|Regions with significant populations|
|United States (California)|
|English and Spanish
|Traditional tribal religion,
|Related ethnic groups|
Ynezeño, Purismeño, Obiseño
The Chumash are a Native American people who historically inhabited the central and southern coastal regions of California, in portions of what is now San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, Ventura and Los Angeles Counties, extending from Morro Bay in the north to Malibu in the south. They also occupied three of the Channel Islands: Santa Cruz, Santa Rosa, and San Miguel; the smaller island of Anacapa was likely inhabited on a seasonal basis due to the lack of a consistent water source. Modern place names with Chumash origins include Malibu, Lompoc, Ojai, Pismo Beach, Point Mugu, Port Hueneme, Piru, Lake Castaic, Saticoy, and Simi Valley.
Archaeological research demonstrates that the Chumash have deep roots in the Santa Barbara Channel area and lived along the southern California coast for millennia.
- 1 History
- 2 Population
- 3 Languages
- 4 Culture
- 5 History
- 6 Casino Controversy
- 7 Places of significance
- 8 See also
- 9 References
- 10 Further reading
- 11 External links
Chumash environment before European contact (1400 AD)
The Chumash resided between the Santa Ynez Mountains and the California coasts where numerous rivers and tributaries abound. Situated inside and around the modern-day Santa Barbara region, the Chumash found themselves in a veritable bounty of resources. The tribe lived in an area composed of three different environments: the interior, the coast, and the Northern Channel Islands. These three provided a diverse array of materials to support the Chumash lifestyle. The interior is composed of the land outside the coast and spanning the wide plains, rivers, and mountains. The coast covers the cliffs and land close to the ocean and, in reference to resources gathered, the areas of the ocean from which the Chumash harvested, and the Northern Channel Islands lie off the coast of the Chumash territory. All of the California coastal-interior has a Mediterranean climate due to the incoming winds from the ocean. The mild temperatures year-round save for winter made gathering easy; during the cold months, the tribespeople harvested what they could and supplemented their diets with stored foods. What villagers gathered and traded during the seasons changed depending on in which of the three environments they resided. With coasts populated by masses of various species of fish and land densely covered by trees and animals, the Chumash had a diverse array of food. Abundant resources and a winter rarely harsh enough to cause concern meant the tribe lived a sedentary (meaning living in one place) lifestyle in addition to a subsistence existence. Villages in the three aforementioned areas contained remains of sea mammals, indicating that trade networks existed for moving materials throughout the Chumash territory. Such connections spread out the land’s wealth, allowing the Chumash to live comfortably without agriculture.
Chumash diet before 1400 AD
Not surprisingly, the closer a village was to the ocean, the greater its reliance on maritime resources. Due to advanced canoe designs, coastal and island people could procure fish and aquatic mammals from farther out. Shellfish were a good source of nutrition, both relatively easy to find and abundant. Many of the favored varieties grew within tidal zones, areas close to the shore. Shellfish grew in abundance during winter to early spring; their proximity to shore would make collection easier since gatherers would not need to venture out too far. Some of the consumed species included mussels, abalone, and a wide array of clams. Ocean animals such as otters and seals were thought to be the primary meal of coastal tribes people, but recent evidence shows the aforementioned trade networks exchanged oceanic animals for terrestrial foods from the interior. Any village could acquire fish, but the coastal and island communities specialized in catching not just smaller fish, but also the massive catches such as swordfish. This feat, difficult even for today’s technology, was made possible by the tomol plank canoe. Not only did its design allow for the capture of deepwater fish, but it also facilitated the trade routes between villages. Before contact with Europeans, coastal Chumash relied less on terrestrial resources than they did on maritime; vice versa for interior Chumash. Regardless, they both consumed similar land resources. Like many other tribes, deer were the most important land mammal the Chumash pursued; deer were consumed in varying amounts across all regions, which cannot be said for other terrestrial animals. Interior Chumash placed greater value on the deer, to the extent that they had unique hunting practices for them. They dressed as deer and grazed alongside the animals until the hunters were in range to use their arrows. Even Chumash close to the ocean pursued deer, though in understandably fewer numbers, and what more meat the villages needed they acquired from smaller animals such as rabbits and birds. Plant foods composed the rest of Chumash diet, especially acorns, which were the staple food for numerous reasons despite the work needed to remove their inherent toxins. They could be ground into a paste both easy to eat and stored for years. Coast live oak provided the best acorns; their mush would be served usually unseasoned with meat and/or fish.
