McGroarty Hosts Chumash Presentation

Chumash Tongva Elder Dennis Garcia     Photos by Katie O’BRIEN


By Katie O’BRIEN

STARC (Sunland Tujunga Arts, Rec and Culture) Committee members and members of the community gathered on Feb. 27 at McGroarty Arts Center to learn about the “Tales of the Chumash” in a presentation by Chumash Tongva Elder Dennis Garcia.

Garcia, a dancer of traditional music, spoke about his regalia made of hide, feathers, abalone and shells, explaining that very little is wasted in the making of the regalia.

Gourd rattles (using seeds from ant holes), deer hooves and clapper sticks are used in story-telling, always with sacred offerings of sage and tobacco to bless and honor the spirit of the animals and plants from which they came.

On Feb. 27 Garcia sang, danced and used rattles and clapper sticks to demonstrate the traditional welcome songs of the Chumash and Tataviam. Garcia related the stories of how long the Chumash and Tataviam tribes have been in the area dating back to their ancestors in the village of Tujunga.

Garcia’s shirt showed the places where the San Fernando tribes lived –Quissanga, Topanga and Tujunga – with “nga” designating “place of.” The homes were made of willow branches fashioned in circles and tule reeds collected from nearby streams.

The homes were made of willow Homes were created from branches fashioned in circles and tule reeds collected from nearby streams.

Garcia’s grandmother was Chumash and his grandfather was Tongva. Tongva is the tribe that settled in the nearby Tujunga area (Tujunga meaning “the old woman”). The group of Native American tribes from the San Fernando Valley have been lumped into the governmental name of Fernandeño Tataviam Band of Mission Indians meaning “People Who Face the Sun.”

STARC meets at 7:30 p.m. on the fourth Tuesday of each month at McGroarty Arts Center, 7570 McGroarty Terrace in Tujunga. All are invited to attend and/or join the committee of the STNC (Sunland Tujunga Neighborhood Council).

STARC’s chairperson is Joe DeCenzo, who has been a member of STNC since 2003 and chairman of STARC for the past eight years. STARC is heavily involved with McGroarty Art shows, projects, Bolton Hall poetry readings and guest presentations with the goal of creating connections between organizations for resources. Poetry meetings are held the fourth Sunday of the month at Bolton Hall and will feature Crystal Fire poems of joy and wisdom.

McGroarty Art Center Classes start again in March. Register at

The opening night of the 20th Annual Ceramics Invitational Exhibition All Cups 2024 will be on June 8 at McGroarty Arts Center.