The History of Los Angeles: Who First Lived in the City?

Los Angeles has a long history dating back thousands of years. Learn about who first lived in LA including indigenous tribes like Chumash & Tongva hunter-gatherers as well as Gabrieleños & Chumash.

The History of Los Angeles: Who First Lived in the City?

Los Angeles, the second largest city in the United States and the largest economic power on the West Coast, was originally colonized by indigenous tribes, including the Chumash and Tongva hunter-gatherers, around 8000 BC. These tribes were comprised of 44 pioneers from Spanish Mexico, known as the “inhabitants”. Historian Antonio Rios-Bustamate noted that among the 23 adults and 21 children there were people of Spanish, Mexican, indigenous American and African descent. They settled around the area that we now know as Plaza and Calle Olvera, and the rest is history. The Gabrieleños are believed to have arrived in the Los Angeles area from the Mojave Desert more than 2000 years ago.

They were the people who went canoeing to welcome Spanish explorer Juan Rodríguez Cabrillo in 1542 upon his arrival on the coasts of Santa Catalina and San Pedro. Cabrillo declined their invitation to disembark to visit them. The Gabrieleños inhabited the southern part of what is now Los Angeles County, the northern part of Orange County, and a western part of San Bernardino and Riverside Counties. It is estimated that there were between 5,000 and 10,000 Gabrieleans living in the region when the first Spanish colonists arrived in 1781 to establish Los Angeles. There are 31 known sites that are believed to have been Gabrieleño villages, each of which had between 400 and 500 huts.

In each village, a hereditary chief exercised almost total authority over the community. Initially, the Spaniards called at least the Gabrieleños near the mission with a Spanish variation of their original name (Kichireños or people from the willow houses), but after submitting them to the San Gabriel Mission, they began to call them Gabrieleños (as the Spanish used to do with local natives who underwent each of their missions). The coat of arms is surrounded by images of olives, grapes and oranges, which represent the three main crops in Los Angeles historically. Those laws were responsible for laying the foundations for some of the region's largest cities at that time, including Los Angeles, San Francisco, Tucson, San Antonio, Sonoma, Monterrey, Santa Fe and Laredo. The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson first aired from New York but later moved to Los Angeles.

Carson became synonymous with the city, peppering his monologues with numerous references to Los Angeles area. Otis Chandler and his allies achieved a change in state law in 1909 that allowed Los Angeles to absorb San Pedro and Wilmington using a long narrow corridor of land to connect them to the rest of the city. In September 1907 construction began on a huge aqueduct that would transport water from Owens Lake to Los Angeles. In 1787 Governor Pedro Fages laid out his instructions for Los Angeles People's Body Guard. In July 1905 The Times began warning voters in Los Angeles that the county would soon be exhausted unless they voted for bonds to build an aqueduct.

Los Angeles continued to expand particularly with development of San Fernando Valley and construction of highways that began in 1940s. During Northern California gold rush years Los Angeles became known as Queen of Cow Counties for its role in providing beef and other food to hungry miners in north. The colors of flag are also found in flags of Spain and Mexico whose past was very important in early history of Los Angeles. By 18th century AD there were between 250,000 and 300,000 natives in California and 5,000 in Los Angeles Basin. The Chumash who are believed to have arrived in Los Angeles area about 3,000 years ago spread across Malibu area of Los Angeles County although they mostly lived in parts of Ventura and Santa Barbara counties. The Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum which opened in May 1923 with capacity of 76,000 seats was expanded to accommodate more than 100,000 spectators at Olympic events. While unemployment declined in Los Angeles during 1990s newly created jobs tended to be low-wage jobs occupied by recent immigrants; number of poor families increased from 36% to 43% of population of Los Angeles County during this period.

History of Los Angeles began in 1781 when 44 colonists from New Spain established permanent settlement in what is now downtown Los Angeles following instructions of Spanish governor of Las Californias Felipe de Neve and with authorization of Viceroy Antonio María de Bucareli. For two hours five people died in battle of Los Angeles from car accidents in confusing darkness to people who suffered heart attacks due to strong bursts of anti-aircraft weapons.

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