additional resources to add to the bibliography. Another area that Perez requested that I investigate was the San Gabriel Mission fire and restoration project. By utilizing my research method, I was able to find sources that described the extent of the destruction as well as the vast history of the San Gabriel Mission and the Gabrielino-Tongva people.

My work on this project has provided unexpected opportunities and has greatly expanded my ability as a student to utilize the William H. Hannon Library’s vast resources. This experience has grown my research ability as a student and given me valuable insight on how searching into the past can change the futures of Indigenous people today. History, to me, is no longer merely storytelling, but rather analytical investigations into the past to profoundly impact the future.

About the Gabrielino-Tongva Bibliography

The Gabrielino-Tongva Bibliography will be published on Loyola Marymount University Pressbooks. This project is led by Jessea Young, scholarly communications librarian, with support from Jamie Hazlitt, associate dean at the William H. Hannon Library and Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition (SPARC) Open Education Leadership Fellow, and Nicolas G. Rosenthal, professor of history and a specialist in California and Indigenous history. Library student assistants, Micah Tsukamoto, psychology major and business administration minor, and RC Wright III, history major, provided research and editorial support.