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Gabrielino Indian Fact Sheet

Native American Facts For Kids was written for young people learning about the Gabrielino Indian tribe for school or home-schooling reports. We encourage students and teachers to visit our Gabrielino Indian homepage for more in-depth information about the tribe, but here are our answers to the questions we are most often asked by children, with Gabrielino pictures and links we believe are suitable for all ages.

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   Gabrielino Tribe

How do you pronounce the word "Gabrielino"? What does it mean?
Gabrielino is pronounced gab-ree-uh-lee-noh. It is also spelled Gabrieleno, Gabrieliño or Gabrieleño. This was the Spanish name for the tribe. The Spanish usually named the "Mission Indians" of southern California after the nearest Catholic mission-- in this case, San Gabriel Arcangel. The people's original name for themselves may have been Kizh, which means "home." Some Gabrielino descendants prefer the name Tongva, which probably came from an indigenous village name.

Where do the Gabrielinos live?
The Gabrielinos are a Southern California tribe, located on the West Coast around what is now Los Angeles. Most Gabrielino people still live in this area today. Here is a map showing the location of traditional Gabrielino territory.

How is the Gabrielino Indian nation organized?
Like many California Indians, the Gabrielinos were placed in reservations together with other Mission Indians from different tribes. A reservation is land that belongs to an Indian tribe and is under their control. Each Mission Indian reservation has its own government, laws, police, and services, just like a small country. However, since Gabrielino people share reservations with people from other tribes, they have to share that control as well. Many Gabrielino people would prefer to have a tribe of their own, which they are trying to get through a process called federal recognition.

In the past, Gabrielino people did not have a centralized government. Each clan had its own leader, and when a village or band wanted to solve broader problems, the clan leaders needed to meet and come to an agreement, because none of the clans had authority over each other. Today, Mission Indian tribes are led by council members who are elected by all the people on the reservation.

What language do the Gabrielinos speak?
Gabrielino people all speak English today. The last speakers of the Gabrielino language died in the 1940's. However, the Gabrielino-Tongva tribe is working to teach their ancestral language to the children again. If you'd like to know an easy Gabrielino words, miyiiha (pronounced similar to "mee-yee-hah") is a friendly greeting.

What was Gabrielino culture like in the past? What is it like now?
Here's a link to the homepage of the Gabrielino-Tongva Tribe. On their site you can find interesting information about the Gabrielino people in the past and today.

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How do Gabrielino Indian children live, and what did they do in the past?
They do the same things all children do--play with each other, go to school and help around the house. Many Gabrielino children like to go out hunting and fishing with their fathers. In the past, Indian kids had more chores and less time to play in their daily lives, just like colonial children. But they did have dolls, toys, and games to play. Gabrielino kids enjoyed footraces, swimming, and dice games. A Gabrielino mother traditionally carried a young child in a cradleboard on her back. Here is a website with pictures and information about baby boards.

What were Gabrielino men and women's roles?
Gabrielino men were hunters and warriors, responsible for feeding and defending their families. Gabrielino women did most of the child care and cooking, and gathered herbs and food from the wilderness. Only Gabrielino men became chiefs, but both genders took part in storytelling, arts and crafts, music, and traditional medicine.

What were Gabrielino homes like in the past?
Most Gabrielino people lived in earth homes, which were dome-shaped wooden huts packed with clay and tule reeds. The thick earth walls kept this type of house cool in the heat and warm in the cold, making it good shelter in the desert.

Gabrielino people do not live in these old-fashioned dwellings today, any more than other Americans live in log cabins. Gabrielino families live in modern houses and apartment buildings, just like you.

What was Gabrielino clothing like? Did the Gabrielinos wear feather headdresses and face paint?
Gabrieleno people didn't wear much clothing in the warm Southern California climate-- men wore only an Indian loincloth, and women wore knee-length skirts. Shirts were not necessary in Gabrieleno culture, but the Gabrielenos sometimes wore rabbit-skin robes at night when the weather became cooler. Unlike most Native American tribes, the Gabrielenos rarely wore moccasins. They either went barefoot or wore sandals. Here are some photos and links about Native American clothing styles in general.

