Press Release: Launching a Dream: Reviving Tongva Maritime Traditions

Stacey Ravel Abarbanel   
Tel. (310) 825-4288


For Immediate Use

Launching a Dream:Reviving Tongva Maritime Traditions

Opens June 5 at the Fowler Museum at UCLA

In September 1996, for the first time in more than two hundred years, the Tongva community launched a Southern California Indian sewn plank-canoe (ti’at) into the channel waters off Santa Catalina Island. A crew of five paddlers guided the vessel, named Mo’omat Ahiko (Breath of the Ocean), twelve miles along the rugged coastline of the sacred island known to them as Pimu. Since that day in 1996, these First Peoples have experienced an incredible renaissance of their traditional ocean-faring culture—scheduling festivals, “village hops,” and gatherings involving the canoes.  

The sewn plank canoe culture is distinctive; and only a few places outside of Southern California in the Pacific—Marshall and Gilbert Islands—utilize this technology. Launching a Dream: Reviving Tongva Maritime Traditions—on view at the Fowler Museum from June 5–September 18, 2011—features forty black-and-white images by photographers Frank Magallanes and Althea Edwards that document the rebirth of this rare and ancient maritime tradition of the Southern California coastal and Channel Islands First Peoples.

These powerful photographs offer an intimate view of the construction, launching, and communal celebrations surrounding these unique and important vessels, envisioned by tribal members as key symbols of native identity and cultural resurgence. With the building and launching of these vessels, a seemingly vanished tradition was rejuvenated and now flourishes within the Tongva and Chumash communities.

About the Photographers

Since 1996 photographers Frank Magallanes and Althea Edwards have chronicled the activities of Southern California’s indigenous peoples, with a specific focus on the maritime traditions of the Tongva and Chumash. Magallanes and Edwards are frequent contributors to News from Native California, and their images have appeared in numerous publications and on display at The Southwest Museum of the American Indian. Collectively known as Studio 5150, they also assistartists and photographers with the production of photographic/fine art editions for exhibitions worldwide.

Additional Information
Launching a Dream:Reviving Tongva Maritime Traditionswill be on view in the Fowler Museum’s Goldenberg Galleria. The exhibition is curated by Cindi Alvitre, Moompetam (Salt Water People), cofounder Ti’at Society, and Wendy Teeter, curator of archaeology, Fowler Museum.

The Fowler Museum at UCLA is one of the country’s most respected institutions devoted to exploring the arts and cultures of Africa, Asia and the Pacific, and the Americas. The Fowler is open Wednesdays through Sundays, from noon to 5 p.m.; and on Thursdays, from noon until 8 p.m. The museum is closed Mondays and Tuesdays. The Fowler Museum, part of UCLA Arts, is located in the north part of the UCLA campus. Admission is free. Parking is available for a maximum of $10 in Lot 4. For more information, the public may call 310/825-4361 or visit


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