Central Coast Chumash Indians

By
Real Estate Agent with Sand Shell Realty

In beginning this topic on the Chumash Indians I take great care and appreciation for what I am about to write. I have great respect and honor for the native Americans and native peoples of a lot of different cultures such as the Aztecs, Incas, Mayans, native Hawaiian’s and other great civilizations that have been infringed upon by our European idealistic superiority. I begin to embark on this blog for Celeste and the challenge she returned to me after I desired her to expand on the Hawaiian culture in its rawest form which she did, entitling the Localism Featured blog “The History of Hawaiian Homes” which I invite you all to read.

This subject will predate the Spanish exploration of Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo in 1542, the first recorded European explorer of this area. The Chumash Indians in their native state is the subject of this blog, their history, their culture, and their lives.


Chumash working with toolsThe Chumash Indians are the natives of the area we now call the Central Coast of California, stretching South of Malibu CA, North of Cambria CA, into Big Sur, out to the Channel Islands, and inland to the San Joaquin Valley. Their culture, homes, and territories were well established with over 150 independent villages, 7,000 square miles and a population estimated at over 18,000. Science dates the first settlements in this area back to 11,000 B.C.

Chumash means “bead maker”, “Seashell people” or “the ones who make shell bead money” and were hunters, gatherers and fishermen. Like many cultures they recognized the life of nature and how the lives of their people depended on its providence. Ceremonies were set based on the times and seasons of the moon, and sun. Their father, the sun, was celebrated in his respective seasons and transition points we call the summer and winter solstices.

As one of the most advanced boat builders, the Chumash Indians used tar found naturally to strengthen the seagoing plank canoe boats (tomol) they built from native redwoods, and driftwood. Invented about 2,000 years ago and able to withstand the waves of our Pacific Ocean, these boats gave them travel up and down the coast line connecting culture and trade amongst the Chumash Indian villages. Each village had adapted cultures and resources in their distinct locations and sea shells were used as money to trade amongst the Chumash tribes.

Chumash awlFine twined baskets, necklaces, jewelry, arrowheads, stone cookware, and seashell money are prevalent artifacts left by this culture. There are spots around where I live that you can be sure to find arrowheads and other artifacts after looking only a short while. A mound on a hill in Cambria is a known ceremonial ground of the Chumash. Burial grounds are scattered throughout the area, these locations are the sites of established villages. Food storage and the harvesting of crops allowed for these stationary societies to hunt, fish, and live in. Another site at a farm where I grew up was littered with old abalone shells, arrowheads, mortar and pestle remains and other treasures my family collected. 

The Chumash were led by chiefs / priests (wots) of both men and women. The shamen / astrologers were knowledgeable in the changing of seasons and mapped the stars to guide the people into the future. The chief’s offspring was the inheritor of position, wealth, and ultimately supreme control of the tribe.

Chumash ceremonies were held at mounds, hills, caves or other special sites. Cave paintings can still be found depicting the events, animals and people that were part of their beliefs and rituals for generations. Most of these paintings are under 1,000 years old and are protected by the state. Their locations are even withheld to the public for the most part. One location can be visited in Santa Barbara call Painted Cave. More information about this and other Chumash facts can be found on a Santa Barbara based website: Chumash Indian Life.


Today the Chumash families and museums are found with collections of pictures and artifacts depicting culture before the Spanish Missions lined California and wiped the Chumash nearly into non existence. Some Santa Ynez Chumash have capitalized like other Native Americans on their ability to build gaming casinos; theirs is the Chumash Casino in Santa Ynez. Find out more about the Santa Ynez Chumash

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Ambassador
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Celeste "SALLY" Cheeseman
Century 21 Liberty Homes - Mililani, HI
(RA) AHWD CRS ePRO OAHU HAWAII REAL ESTATE

Thank you so much!  I really enjoyed that!  You know, there were Hawaiian artifacts found in a cave and then someone stole them (to protect them) and big news here.  A lot has to be kept where it is found for otherwise may disturb the "souls".  Bookmarked to go read the the rest from your links...thanks again! I know this took a lot of work....History is a lot of research and work ...but didn't you learn more while doing it?

Jun 10, 2007 06:23 PM #1
Rainer
33,543
Abraham Chaffin
Sand Shell Realty - Cambria, CA
Cambria Real Estate

Oh yea! I enjoy looking at these cultures who in many respects were a lot more civilized then the modern cultures we live in. I'm sure my opinion comes out in the writings =) 

Jun 10, 2007 06:41 PM #2
Ambassador
1,085,809
Celeste "SALLY" Cheeseman
Century 21 Liberty Homes - Mililani, HI
(RA) AHWD CRS ePRO OAHU HAWAII REAL ESTATE
As do mine!
Jun 10, 2007 06:59 PM #3
Rainmaker
333,745
Jeff R. Geoghan
Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage - Lancaster, PA
REALTOR, Marketing Manager
Good post, Abraham.  Good history of the area.  What prompted you to write on this subject?
Jun 11, 2007 11:57 AM #4
Rainer
33,543
Abraham Chaffin
Sand Shell Realty - Cambria, CA
Cambria Real Estate
Celeste and I challenged each other to write on the pre-European civilizations that occupied the area where we live and work. She did a wonderful job on hers so I tried to return the favor =)
Jun 11, 2007 01:24 PM #5
Rainer
33,543
Abraham Chaffin
Sand Shell Realty - Cambria, CA
Cambria Real Estate
I've enjoyed the learning experience so far - I'm sure there will be more to come about these amazing people!
Jun 12, 2007 08:40 AM #7
Rainer
34,223
Marie Kletke
iNet Realty - Long Beach, CA
Broker - Long Beach Real Estate

Abraham,

That was great!  It's always nice to know the history.  We are finally recognizing that there were cultures that existed before the Americas were "discovered"!  Thank YOu!

Jun 12, 2007 01:47 PM #9
Rainer
33,543
Abraham Chaffin
Sand Shell Realty - Cambria, CA
Cambria Real Estate

Celeste: Great things are coming - I'm sure - just what they are exactly I don't know atm =D 

Marie: You're so right! It's amazing to me how people think their way and culture is the best and only way things should be. These natives had such wonderful cultures, histories and in some cases technologies that are sadly unpreserved in their entirety.

Jun 13, 2007 03:22 AM #10
Rainmaker
333,745
Jeff R. Geoghan
Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage - Lancaster, PA
REALTOR, Marketing Manager
How about a(nother) piece about the region's wine tradition?  And Hawaii's coffee?  Just brainstorming...
Jun 13, 2007 04:47 AM #11
Rainer
33,543
Abraham Chaffin
Sand Shell Realty - Cambria, CA
Cambria Real Estate

Hey Jeff,

There's a little piece about Central Coast wine here - I do plan on getting more involved with this one in the future. 

Jun 13, 2007 05:11 AM #12
Rainmaker
333,745
Jeff R. Geoghan
Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage - Lancaster, PA
REALTOR, Marketing Manager
Sounds good. I used to work for a winery and traveled through Cambria periodically.
Jun 14, 2007 02:12 AM #13
Rainer
913
Peter Roa
Keller Williams North County - Paso Robles, CA

Interesting topic Jeff.  When I first moved to the Central Coast I lived in Atascadero.  There we purchased a new home at The Lakes - a Midland Pacific development.  The development has two man made lakes that are fed from a natural year round spring.  Because of this spring the area is believed to have been populated by Chumash Indians for centuries.  Before building, the area had to be cleared by archaeologists.  On the property there were at found at least three separate Indian graves.  One of these graves was located in a neighbors yard across the street from us.  It held an estimated 2000 year old female.  The body was in a seated position sitting up in the grave with large boulders surrounding her.  It was suggested that because of the manner of burial, this person could have held an important position in her community.  The grave (as well as the others) were rebuilt intact.  Representatives from the Chumash community were on hand to supervise the grading of the property and the subsequent archaeological digs.  As a homeowner, if you wished to build a pool, you had to hire an archaeologist.  One of my neighbors found an arrowhead in their yard.

Oct 11, 2008 10:56 AM #19
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Abraham Chaffin

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