Gabrieleno men did not originally wear Native American war bonnets like the Sioux. Gabrieleno women wore basket hats, and men went bare-headed. Traditionally, Gabrieleno men and women both wore their hair long. The Gabrielenos wore tattoo designs that showed their clan affiliations. They also painted their faces for special occasions, using different patterns for war paint, religious ceremonies, and festive decoration.

Today, Gabrieleno people wear modern clothes like jeans instead of breechcloths... and they only wear traditional regalia on special occasions like a wedding or a dance.

What was Gabrielino transportation like in the days before cars? Did they paddle canoes?
Yes, the Gabrielinos were known for their finely built plank canoes, made by seaming together planks of cedar wood with sinew and pitch. These seafaring canoes could be up to 24 feet long. Here is a website with Native American canoe pictures. Over land, the Gabrielinos usually just walked. Once Europeans introduced horses to North America, the Gabrielinos could travel quicker and further.

What was Gabrielino food like in the days before supermarkets?
The Gabrielinos were hunter-gatherers, and moved from place to place frequently as they gathered food for their families. Gabrielino men hunted deer, rabbits, and small game, and went fishing in the rivers and ocean. Gabrielino women gathered acorns, nuts, beans, and fruits. They baked bread from specially prepared acorn flour, or sometimes from corn they got in trade. Here is a website with more information about Indian recipes.

What were Gabrielino weapons and tools like in the past?
Gabrielino hunters used bows and arrows to shoot deer and curved throwing sticks called makana to hunt rabbits and birds. Sometimes they would also build wooden traps. Fishermen used nets and harpoons. In battle, Gabrielino warriors fired their arrows or used war clubs. Here is a website with facts about American Indian weapons.

What other Native Americans did the Gabrielino tribe interact with?
The Gabrielinos weren't very warlike people. When they fought with their neighbors it was usually due to family feuds rather than a war between tribes. More often they preferred to trade with other Southern California communities, such as the Chumash, Luiseno, and and Cahuilla tribes. The Gabrielinos were especially close friends with the Cahuillas. These two tribes often intermarried and invited each other to festivals.

What are Gabrielino arts and crafts like?
Gabrielino artists are known for their Indian basket weaving and soapstone carving. Here is a photograph of Tongva basketry.

What is Gabrielino music like?
The most important Gabrielino instruments are drums and rattles. At ceremonies and celebrations, tribal members play rhythmic songs while they sing and dance together. Here is a video of Gabrielino-Tongva tribal members performing a traditional song.

What kind of stories do the Gabrielinos tell?
There are lots of traditional Gabrielino legends and fairy tales. Storytelling is very important to the Gabrielino Indian culture. Here is one story about Turtle and the origin of earthquakes. Here's a website where you can read more about Gabrieleño legends.

What about Gabrielino religion?
Spirituality and religion were important parts of Gabrielino life, and some people continue to practice traditional beliefs today. It is respectful to avoid imitating religious customs for school projects since some Gabrielino people care about them deeply. You can read and learn about them, however. You can visit this site to learn more about Gabrielino rituals or this site about Native spirituality in general.

Can you recommend a good book for me to read?
If you'd like to learn more about Gabrielino history and traditions, one good source for younger kids is Gabrielino. High schoolers may be interested in the more complicated but more informative The First Angelinos, a comprehensive history of the Gabrielino tribe. Life of the California Coast Nations is a good kids' book about the Gabrielinos and other coastal California peoples. You can also browse through our reading list of recommended books about Native American Indians. in general. Disclaimer: we are an Amazon affiliate and our website earns a commission if you buy a book through one of these links. Most of them can also be found in a public library, though!

How do I cite your website in my bibliography?
You will need to ask your teacher for the format he or she wants you to use. The authors' names are Laura Redish and Orrin Lewis and the title of our site is Native Languages of the Americas. We are a nonprofit educational organization working to preserve and protect Native American languages and culture. You can learn more about our organization here. Our website was first created in 1998 and last updated in 2021.

Thanks for your interest in the Gabrielino Indian people and their language!

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Learn More About The Gabrielinos

Gabrielino Indian Tribe
An overview of the Gabrielino people, their language and history.

Gabrielino Language Resources
Gabrielino language samples, articles, and indexed links.

Gabrielino Culture and History Directory
Related links about the Gabrielino tribe past and present.

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