The Ballona Creek originally was inhabited by Native Americans belonging to the Tongva (or “People of the Earth”) tribe. The Tongva were the largest Native American tribe in Southern California and one of the most advanced of more than 20 tribes in the state. With more than 1000 villages throughout the smoky basin, they lived near water from the ocean to the mountains, and in canyons and on the arid plains. They lived off the land, hunting animals, eating wild plants, grinding acorns into a powdery meal and leaching out the acid in streams so that the "flour" could be used as a staple.

Beginning in the 16th century, Spanish explorers were sailing along the California Coast, and stopped in the Santa Monica Bay area when they needed fresh water. They were brought inland by the Shoshone to draw fresh water at historic ceremonial springs now located on the campus of University High School in Los Angeles.

In the late 1700s, the Spanish colonization process included “civilizing” the native populations in California. Actually, the Native Americans were kept in captivity at the missions where they were used as laborers for construction work and other projects. Soon, a town called El Pueblo de Nuestra Señora la Reina de los Ángeles de Porciúncula (Los Angeles today) would be founded and would prosper with the aid of Native American labor