Julia Bogany is a teacher, cultural ambassador, artist, speaker, mother, grandmother, great-grandmother, and member of the Indigenous Tongva tribe. Here she poses for a portrait in front of a giant Oak tree at the replica of a Tongva village at the Santa Ana Botanic Gardens in Claremont.

Julia Bogany

The Tongva Elder

Julia is a teacher, cultural ambassador, artist, speaker, mother, grandmother and great-grandmother. She’s also a member of the Indigenous Tongva tribe, who are among the original inhabitants of the Los Angeles Basin. Yet despite that, Julia feels that she and other native people in the region today are largely invisible. So, for the past two decades, Julia has taken it as her mission to make the Tongva language and culture visible to the rest of society. “I started out doing displays for schools,” she says, “teaching children about culture, because there are a lot of stories that have kind of been lost or are just not told.” These days, Julia is a Tongva cultural affairs director and an elder-in-residence at Pitzer College, advising students and leading workshops and discussions. When she has a break, she often likes to come to the nearby Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Gardens. There, next to a large old oak tree, there is a replica of a Tongva village, near where her great-grandmother Rose once grew native and medicinal plants and taught Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Gardens’ founder, Susanna Bixby Bryant, about their many uses. Many decades later, Julia is still teaching about those same plants to “young Tongva children, in their language,” she says.