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By Alexa Johnson

Plenty of Fish in the Sea - The Tongva relied extensively on marine resources for food, much more so than their mainland counterparts. While some terrestrial animals were available, including squirrels, foxes, rodents, and quail, Catalina’s rich and diverse marine life provided the Native Americans with their primarily sustenance. Utilizing harpoons, spears, nets, hooks, lines and sinkers, the Tongva collected fish, shellfish and marine mammals and birds. 

According to “A Brief Prehistory and History of Santa Catalina Island” by Ivan Strudwick, “C-shaped” hooks, fashioned from shells and bones, were used to fish the bottom of near-shore kelp beds for leopard sharks, bat rays, halibut, shovelnose guitarfish and bass among others. “J-shaped" hooks, better suited to catching fast fish, were used to catch pelagic migratory fish, such as swordfish, albacore and yellow and bluefin tuna. The metallic sheen of a hook made from abalone, mussel or Norris' topshell was often enough to lure one's prey, but at times, a piece of black mussel was used as bait. 

Shellfish were harvested year-round. The Tongva gathered abalone, mussels, clams, oysters, limpets, eel and octopus from nearshore areas and rocky slopes

Cordage made from nettle, sea grass, milkweed or willow-fiber was used to construct nets of various sizes and functions. The First Angelinos by William McCawley lists four primary types of Tongva nets, which were used to trap everything from schools of fish, such as sardines, to large fish, like bonita, to birds and small mammals. A 1970s study done at Emerald Bay suggested that the Native Americans hunted larger marine mammals, such as dolphins and sea lions.

The most common kind of watercraft used by the Tongva was the ti’at, a plank canoe made from driftwood. Redwood and pine planks would be shaped using stone axes and drills and then sewn together with fiber string and sealed with tar. Ti’ats could hold anywhere from three to 20 passengers, including a young boy whose job it was to bail water. Smaller reed rafts are reported to have been used, most likely for short intra-island journeys. 

Quid Pro Quo

Issue #30 / All About the Tongva


Island Ingenuity
Quid Pro Quo
Fact or Fiction: Isle Foxes Brought by Tongva
Did You Know … Tongva Still Around  

Photo by Bill Bushing

This ti’at, called Moomat ‘Ahiko or “breath of the ocean,” voyaged from Long Beach to Catalina in 1996. Similar vessels would have been used for fishing and trade between the other islands and the mainland

Missed recent issues?
Issue #1 / All About Bison

Issue #2 / All About Birds

Issue #3 / All About Plants
Issue #4 / All About Eagles
Issue #5 / All About Ravens & Crows
Issue #6 / All About Natives & Invasives  
Issue #7 / All About Rain
Issue #8 / All About Bison Roundup
Issue #9 / All About Foxes
Issue #10 / All About Weeds
Issue #11 / All About Eagle Hatchlings
Issue #12 / All About Snakes
Issue #13 / All About Diurnal Raptors
Issue #14 / All About Diurnal Raptors II
Issue #15 / All About Giants & Dwarves
Issue #16 / All About Fire Ecology
Issue #17 / All About Mule Deer
Issue #18 / All About Feral Cats
Issue #19 / All About Acorn Woodpeckers
Issue #20 / All About Tachi the Fox
Issue #21 / All About Observing Nature
Issue #22 / All About 2013 Bald Eagle Update
Issue #23 / All About Invasive Plants
Issue #24 / All About Poisonous Plants
Issue #25 / All About the Value of Nature
Issue #26 / All About Edible Invasives
Issue #27 / All About Plants in Summer
Issue #28 / All About Marine Ecosystems
Issue #29 / All About Dominant Rocks



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