The beginning of the Chumash tribe
Native Americans have lived along the California coast for about 12,000 years. The first settlement started over 13,000 years ago near the Santa Barbara coast. The name Chumash means “bead maker” or “seashell people” being that they originated near the Santa Barbara coast. The Chumash tribes located near the coast benefited most with the “close juxtaposition of a variety or marine and terrestrial habits, intensive upwelling in coastal waters, and intentional burning of the landscape made the Santa Barbara Channel region one of the most resource abundant places on the planet”. Before the mission period, the Chumash lived in over 150 independent villages, speaking variations of the same language. Much of their culture consisted of basketry, bead manufacturing and trading, cuisine of local abalone and clam, herbalism which consisted of using local herbs to produce teas and medical reliefs, rock art, and the scorpion tree. The scorpion tree was significant to the Chumash due to its arborglyph: a carving depicting a six-legged creature with a headdress including a crown and two spheres. The shamans also participated in the carving which was used in observations of the stars and in part of the Chumash calendar.
Europeans first visited the Chumash in 1542. They were met by sailing vessels under the command of Juan Cabrillo[clarification needed]. With the arrival of the Europeans “came a series of unprecedented blows to the Chumash and their traditional lifeways. Anthropologists, historians, and other scholars have long been interested in documenting the collision of cultures that accompanied the European exploration and settlement of the Americas”. Spain settled on the territory of the Chumash in 1770. They founded colonies, bringing in missionaries to begin Christianizing Native Americans in the region. Due to the large mission and Christian influence, Chumash villages began moving to many different missions springing up along the coast of California. Much of the Chumash’s population was diminished due to Old World diseases brought over when the Europeans had first settled. The settlement of the Spanish also devastated the Chumash culture. The Chumash reservation, established in 1901, encompasses 127 acres. No native Chumash speak their own language since Inesño, whose last speaker died in 1965. Much of their present-day income is through the operation of the Chumash Casino and resort, as well as small cafes and restaurants, located in Santa Ynez, California. Chumash Casino Resort is a Native American casino, open daily 24 hours. It is an 18-and-over casino and has many features and activities, The casino currently has 280,000-square-ft gaming space, 2,000 gaming machines, and 60 table and poker games. The property has five restaurants and a hotel with 315 rooms. Because of its popularity, though, it is currently under construction, expanding and creating more features. Chumash Casino is dedicated to the sustainability of people and the planet inspired by the Chumash Native Americans principles. Today, the Chumash are estimated to have a population of 5,000 members. Many current members can still trace their ancestors to the five islands of Channel Island National Park.
Estimates for the precontact populations of most native groups in California have varied substantially. The anthropologist Alfred L. Kroeber thought the 1770 population of the Chumash might have been about 10,000. Alan K. Brown concluded that the population was about 15,000. Sherburne F. Cook, at various times, estimated the aboriginal Chumash as 8,000, 13,650, 20,400, or 18,500.
Some scholars have suggested the Chumash population may have declined substantially during a "protohistoric" period (1542–1769), when intermittent contacts with the crews of Spanish ships, including those of Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo's expedition, who wintered in the Santa Barbara Channel in AD 1542–43, brought disease and death. The Chumash appear to have been thriving in the late 18th century, when Spaniards first began actively colonizing the California coast. Whether the deaths began earlier with the contacts with ships' crews, or only later with the construction of several Spanish missions at Ventura, Santa Barbara, Lompoc, Santa Inez, and San Luis Obispo, the Chumash were eventually devastated by Old World diseases such as influenza and smallpox, to which they had no immunological resistance. By 1900, their numbers had declined to just 200, while current estimates of Chumash people today range from 2,000 to 5,000.
Several related languages under the name "Chumash" (from c?umaš /t???uma?/, meaning "Santa Cruz Islander") were spoken. Few, if any, living native speakers remain, although they are well documented in the unpublished fieldnotes of linguist John Peabody Harrington. Especially well documented are the Barbareño, Ineseño, and Ventureño dialects. Several Chumash families are working to revitalize the language. The native name for Chumash in Ineseño/Barbareño is s?amala /s?amala/.
The Chumash were hunter-gatherers and were adept at fishing at the time of Spanish colonization. They are one of the relatively few New World peoples who regularly navigated the ocean (another was the Tongva, a neighboring tribe located to the south). Some settlements built a plank boat (tomol), which facilitated the distribution of goods and could even be used for whaling.
Anthropologists have long collected Chumash baskets, and two of the finest collections are at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC, and the Musée de l'Homme (Museum of Mankind) in Paris. The Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History is believed to have the largest collection of Chumash baskets.
Bead manufacture and trading
The Chumash of the Northern Channel Islands were at the center of an intense regional trade network. Beads made from Olivella shells were manufactured on the Channel Islands and used as a form of currency by the Chumash. These shell beads were traded to neighboring groups and have been found throughout Alta California. Over the course of late prehistory, millions of shell beads were manufactured and traded from Santa Cruz Island. It has been suggested that exclusive control over stone quarries used to manufacture the drills needed in bead production could have played a role in the development of social complexity in Chumash society.
Foods historically consumed by the Chumash include several marine species, such as black abalone, the Pacific littleneck clam, red abalone, the bent-nosed clam, ostrea lurida oysters, Pacific littleneck clams, angular unicorn snails, and the butternut clam. They also made flour from the dried fruits of the laurel sumac.
Herbs used in traditional Chumash medicine include thick-leaved yerba santa, used to keep airways open for proper breathing; laurel sumac, the root bark of which was used to make a herbal tea for treating dysentery, and black sage, the leaves and stems of the plant were made into a strong sun tea. This was rubbed on the painful area or used to soak one's feet. The plant contains diterpenoids, such as aethiopinone and ursolic acid, which are known pain relievers.
The Chumash formerly practiced an initiation rite involving the use of sacred datura, or moymoy in their language. When a boy was 8 years old, his mother would give him a preparation of it to drink. This was supposed to be a spiritual challenge to the boy to help him develop the spiritual wellbeing required to become a man. Not all of the boys survived.
A centuries-old oak tree in California is considered to have a Chumash arborglyph, a carving of a six-legged creature with a head-dress including a crown and two spheres. Previously thought to have been carved by cowboys, it was visited in 2007 by paleontologist Rex Saint Onge, who identified the three-foot carving as being of Chumash origin and related to other Chumash cave paintings in California. Further studies have led Saint Onge to believe these are not simply the work of Chumash, but also by the San (a neighboring native group to the Chumash for centuries) shamans, but were conscious observations of the stars and part of a Chumash calendar.
Before Spanish contact
Archeological evidence of Native American presence in the Later Chumash lands date to at least 10,000 years before present. Sites of the Millingstone Horizon date from 7000 cal BC to 4500 cal BC; they evidence a subsistence system focused on the processing of seeds with metates and manos. During that time, people used bipointed bone objects and line to catch fish and began making beads from shells of the marine olive snail (Olivella biplicata).
While droughts were not uncommon in the centuries of the first millennium AD, a population explosion occurred with the coming of the medieval warm period. "Marine productivity soared between 950 and 1300 as natural upwelling intensified off the coast".
Some researchers believe that the Chumash may have been visited by Polynesians between AD 400 and 800, nearly 1,000 years before Christopher Columbus reached the Americas. Although the concept is rejected by most archaeologists who work with the Chumash culture (and this contact has left no genetic legacy), others have given the idea greater plausibility. The Chumash advanced sewn-plank canoe design, which is used throughout the Polynesian Islands, but is unknown in North America except by those two tribes, is cited as the chief evidence for contact. Comparative linguistics also may provide evidence as the Chumash word for "sewn-plank canoe", tomolo'o, may have been derived from kumula'au, the Polynesian word for the redwood logs used in that construction. However, the language comparison is generally considered tentative. Furthermore, the development of the Chumash plank canoe is fairly well represented in the archaeological record and spans a time period of several centuries.
Spanish arrival and the Mission Era
Chumash people first encountered Europeans in the autumn of 1542, when two sailing vessels under Juan Rodríguez Cabrillo arrived on the coast from Mexico. Cabrillo died and was buried on San Miguel Island, but his men brought back a diary that contained the names and population counts for many Chumash villages, such as Mikiw. Spain claimed what is now California from that time forward, but did not return to settle until 1769, when the first Spanish soldiers and missionaries arrived with the double purpose of Christianizing the Native Americans and facilitating Spanish colonization. By the end of 1770, missions and military presidios had been founded at San Diego to the south of Chumash lands and Monterey to their north.
The Chumash people moved from their villages to the Franciscan missions between 1772 and 1817. Mission San Luis Obispo, established in 1772, was the first mission in Chumash-speaking lands, as well as the northernmost of the five missions ever constructed in those lands. Next established, in 1782, was Mission San Buenaventura on the Pacific Coast near the mouth of the Santa Clara River. Mission Santa Barbara, also on the coast, and facing out to the Channel Islands, was established in 1786. Mission La Purisima Concepción was founded along the inland route from Santa Barbara north to San Luis Obispo in 1789. The final Franciscan mission to be constructed in native Chumash territory was Santa Ynez, founded in 1804 on the Santa Ynez River with a seed population of Chumash people from Missions La Purisima and Santa Barbara. To the southeast, Mission San Fernando, founded in 1798 in the land of Takic Shoshonean speakers, also took in large numbers of Chumash speakers from the middle Santa Clara River valley. While most of the Chumash people joined one mission or another between 1772 and 1806, a significant portion of the native inhabitants of the Channel Islands did not move to the mainland missions until 1816.
Contemporary Times See also the Chumash Revolt of 1824, a Chumash uprising against the presence of the Spanish in The Californias. The first modern tomol was built and launched in 1976 as a result of a joint venture between Quabajai Chumash of the Coastal Band of the Chumash Nation and the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History. Its name is Helek/Xelex, the Chumash word for falcon. The Brotherhood of the Tomol was revived and her crew paddled and circumnavigated around the Santa Barbara Channel Islands on a 10-day journey, stopping on three of the islands. The second tomol, the Elye'wun ("swordfish"), was launched in 1997.
On September 9, 2001, the first "crossing" in the Chumash tomol, from the mainland to Channel Islands, was sponsored by the Chumash Maritime Association and the Barbareno Chumash Council. Several Chumash bands and descendants gathered on the island of Limuw (the Chumash name for Santa Cruz Island) to witness the Elye'wun being paddled from the mainland to Santa Cruz Island. Their journey was documented in the short film "Return to Limuw" produced by the Ocean Channel for the Chumash Maritime Association, Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary, and the Santa Barbara Maritime Museum. The channel crossings have become a yearly event hosted by the Barbareno Chumash Council.
The Santa Ynez Band of Chumash is a federally recognized Chumash tribe. They have the Santa Ynez Reservation located in Santa Barbara County, near Santa Ynez. Chumash people are also enrolled in the Tejon Indian Tribe of California.
In addition to the Santa Ynez Band, the Coastal Band of the Chumash Nation, and the Barbareño/Ventureño Band of Mission Indians are attempting to gain federal recognition. Other Chumash tribal groups include the Northern Chumash Tribal Council, descendants from the San Luis Obispo area, and the Barbareno Chumash Council, descendants from the greater Santa Barbara area.
The publication of the first Chumash dictionary took place in April 2008. Six hundred pages long and containing 4,000 entries, the Samala-English Dictionary includes more than 2,000 illustrations.
A Chumash Indian museum is located in Thousand Oaks, California. The museum has Chumash artifacts, displays illustrating Chumash daily life, and even a recreated Chumash village nestled underneath beautiful oak trees by a stream. The museum is surrounded by hiking trails.
As of 2013, a reconstruction of a Chumash village is open in Malibu, "on a bluff overlooking the Pacific."
Santa Ynez history Mexico seized control of the missions in 1834. Tribespeople either fled into the interior, attempted farming for themselves and were driven off the land, or were enslaved by the new administrators. Many found highly exploitative work on large Mexican ranches. After 1849 most Chumash land was lost due to theft by Americans and a declining population, due to the effects of violence and disease. The remaining Chumash began to lose their cohesive identity. In 1855, a small piece of land (120 acres) was set aside for just over 100 remaining Chumash Indians near Santa Ynez mission. This land ultimately became the only Chumash reservation, although Chumash individuals and families also continued to live throughout their former territory in southern California. Today, the Santa Ynez band lives at and near Santa Ynez. The Chumash population was between roughly 10,000 and 18,000 in the late 18th century. In 1990, 213 Indians lived on the Santa Ynez Reservation.
In December 2010, the Foodbank of Santa Barbara County was the proud recipient of a $10,000 grant from the Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians Foundation to support expansion of the Produce Initiative. The Produce Initiative puts an emphasis on supplying fruits and vegetables to 264 local nonprofits and food programs. The foodbank always distributes produce free of charge to member agencies to encourage healthy eating. Expanding produce accessibility to children is important to the foodbank and the newly operating Kids’ Farmers' Market program, an extension of the Produce Initiative, successfully achieves that goal. The program trains volunteers to teach kids in after-school programs both nutrition education and hands-on cooking instructions. This program currently operates at 12 sites countywide, including in the Santa Ynez Valley. After the children cook and eat a healthy meal, they get to take home a bag full of fresh produce, where they can help feed and cook for the whole family. Obesity in children is a major health problem prevalent among African Americans, Native Americans, and Latinos. Obese children are at high risk for developing illnesses associated with obesity, such as type 2 diabetes, Once known as "adult-onset diabetes" because it typically appeared in adults, it is now appearing in children. Due to poor diet and lack of adequate exercise, childhood obesity is also a major problem in many African American and Native American communities. Risk factors for childhood obesity include a family history of obesity, a family history of smoking, taller height (a large proportion of obese children are taller than average), and a sedentary lifestyle. Moreover, socioeconomic factors, such as poverty, lack of access to information, and substandard education, also contribute to the proliferation of childhood obesity in communities of color. The Santa Ynez band of Chumash is doing their best to eat more sustainable foods. The Santa Ynez is no different from the rest of Americans who are struggling with obesity because of the factors listed above. In addition, children are not being educated on what foods are healthy and most sustainable. Instead, children of all cultures are less active nowadays and more prone to eat junk food than fresh food. In August 2013, a community garden was set up by the Santa Ynez Chumash Environmental Office and Education departments after-school program, and by September plenty of food was available to harvest. In September, a basket of zucchini, rainbow chard, arugula, and cilantro was offered to the Elder’s Council. In October, students harvested yellow and green zucchini, carrots and beets. The Santa Ynez Valley Fruit and Vegetable Rescue, also known as Veggie Rescue, is another effort to improve food sourcing for the Santa Ynez. According to the program's website, “We redirect or "glean" local produce from farms, farmers' markets, home gardens, and orchards and deliver it to charitable organizations and school-lunch programs in Santa Barbara, Santa Ynez, and Santa Maria, all at no charge”. School chefs have introduced new fruits and vegetables to children who also learn where and how this food is grown. People of all ages have benefitted from the labor and skill of the program's local farmers. Through this program, the Santa Ynez community has found a way to take better care of one another.
There was a lawsuit filed on April 3, 2015 in Federal Court against The Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Mission Indians by a group of citizens of Santa Ynez, CA. The lawsuit claims that that the tribe is erroneously claiming that the property where they are building their 12 story high rise hotel/casino expansion project is on Federal "Tribal Trust Land" and part of a Federal Indian reservation. The case has now been taken to a United States Federal Court.
