THE CHUMASH INDIANS


Santa Ynez Chumash man, circa 1878The Chumash Indians were some of the first people to inhabit North America.  Evidence was found, showing that they have had settlements on the Channel Islands and Santa Monica Mountains as far back as thousands of years ago.

Ironically, the Chumash are now a people without land to call their own, as most Chumash bands have not, with the exception of the Santa Ynez Samala band,  yet made the list of federally recognized tribes.

Once a thriving culture, the Chumash, as did other Native American tribes, succumbed to Spanish conquistadors and American colonists.

There were at one time over 20,000 Chumash living along the California coastline.  The prehistoric and historic Chumash were a maritime culture, using long wooden canoes called tomols to fish and travel between different villages along the Pacific coast.  The Chumash were a hunter-gatherer tribe, and even though they were sedentary, they did not farm the land. 

The Chumash were physically and spiritually united with nature, and did not waste any part of any animal they killed, or any plant they pulled from the earth.  They lived according to "nature's time", and believed that man's greed and desire for supremacy could eventually lead to his downfall.

The Chumash were a matriarchal society, meaning their lineage was traced from the mother's side of the family, and that the Chief could be either a man or a woman. They were also considered to be the keepers of the Western Gate, and took this responsibility very seriously, which is probably why knowledge of their respect of nature is remembered as one of their defining traits.

The Chumash had a rich spiritual heritage, most of which has been documented through their magnificent pictographs and petroglyphs, songs, dances, and legends.  The Chumash also enjoyed games and they often played against other tribes in friendly Shinny Hockey tournaments.  In addition of sports, the Chumash also gambled, having developed several variation of dice games. Gaming was as educational as it was entertaining, as it served to teach the young about diplomacy, ethics, and life skills.


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Last modified: May 12, 2003