Fairview Park in Costa Mesa (2017) adjacent to Banning Ranch.

Genga, alternative spelling Gengaa and Kengaa,[1][2] was a Tongva and Acjachemen village located on Newport Mesa overlooking the Santa Ana River in the Newport Beach and Costa Mesa, California area which included an open site now referred to as Banning Ranch.[3][4][5] Archaeological evidence dates the village at over 9,000 years old.[6][7] Villagers were recorded as Gebit in Spanish Mission records.[8] The village may have been occupied as late as 1829 or 1830.[1]

An attempt in 2001 to preserve a nearby 9,000 year old village site from commercial development failed. A similar attempt to save a burial site of Genga in the 2010s also failed.[7][6] This has initiated concerns over preservation in the area. A large part of the contemporary site of Genga situated in Banning Ranch may be transformed into a public open space as of 2022. The Tongva and Acjachemen support having a voice in the process.[3]



Genga was in close proximity and had influence over Newport Bay, as reflected in the bay's original name given by the Spanish Bolsa de Gengar. The village's influence may have extended up to the northern San Jaoquin Hills.[9] One estimate placed the village population at around 100–150 at the time of contact. The village was multiethnic and multilingual, being shared by the Tongva and Acjachemen.[9]

Archaeological evidence dates the village to be at least 9,000 years old.[6] As a coastal village, the usage of te'aats may have been important to the village's people.[10][11] It is also likely that, similar to the nearby village of Lupukngna, villagers primarily subsisted on acorns, seeds, berries, small game, fish and shellfish. Shell mounds were a part of village life.[12][13] Cog stones have been found in the village area as well.[6]

Spanish mission period

The Diego Sepúlveda Adobe was built in 1817 as a Mission outpost to surveil the villagers.[14]

After the arrival of the Spanish colonizers, villagers were baptized at San Gabriel and San Juan Capistrano missions and had marriage ties with villagers from Hutuknga, Puvunga, and settlements around San Juan Capistrano.[9] The Diego Sepúlveda Adobe was built overlooking Lupukngna and Genga from between 1817 and 1823[15][14] as an outpost "to watch over cattle and Indians." In 1827, missionaries considered whether to move their entire operation to the location.[16]

Like many surrounding Tongva and Acjachemen villages, the village declined with the growth of the missions, where Indigenous labor was exploited to construct mission facilities and tend to the mission's grounds. By the early nineteenth century, the village was being depleted and may have been occupied until 1829 or 1830.[17] Yet, the place name carried forward in the nineteenth century, with the bay being labeled the bolsa de gengara, an alternative spelling of the village, on an 1853 map.[17]

Preservation attempts

Human remains from the village were uncovered in the 2010s. Although Tongva and Acjachemen people campaigned to stop the development of a site where six hundred of their ancestors' remains were found, their attempt failed.[18] The remains were moved from the original burial site, which now sits under a parking lot next to a bank, to a dirt lot about a half-mile away.[7] Lack of federal recognition of the Tongva and Acjachemen prevents them from controlling their ancestral remains and artifacts.[19][20]

In 2013, the city of Costa Mesa may have approved plans to construct over a site near the village location in nearby Fairview Park, despite archaeologists and Indigenous people speaking against further development in the area given the significance of the site, as well as its listing on the National Register of Historic Places since 1972.[21] There were further concerns that the archaeological survey was being conducted by the Scientific Resource Surveys, Inc. (SRS), which has a poor track record in the area for preserving Tongva village sites, being fined $600,000 for digging trenches into a 9,000 year old village site in Bolsa Chica in 2001.[6]

Banning Ranch, part of the site of Genga, which had been a large coastal oil field since 1943, may be transformed into a public open space as of 2022 after many years of organizing to preserve the site both as green space for the city as well as for historic preservation.[3][22] City leaders of the project have said that "tribal descendants of the area’s earliest residents will also have a voice" in how the park is developed.[23]

