The general area where the Tataviam language was spoken prior to European colonization (shown in red)
Regions with significant populations
United States United States (California California)
English, Spanish
formerly Tataviam
Traditional tribal religion, Christianity
Related ethnic groups
Tongva, Chumash, Serrano, Kitanemuk, Luiseño, Vanyume

The Tataviam (Kitanemuk: people on the south slope) are a Native American group in Southern California. The ancestral land of the Tataviam people includes northwest present-day Los Angeles County and southern Ventura County, primarily in the upper basin of the Santa Clara River, the Santa Susana Mountains, and the Sierra Pelona Mountains. They are distinct from the Kitanemuk and the Gabrielino-Tongva peoples.[1]

Their tribal government is based in San Fernando, California, and includes the Executive Branch, the Legislative Branch, the Tribal Senate, and the Council of Elders.[2] The current Tribal President of the Fernandeño Tataviam Band of Mission Indians is Rudy Ortega Jr., who is a descendant of the village of Tochonanga.[3][4]

The Tataviam are a not federally recognized, which has prevented the tribe from being seen as sovereign and erased the identity of tribal members.[5][6] The tribe has established an Acknowledge Rent campaign to acknowledge "the financial hardships placed on non-federally recognized tribes."[7][6]


Ancestral land

The Santa Clarita Valley is believed to be the center of Tataviam territory, north of the Los Angeles metropolitan area. In 1776, they were noted as a distinct linguistic and cultural group, by Padre Francisco Garcés, and have been distinguished from the Kitanemuk and the Fernandeño.[8]


The Tataviam people had summer and winter settlements. They harvested Yucca whipplei and wa'at or juniper berries.[9]

Traditional language

Colonial scholars found themselves confused in their attempts to discern the language spoken by the Tataviam. Eventually it became clear that errors had been made in compiling their word lists: the vocabularies recorded by colonial scholar C. Hart Merriam were not in fact Tatavian, but rather were from a Chumash dialect, while the vocabularies recorded by Alfred Kroeber and John P. Harrington were of the Uto-Aztecan language, meaning it is probably more likely that their recordings are the language spoken by the Tataviam people before they experienced genocide and language loss. Further research has shown that the Uto-Aztecan language belonged to the Takic branch of that language family, specifically the Serran branch along with Kitanemuk and Serrano.[10] The last known Tataviam speaker died before 1916.[9]

Neighboring tribes

According to settler accounts, the Tataviam were called the Alliklik by their neighbors, the Chumash (Chumash: meaning grunter or stammerer), probably because of the way their language sounds to Chumash ears.[11]

Spanish colonization

The Spanish first encountered the Tataviam during their 1769-1770 expeditions. According to Chester King and Thomas C. Blackburn (1978:536), "By 1810, virtually all the Tataviam had been baptized at Mission San Fernando Rey de España." Like many other indigenous groups, they suffered high rates of fatalities from infectious diseases brought by the Spanish.

Tataviam land ceded to the United States

Following the Mexican Cession 1848, the ancestral land of the Tataviam people changed from Mexican rule to being part of the United States.

The United States Indian Affairs decided to group the Tataviam with other Indian Villages in the same region, which is now Fort Tejon Indian Reservation.[12]

The California Genocide

During the California Genocide from 1846 to 1873, California’s Native American population plunged from perhaps 150,000 to 30,000.[13] Many contemporary Tataviam people trace their lineage back to the original Tataviam people through genealogical records,[8] demonstrating the resilience of the Tataviam people in the face of genocide.

Alfred L. Kroeber (1925:883) estimated the combined population of the Serrano, Kitanemuk, and Tataviam to be 3,500 people in 1770. By 1910, their population was recorded at 150.

See also


  1. ^ "Fernandeño Tataviam Band of Mission Indians". Fernandeño Tataviam Band of Mission Indians.
  2. ^ [1], Fernandeño Tataviam Tribal Government Website
  3. ^ [2], Fernandeño Tataviam Tribal Government, Executive Branch
  4. ^ "City of Santa Clarita Public Library". Fernandeño Tataviam Band of Mission Indians. 2019.
  5. ^ Montenegro, Maria (2022). "Re-placing Evidence: Locating Archival Displacements in the US Federal Acknowledgment Process". Disputed Archival Heritage. doi:10.4324/9781003057765-6.
  6. ^ a b "Fernandeño Tataviam Band of Mission Indians explains why Native sovereignty is multifaceted". ABC7 Los Angeles. 2022-11-26. Retrieved 2022-12-25.
  7. ^ "AcknowledgeRent can help reverse the effects of Land Dispossession on the Tribe". AcknowledgeRent.
  8. ^ a b Johnson, John R., and David D. Earle. 1990. "Tataviam Geography and Ethnohistory", Journal of California and Great Basin Anthropology 12:191–214, accessed 11 October 2011
  9. ^ a b "Antelope Valley Indian Peoples: Tataviam." Antelope Valley Indian Museum.' Retrieved 18 Aug 2015.
  10. ^ Pamela Munro with John Johnson. 2001. "What Do We Know about Tataviam? Comparisons with Kitanemuk, Gabrielino, Kawaiisu, and Tübatulabal," paper presented to the Friends of Uto-Aztecan Conference, Santa Barbara, California, July 9, 2001.
  11. ^ Johnson, John. "Discussion of the History of the Tataviam & Neighboring Native Americans of Southern California"[permanent dead link], Santa Clarita Website, Retrieved 1 Mar 2010
  12. ^ "Heritage – Fernandeño Tataviam Band of Mission Indians | Sovereign Indian Nation". Archived from the original on 2015-04-13. Retrieved 2015-04-06.
  13. ^ Madley, Benjamin (May 1, 2016). An American Genocide: The United States and the California Indian Catastrophe, 1846-1873. Yale University Press.

Further reading