Places of significance
Places of significant archaeological and historical value.
- Albinger Archaeological Museum in Ventura – Chumash artifacts and history
- Burro Flats Painted Cave in Simi Valley – Chumash pictographs
- Carpinteria State Beach in Carpinteria – cave paintings depicting Chumash life
- Carpinteria Valley Museum of History and Historical Society in Carpinteria – Chumash artifacts and history
- Chumash Indian Museum in Thousand Oaks – exhibitions of artifacts and recreation of Chumash houses
- Chumash Painted Cave State Historic Park in Santa Barbara – cave paintings
- Hollister Adobe Museum in San Luis Obispo – Chumash artifacts and exhibits
- La Purisima Mission State Historical Park in Lompoc – displays of mission life in reconstructed buildings
- Lompoc Museum in Lompoc – Chumash artifacts and history
- Los Angeles County Museum of Natural History in Los Angeles – anthropology and guided tours for Chumash natural history
- Mission San Luis Obispo Museum – Chumash artifacts and exhibits
- Morro Bay Museum of Natural History – docent presentations and Chumash exhibits
- Ojai Valley Museum and Historical Society in Ojai. Inland Chumash history.
- Painted Rock, Carrizo Plain Natural Heritage Reserve in San Luis Obispo County – cave paintings
- San Buenaventura Mission Museum in Ventura – exhibits on Chumash history
- San Luis Obispo County Historical Museum – Chumash artifacts and exhibits.
- Santa Barbara Historical Society in Santa Barbara. Guided tours.
- Santa Barbara Mission in Santa Barbara. Local Chumash history and guided tours.
- Santa Barbara Mission Archive-Library. Records of all California mission Indians. < http://www.sbmal.org>
- Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History – exhibits on Chumash Indians and natural history of Native Americans
- Santa Barbara Presidio – historical exhibits
- Santa Cruz Island – cave paintings in Olsen’s Cave: More than 300,000 Chumash objects have been collected in the Channel Islands, which was home to 10 villages and more than 1200 Chumash residents.
- San Luis Obispo County Historical Museum – Chumash artifacts and exhibits
- Santa Ines Mission in Solvang – site of an early Spanish mission
- Santa Maria Valley Historical Society Museum – Chumash artifacts and exhibits
- Santa Rosa Island – cave paintings in Jones Cave. Thousands of artifacts of the island, which has been populated by the Chumash for more than 13,000 years, have been found.
- Santa Ynez Indian Reservation (Samala) – the only Chumash Indian reservation
- Southwest Museum in Highland Park
- Ventura County Museum of History and Art in Ventura – exhibits on Chumash history with guided tours available
- Wishtoyo Chumash Discovery Village in Malibu -recreation of a Chumash village and exhibit of artifacts at the Nicholas Canyon County Beach
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Chumash.|
- Burro Flats Painted Cave
- Chumash Painted Cave State Historic Park, California
- Chumash traditional narratives
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- Pre-Columbian trans-oceanic contact
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Sandos J. Christianization among the Chumash: an ethnohistoric perspective. American Indian Quarterly [serial online]. Winter91 1991;15:65–89. Available from: OmniFile Full Text Mega (H.W. Wilson), Ipswich, MA. Accessed March 22, 2014.
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- Chumash Tribe sued over casino expansion http://www.indianz.com/IndianGaming/2015/04/08/chumash-tribe-and-leaders-sued.asp
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- Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians
- Inezeño Chumash Language Tutorial
- Coastal Band of the Chumash Nation
- Antelope Valley Indian Museum at California Department of Parks and Recreation
- Native Cultures and the Maritime Heritage Program, NOAA
- Barbareno Chumash Council
- Northern Chumash Tribal Council
- Chumash Painted Cave State Historic Park
- Chumash Singer and Storyteller Julie Tumamait-Stenslie
- Chumash Indian Museum, Thousand Oaks, CA
- Map of Chumash towns at the time of European Settlement
- "Wishtoyo Foundation's Chumash Discovery Village, Malibu, CA".