the secret story of SoCal | The Argonaut Newsweekly

SoCal expert Susan Suntree’s new audiobook, “Sacred Sites: The Secret History of Southern California,” contains little-known information about the geologic formation of the landscape, sacred Native American villages, and the arrival of the Europeans.

Santa Monica author releases new audiobook

By Haley Beyer

Susan Suntree’s best-selling and award-winning book, “Sacred Sites: The Secret History of Southern California,” was first published in 2010 and describes the origins of the universe, the evolution of plants and animals, human migration and more.

In 2021, Suntree released a new version of its audiobook, available on 41 sites, including Amazon, Google, and Audible. The inspiration for the audiobook came from his curiosity about how things turned out.

“I wondered how things got the way they are? Suntree said. “I wanted to see through the palm trees and the concrete.

Suntree wanted people to feel like they were part of the world they lived in. She felt out of place in Los Angeles because there was no information available on the landscape or the indigenous peoples. She used her experience as a performance artist, teacher and artist in residence at the 18th Street Art Center to begin her research and worked with tribal leaders, artists, historians and scientists at major universities and museums.

What Suntree found changed the way she viewed her home and she wanted to share that with everyone around her.

“Southern California is a vibrant place,” Suntree said. “There is a landscape of continuous transformation. It is a life force on this amazing planet. Everything is intelligence. All alive.
In the audiobook, Suntree covers the history of Native Americans who lived in Southern California for over 15,000 years. She also shares information about the Tongva and other indigenous tribes with their villages Cahuenga, Tujunga, Topanga and other familiar places.

One fact that most people ignore is that the oldest human skeleton in North America was found in Los Angeles. After exploring the Santa Monica Mountains, 16 million year old seashells that were once coastal seabed have also been found. Earthquakes are responsible for pushing the mountains higher, and after the end of the Ice Age, the bay that once filled the LA Basin receded and the region took advantage of the current Mediterranean climate for which LA is known today. ‘hui.

Suntree’s journey began as a one-woman show, which later turned into her best-selling book. Turning it into an audiobook “brought it back to its original being”.
“My worlds did not collide, the two worlds became braided,” Suntree said.

To prepare for the recording, Suntree took voice exercises and lessons. Once the work started, she worked every day until it was finished. The job was tedious as layering the music, character voices, and creating a clear concept of the timeline were key to creating the perfect interpretation.

The music helped move the story forward and Suntree enjoyed working with composer Tom Zehnder and introduced Ernest Siva. She has also worked with actor Kalani Queypo and Peter Coyote, an Emmy Award-winning documentary narrator.

“It was so important for me to work with these two people,” Suntree said. “It was just having the male voice of Queypo, a native, telling the story alongside someone as brilliant and experienced as Coyote.”

To purchase the audiobook, visit

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