See also

Achachemen villages in Orange County, California

Tongva villages in Orange County, California


  1. ^ a b "Southern California Indian Curriculum Guide" (PDF). The Bowers Museum of Cultural Art. 2002.
  2. ^ Hernandez, Kelly Lytle (2017). City of inmates : conquest, rebellion, and the rise of human caging in Los Angeles, 1771-1965. Chapel Hill. p. 18. ISBN 978-1-4696-3119-6. OCLC 974947592.((cite book)): CS1 maint: location missing publisher (link)
  3. ^ a b c Hicks, Angelina (2022-06-14). "Banning Ranch is One Step Closer to Becoming Preserved Open Space". Voice of OC. Retrieved 2022-12-06.
  4. ^ "Randall Preserve - Our Work in CA". Trust for Public Land. Retrieved 2022-12-14.
  5. ^ Greene, Sean; Curwen, Thomas (9 May 2019). "Mapping the Tongva villages of L.A.'s past". www.latimes.com. Retrieved 2022-12-07.
  6. ^ a b c d e "Survey of park to determine burial-ground limits". Orange County Register. 2013-10-09. Retrieved 2022-12-21.
  7. ^ a b c Loewe, Ronald (2016). Of sacred lands and strip malls : the battle for Puvungna. Lanham, MD. p. 138. ISBN 978-0-7591-2162-1. OCLC 950751182.((cite book)): CS1 maint: location missing publisher (link)
  8. ^ Martínez, Roberta H. (2009). Latinos in Pasadena. Charleston, SC: Arcadia. p. 10. ISBN 978-0-7385-6955-0. OCLC 402526696.
  9. ^ a b c Koerper, Henry; Mason, Roger; Peterson, Mark (2002). Catalysts to complexity : late Holocene societies of the California coast. Jon Erlandson, Terry L. Jones, Jeanne E. Arnold, Cotsen Institute of Archaeology at UCLA. Los Angeles: Cotsen Institute of Archaeology at UCLA. p. 64. ISBN 978-1-938770-67-8. OCLC 745176510.
  10. ^ L. Frank (2007). First families : a photographic history of California Indians. Kim Hogeland. Berkeley, Calif.: Heyday Books. p. 108. ISBN 978-1-59714-013-3. OCLC 76901815.
  11. ^ Allan Sekula; Jack (John Kuo Wei) Tchen (2004). "Interview with Allan Sekula: Los Angeles, California, October 26, 2002". International Labor and Working-Class History (66): 162. ISSN 0147-5479. JSTOR 27672963.
  12. ^ Early Costa Mesa. Costa Mesa Historical Society. Charleston, SC: Arcadia Pub. 2009. p. 7. ISBN 978-0-7385-6976-5. OCLC 276818569.((cite book)): CS1 maint: others (link)
  13. ^ California Coastal Commission (1987). California coastal resource guide. Madge Caughman, Joanne S. Ginsberg (1st ed.). Berkeley: University of California Press. p. 320. ISBN 0-520-06186-1. OCLC 16005763.
  14. ^ a b "Indian Villages". OC Historyland. Retrieved 2022-12-14.
  15. ^ Orton; Marsh (1997). The Colorful Coast: An Illustrated History of Newport Beach & Harbor. Heritage Media Corporation. p. 27.
  16. ^ Mitchell, Patrick (2006). Santa Ana River Guide. Larry B. Van Dyke, Eva Dienel (1st ed.). Birmingham, Alabama. p. 219. ISBN 978-0-89997-616-7. OCLC 909903029.((cite book)): CS1 maint: location missing publisher (link)
  17. ^ a b "Southern California Indian Curriculum Guide" (PDF). The Bowers Museum of Cultural Art: 18. 2002.
  18. ^ Welsh, Terry (2015-12-16). "Welsh: Coastal Commission Banning Ranch Hearings in January Need to Hear from OC". Voice of OC. Retrieved 2022-12-06.
  19. ^ "Tongva Nation Continues Fighting for Federal Recognition – Pasadena Now". www.pasadenanow.com. Retrieved 2022-12-21.
  20. ^ Reynolds, Jerry. "Pending recognition decision for Juaneno stirs waters in Washington lobbying pool". Ict News. Retrieved 2022-12-21.
  21. ^ "Archaeologists say Fairview Park work might hurt site". Orange County Register. 2013-09-29. Retrieved 2022-12-21.
  22. ^ "History – BRC". Retrieved 2022-12-14.
  23. ^ "Purchase of Banning Ranch for preserved natural space is fully funded". Orange County Register. 2022-05-26. Retrieved 2022-12-11.

33°37′49″N 117°56′59″W / 33.6302°N 117.9496°W / 33.6302; -117.9496