The Tongva Memorial Project

We've been asked to help with a very special landscaping project and now you can be a part of it too

We at Golden Garden are volunteering our time, planning, marketing and planting of this project, and what we are asking of the community is financial support in the form of donations.


Donations can be made electronically with a note in the memo which reads
“Tongva Memorial Project” 


In 2003, workers were installing a new playground in the back of St. Luke’s church in Long Beach, California. Much to everyone’s surprise, they uncovered human remains. It was later found that the bones belonged to an elder woman of the Gabrielino-Tongva Tribe. Robert Dorame, a tribal official of the Gabrielino-Tongva Tribe came to the scene and explained that the Tongva villages lived on the land dating back 2,000 years. “We have nothing, not one inch of land, and I think it’s a really sad note in the history of the area.” he stated.

Since then, pastor and trained archeologist Gary Mohrr, has partnered with the Tongva to help preserve and commemorate the remains at St. Luke’s Church. In the time since the original findings in 2003, six more bodies of the Tongva deceased have been found and donated to the church making St. Luke’s an official cemetery. 

Fast forward to 2019, when a local family and members of the church were moved by the findings and felt they could do more. Jens Ree, a young boy scout working towards his Eagle Scout rank saw this as an opportunity to use his resources to help turn the space into a more intentional, educational and sacred place. Through neighborhood connections, the family reached out to Tanya, owner of the Golden Garden, for assistance with the plant knowledge and garden design aspects of the project. And after waiting a few years for the pieces to come together, the time for the project has arrived. 

In the current space, the bodies rest in a large corner of the church’s courtyard. Over time and budget cuts the space has become overgrown and covered with weeds. This is where the Golden Garden, with your help, comes in. We are looking to reimagine the space with a more sustainable and culturally appropriate plan. To honor the natural flora and the indigenous people, we will be landscaping with all California Native plants including those in particular that were requested by and are sacred to the Tongva. Each plant will be identified and, where appropriate, explained how they were important to the Tongva. A drip irrigation system will be put in place to help manage the water use and secure a better maintenance plan going forward. A memorial plaque will sit next to the existing slab stone the Tongva have brought to the space. 

The memorial plaque will help to educate the community and take responsibility over the findings. The plaque reads:

I am part of the Ground, the Wind and the Air.
The spirit of the Gabrielino-Tongva flows through this sacred ground.
Their souls rest in peace below this memorial.
A village site of the Tongva who were the original inhabitants of this area.
We gratefully acknowledge the native peoples on whose ancestral homelands we live.
This will always be your home.
With deep respect, this memorial is dedicated to the Gabrielino-Tongva

By Jens A. Ree BSA Troop 120

The Golden Garden is honored to be a part of this joint effort to create a healing space. We are working with the Tongva Tribe for approval of the project, the list of requested plants, and the acquiring of the memorial stones. Our intention is to use the plant knowledge and landscaping skills and experience available to us to create a memorial that more closely captures the spirit of the environments the Tongva people stewarded on this land, and to create a thoughtful, sacred space that will honor the lives of those who rest there for many years to come.

Make a Donation

Leave a note in the memo which reads “Tongva Memorial Project” 

Every contribution is valuable and no donation amount is too small. The money raised will be used to help to cover the costs of the plants, irrigation, hardscape and memorial plaque that will be used in the space. 

Learn more here: