The Chumash People The Chumash Indian homeland lies along the coast of California, between Malibu and Paso Robles, as well as on the Northern Channel Islands. Before the Mission Period, the Chumash lived in 150 independent towns and villages with a total population of at least 25,000 people.
The Chumash lived in dome-shaped shelters called ‘aps. The frame was made with willow branches, and tule reeds were folded and woven onto the frame. The inside could be divided into different rooms with hanging reed mats.
The people called themselves “the first people,” although many tribal elders today say that Chumash means “bead maker” or “seashell people.” The Spanish used the name “Chumash” to refer to every group of Native Americans living on these islands and along the southern coast of California.
The Chumash and Gabrielino-Tongva peoples were the first human inhabitants of the Channel Islands and Santa Monica Mountains areas. Our peoples are known to have lived here for thousands of years; numerous archaeological sites have been uncovered in the past decade some of which date to 15,000 years.
The Chumash made great use of the abundant natural resources at their disposal. Their diet was rich in acorn meal, fish and shellfish, elderberry, bulbs, roots, and mustard greens. Their domed homes, called aps, were made with willow poles and tule rush.
Chumash, any of several related North American Indian groups speaking a Hokan language. They originally lived in what are now the California coastlands and adjacent inland areas from Malibu northward to Estero Bay, and on the three northern Channel Islands off Santa Barbara.
Unfortunately, in the 1780s the Spanish returned. Over the next few years, the Spanish killed the Chumash in many ways such as stealing their land, forcing them to be part of the mission system, destroying their natural way of life and spreading diseases.
The Spanish invaded their lands in the late 1700’s and forced the Chumash to convert to Christianity become slave-like ‘Mission Indians’. The harsh treatment by the Spanish and then the Mexicans led to the short-lived Chumash Revolt of 1824.
Today, the Chumash are estimated to have a population of 5,000 members. Many current members can trace their ancestors to the five islands of Channel Islands National Park.
Kenneth Kahn, tribal leader of the Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians, talks about progress of the tribe and tribal leaders’ goals.
Recent studies have shocked the Chumash culture by showing that the migration of these people came from the Alaska area instead of Asia. The DNA tests showed strong matches between a fossilized jaw bone found near Alaska and Chumash people living today in California.
How do Chumash Indian children live, and what did they do in the past? Many Chumash children like to go hunting and fishing with their fathers. In the past, Indian kids had more chores and less time to play in their daily lives, just like colonial children. But they did have dolls, toys, and games to play.
Methods such as rain-catch barrels, use of native, less-thirsty plants, mulching and drip irrigation have saved the Tribe over 15,000 gallons of water a year! As an added bonus many of the plants have Chumash ceremonial and other cultural uses, and can be harvested on a regular basis.
The Chumash house, or ‘ap, was round and shaped like half an orange. It was made by setting willow poles in the ground in a circle. The poles were bent in at the top, to form a dome. Then smaller saplings or branches were tied on crosswise.
The Chumash hunted the land animals using a “throwing stick” which was used to kill or stun the animals and could also be used on fish, a “Self Bow, made of Toyon wood, deer buckskin handle wrap”, and a “Dart, with stone tipped fore shaft socketed into the fletched dart.” They killed the sea animals with a 8-9 foot
At Santa Barbara Bay, Chumash ancestors make plank tomols, or canoes, from the trunks of fallen redwood trees that float south hundreds of miles on ocean currents to Chumash territory. They paddle these canoes along the coastline, visiting villages where related tribes live.