Native American Heritage Month

November is Native American Heritage Month. The land that now constitutes California once housed the most diverse population of indigenous people in the Western hemisphere, with 150 different Native American tribes inhabiting the area. While the population of these native people decreased significantly in the 19th century due to disease (including malaria and cholera epidemics), there are still over one hundred federally recognized Native American tribes in California. The Photo Collection of the Los Angeles Public Library offers a glimpse of Native Americans celebrating holidays, remembering their heritage, and living their lives in Southern California.

Members of the Golden State Gourd Society (which originated in Maywood, California, in 1971) gather at the first annual Kateri Circle pow wow.

Golden State Gourd Society

Shades of L.A., Native American Community; photograph taken in 1990.

Astronaut Robert Crippen (center), who flew on four space shuttle missions (three as commander), is of Cherokee heritage. Here he is photographed with Native American employees of Rockwell International in Thousand Oaks, California. These employees are of Wichita, Comanche, Choctaw, Cheyenne, and Oto tribe heritage.

Native Americans in the Space Race

Shades of L.A., Native American Community, Comanche Community,
Wichita Community, Cherokee Community, Oto Community,
Cheyenne Community, Choctaw Community; photograph taken in 1981.

Margo, a Native American of Comanche and Wichita heritage, attends a pow wow at the Orange County Indian Center in Stanton, California.

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Shades of L.A., Native American Community, Comanche Community,
Wichita Community; photograph taken in 1980.

Two Navajo girls reenact the age-old practice of grinding corn at the South East Indian Center in Huntington Park, California. The ceremony included singers, feather dancers, and gourd music.

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Herald-Examiner Collection; photographed by Myron Dubee on May 21, 1974.

Father Paul Ojibway, a Catholic priest and member of the Fond du Luc Band of Lake Superior Chippewa of Minnesota, sought to build bridges between Native American Catholics and the wider Catholic community. He served in Native American ministries in California for over twenty years, becoming Director of American Indian Studies at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles and also serving as Director of Native American ministries in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. Here he is seen serving Mass at a pow wow at St. Francis High School in La Canada.

Father Paul Ojibway

Shades of L.A., Native American Community, photograph taken in 1991.

Navajo artist Kin-ya-onny-beyeh (also known as Carl Nelson Gorman or Carl Gorman) exhibits his artwork in a gallery in Woodland Hills, California.

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Valley Times Collection; photographed by George Brich on June 20, 1963.

Youngster John Nolan from the Pima Pagago Reservation in Phoenix, Arizona, participates in a Drum and Feather War Dance held at the Burbank recreation hall while Mrs. Fred Gabourie, a Cherokee dancing champion from Burbank, watches.

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Valley Times Collection, photographed by Bob Martin on December 7, 1964.

Carl Fisher, an African American with Choctaw heritage, became an Auxiliary Bishop for the Los Angeles Archdiocese in 1987. He was the first African American Catholic bishop on the West Coast and supervised 70 parishes, 53 elementary schools, and 10 high schools in the San Pedro Pastoral Region. Here he poses with Native Americans at his first mass in the Los Angeles area.

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Shades of L.A.: Native American Community; photograph taken in 1987.

Mary Robinson, a young woman of Choctaw heritage, is photographed at 13 years of age practicing her ballet steps. Mary later moved from Salinas, California, to Los Angeles and became a professional dancer and actress.

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Shades of L.A.: Native American Community, photograph taken in 1927.

A dancer from the Tony Purley Tribal Dancers performs at the sixth annual American Indian Artistry program at the County Museum of Natural History in Exposition Park.

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Herald-Examiner Collection; photograph undated.

Navajo students at Sherman Indian High School in Riverside, California, don native dress and ride on the hood of a car displaying Navajo blankets and a Navajo rug during the school’s Indian Day parade.

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Shades of L.A.: Native American Community; photograph taken in 1970.