Like that of many other Native American cultures, Chumash Indian
mythology features animal deities who existed before man, and
interacted with the elements and spirits in the heavens. The
Chumash myth tells of a great deluge which engulfed the earth, taking
with it all living things save for the Spotted Woodpecker, the nephew
of Kaqunupenawa, the Sun God.
Spotted Woodpecker survived the flood by perching itself atop the
tallest tree in the world, but as he saw the water rise all the way to
his feet, he cried out for his uncle's help. "Save me, I'm
drowning! - he cried. The Sun God's daughters heard him and told
Kaqunupenawa that his nephew was dying of cold and hunger. The
Sun God lowered his torch, the one he used to light the world and
create the stars, and he warmed the Spotted Woodpecker with its heat.
He then tossed two acorns in the water at his feet, so that he
would be able to pick them up and eat them. The Sun God fed more
acorns to the Spotted Woodpecker, which now explains why they are its
After the flood, the Sun God, Morning Star, the Moon, and Slo'w the
Great Eagle were discussing the creation of new people to populate the
earth with the Sky Coyote, trying to decide on their appearance.
The Great Eagle and the Sky Coyote argued whether the humans should
have hands like the the Sky Coyote's, who believed that the new people
should be made in his image. He won the argument, and the next
day, all gathered around a white rock so that Sky Coyote could press
his hand into it to make his hand print, but the Lizard, who had been
a silent observer at the proceedings leapt forward and pressed his own
hand onto the rock. Lizard escaped the furious Sky Coyote, and
the Sun and the Eagle approved of the hand print and this is why human
hands are somewhat shaped like the Lizard's.
The first people were created from the seeds planted on Limuw (Santa Cruz
Island) by Hutash, the Earth Goddess. Hutash was married to the
Sky Snake (The Milky Way), who made lightning with his tongue and gave the people
their first fire. The people kept the fire burning to stay warm and
cook their food. Since the people were getting more comfortable,
their population grew until the Island became too crowded.
They also made so much noise that Hutash could not get any sleep,
so she decided it was time to allow some of the people to cross over
to the mainland. Hutash made Wishtoyo, a Rainbow Bridge which
extended from the tallest peak of the Island to the tallest inland
mountain near Carpinteria. She told the people to cross
carefully, and to never look down, but some did, and fell off the
Rainbow Bridge and into the ocean, where they were turned into
dolphins by Hutash to prevent them from drowning. This is why
the Chumash Indians consider the dolphins to be their brothers.
The Chumash honor Hutash every September with a great Harvest Festival
named after her.
more on the Rainbow Bridge and other Chumash legends, we recommend you
The Rainbow Bridge
by Audrey Wood, and Robert