Chumash Indians

The Chumash Indians lived in the southern region of California along the coast – what we now know as the areas of Ventura and Santa Barbara and down to modern day Malibu. The Chumash Indians also lived on the three islands which are part of the Channel Islands.

Prior to coming into contact with the Spanish, the population of the Chumash Indians is estimated to be in the tens of thousands. Today there are approximately 5,000 Chumash Indians.  The Chumash call themselves “the first people.” With resources from both the sea and land, the Chumash were able to enjoy a prosperous way of life.

The Chumash, like most American Indian tribes, recognized that their life depended upon the world and nature.  The first Chumash Indians were said to live in large, dome-shaped homes. Bones from whales and willow branches were used to reinforce their homes. The dome-shaped homes were large -- with as many as 50 people occupying one home. Mats made from reeds were used as walls to allow privacy. Beds were built on platforms and the areas under the platforms were used for storage.

Among the California Indians, the Chumash were known for their boat building. The Chumash Indians were only one of two Indian nations who regularly navigated the ocean. The Chumash used Northern California redwood and tar to build their boats. Boats gave the Chumash access to their villages -- which were in the islands and up and down the coast of California.

It should be noted that the towns of Summerland, Santa Barbara, Montecito and Carpentaria were niched out of Chumash territory.  Artifacts from early Chumash life are eagerly sought. Two collections are available for viewing at the Smithsonian Institute and the Museum of Mankind (Musee de l’Homme) in Paris.

Joseph Paige 2006

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