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Virginia Carmelo at ST Indigenous Peoples Day

Updated: Aug 29

ST Forward is thrilled to announce that Tongva elder Virginia Carmelo will be a presenter at our second annual Sunland Tujunga Indigenous Peoples Day on October 9th. It will be an honor to host her under the oaks of Big Tujunga, and we can't wait to learn more with her. Read more about this local Indigenous leader below.


Virginia Carmelo was born in Orange County, California and raised in Fullerton, California. Her paternal side is California Native American: Gabrielino/Tongva (Pronounced Tong–vey) and Digueno/Kumeyaay tribes. Virginia received her B.A. from CSU, Fullerton, in Ethnic Studies. During that time, being influenced by and involved in the social movements of the sixties, she began dance studies that led her to study indigenous dance with two prominent masters in the Los Angeles area.

Virginia was teacher to five of her 6 children for a 5-year stint of home schooling. Currently, they take part in preserving and sharing the Tongva culture. The family endeavors to revitalize Tongva tribal song, dance, and regalia.

Today, the group “Toveema” can be seen performing both ancient and modern tribal song and dance at many prominent venues throughout Southern California. They take pride in the making of all regalia and instruments, using natural indigenous materials.

In 2004, Virginia was led to research the Tongva language. A portion of the tribal language was recorded during the early 1900’s and last spoken around 1930. Thanks to linguist, Pam Munro and language programs, this California Indian language is being spoken again after 80 years being silent.

From 2001 to 2012, Virginia served as a Tribal Council Member of the Gabrielino/Tongva Nation, the tribe indigenous to the entire Los Angeles Basin. From 2005 to 2010, she served as Tribal Chairperson.

Help us fund an honorarium for all Indigenous presenters by contributing to our event fundraising campaign. And thank you!!

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