I live just west of Maaw’nga, a village of the Tongva Chumash tribe. This community extends north from Puvungna — Long Beach — to the largest Tongva village, Yaanga, in what is now downtown Los Angeles. The Los Angeles River runs through Yaanga. To the north and west lies the protective arm of Cahuenga Mountain, northernmost peak of the San Bernardino mountains. In the crook of Cahuenga’s arm sits my village, Maaw’nga and the HOLLYWOOD sign.
The neighborhoods are beginning to welcome Paayme Paxaayt back into their lives.
A one-hour drive eastward on a concrete freeway from my village, Mount Baldy rises out of Tongva territory in the San Gabriel mountains. The top of Mount Baldy has been considered the focal point for cosmic energy by the Tongva people for a thousand years.
Last year, a Shasta region habitue and steward named Robert Bobcat Brothers watched the high-altitude flight of an Osprey and sensed that the high flying bird was following a powerful trajectory. It was heading in a straight line southward from Ashland Mountain toward Mount Baldy.
Bobcat surmised that The Osprey’s Path may reveal a power band that begins with Ti’lomikh Falls on Oregon’s Rogue River, home to a sacred salmon ritual and the origin story of the Takelma people. The band of power then continues in a straight line through the granite masses of Mount Ashland, Mount Lassen, and Mount Shasta and hundreds of miles southward to Mount Baldy in Tongva land. “We had no idea there was a straight-line connection between all these special places,” Bobcat wrote, “but the ceremonies felt powerful. Discovering this deep Earthly connection between sacred sites reaching over 600 miles, we are inspired to learn more about how we can honor and use this gift in the best way for all beings.”
In addition to the power band revealed by the Osprey’s path, the heart line of my regional Tongva land extends westward from the watershed of the San Gabriels, across the Los Angeles basin, and out to sea. The heart line includes the four Channel Islands. Paayme Paxaayt, the river artery feeds the Tongva heart line; we call it the Los Angeles River.
Like the freeways that divide the land with concrete, the main artery of the Tongva world, Paayme Paxaayt, has been filled with concrete. As with cholesterol in animals, cement is impossible to remove from the heartland’s arteries. The river has been clogged has been with a 51-mile scar,” Marissa Christenson, chairperson of Friends of the Los Angeles River has said. When it was encased in concrete, the river’s place in the ecosystem was incarcerated. It could no longer flow freely, to oxygenate and nourish animals and people. The heart line became barren and needy and, in turn, its villages became barren and needy. “So,” Marissa Christenson continued, “we have all sorts of different wounds to heal in Los Angeles.”
Healing is a good way to think about recycling. Healing Paayme Paxaayt, the Los Angeles River, begins with cleanup of the detritus of a century. The river has been imprisoned in concrete from one side; its concrete serves as a wall from the other side. Slowly, people and animals are regaining access. With them, they have brought indigenous vegetation and the universal signature of human presence, pathways. Now boots, boats, and bicycles move along the river, moving around rather than breaking down the concrete. The neighborhoods are beginning to welcome Paayme Paxaayt back into their lives. I’d call that recycling, wouldn’t you?
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Writer, editor, and educator based in Los Angeles. He's also played a lot of music. Degelman teaches writing at California State University, Los Angeles.
Degelman lives in the hills of Hollywood with his companion on the road of life, four cats, assorted dogs, and a coterie of communard brothers and sisters.