By PVE Trails & Open Space Conservancy

PVE  TRAILS thru Parklands & Paths


Spanish Mission Era (1769 - 1833)
Despite Cabrillo's discovery, and occasional trading between the Spaniards and the Indians, European settlement in California did not occur until some 200 years later, when the Mission of San Diego was founded in 1769. A couple years thereafter, the Mission San Gabriel (Arcangel) was established (in 1771). It became the fourth mission in California, out of a total of 21 missions, of which all but three were established before 1800. The Spanish Missions were established by Catholic priests know as Franciscans to spread Christianity among the Native Americans. Another Spanish goal was to transform the natives into Spanish Colonial citizens to help bolster Spanish rule. To do this, their objectives were to: convert, educate and "civilize" the indigenous population. Since it was difficult for the Missions to be self sustaining, they required some modest financial upport from mother Spain and the missionaries depended upon labor of the natives. Each Mission was allotted about 400,000 acres. Originally, the Missions were supposed to divide some of this land into tracts of lands to families of the Natives, once they adopted the religion and farming practices of the Franciscans. However, it was difficult for the Natives to adopt to such a different culture and they seldom received any land. Coinciding with the missionary effort, was the construction of presidios and pueblos, which were populated by Hispanic people. Pueblo de Los Angels was the second such pueblo established in 1781; the first was in San Jose in 1777. As the influx of settlers increased and the Mexican republic matured, along with its claims upon what was known as Alta or Upper California, the enormous land holdings of the Missions eventually led to the secularization of those lands.

The missionaries and European settlement involved the introduction of livestock, fruit, and invasive plants, which caused the plants the Indians used for food and medicine, as well as the animals they hunted, to become scarce, or disappear. The Indians were also very susceptible to disease brought by the Europeans, especially measles, smallpox and influenza. As a result, the Native American population in California declined drastically relatively quickly.  Within only about 15-years after the Mission San Gabriel was established approximately one-third of the Tongva died, mostly from European diseases. Those natives that survived often learned to speak Spanish, ultimately worked on the ranchos and assimilated with the settlers. By 1900, a little more than a century after the missions were established, the Indian population for the entire state was decimated to only about 15,000 natives. 

San Gabriel Mission (1900)

Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo

Plague in Palos Verdes Estates.


By L. R. Schott

Native Americans.   
The area in Palos Verdes Estates (PVE) around the dunes in Malaga Cove were home to Native Americans for some 8,000 years. The name given to this settlement was Chowigna. (Please see the picture of the plaque on the right, which is located on a large stone in front of a Malaga Cove School building and across from the PV Beach & Athletic Club.) It was inhabited by an Indian tribe called Tongva (or Kizh) and they spoke a Shoshone language. The Indians became known according to the names of the Spanish Missions, rather than by the actual names of their tribes. So, the Tongva people were known as the Gabrielenos by the missionaries and early settlers.  The abundance of animals, sea creatures and native plants in the area provided the Tongva with excellent sources of food. They were considered a hunter-gatherer society, but also made canoes for fishing/hunting and to travel along the coast. There was once thought to be a few Tongva villages on the Peninsula; each were thought to have over 100 inhabitants. However, Chowigna in Malaga Cove is one of the most significant archeological sites for the Tongva people and little is known about the other sites on the PV Peninsula.  Just a few years after a Spanish Mission was established in the area (see below), the Chowigna Village was abandoned (circa 1775). Before the Europeans arrived in California (around 1770), it has been estimated that a total of some 5,000 Tongva once lived in the Los Angeles basin and that the total number of Native Americans in the state may have been about 300,000. However, this statewide population estimate of natives varies widely from about 150,000 to more than 700,000.

The First Europeans.
The Portuguese explorer Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo, on behalf of Spain, was the first European to navigate the coast of what is now known as California. He landed in San Diego Bay on September 28, 1542, and a week later reached Santa Catalina Island. On October 8 Cabrillo arrived at San Pedro Bay, which he named Baya del los Fumos (Bay of Smokes) because of the numerous fires from Indian villages he observed on the hills. The next day he anchored overnight in Santa Monica Bay. He continued up the coast into what is now Santa Barbara and Ventura Counties as far north as the Russian River and Monterey Bay. Many of the names he gave to California were not recognized because the records of his voyage were mostly lost with only a summary discovered a century later.