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California's Chumash Indians

Monday, September 27, 2010
Earlier this year, I learned about The Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians after spending a few days in Palm Springs.  And now here we are, several months later, and I'm learning about the Chumash Indians after spending this past weekend enjoying the California coastline and Santa Barbara County's El Capitan (bee-yoot-ee-ful!) with my very own Mr. Incredible (aka my husband).  "It's so beautiful here, it's no wonder that the US would just take land from Mexico and lay claim to California," Mr. Incredible said while we were making our way home.  "Yeah, but Mexico - the Spanish conquistadors anyway - took the land from Indians, right?" I countered.  "Yep," he said.  "The Chumash Indians were the original settlers here and they don't own their own land anymore."  (How did he know that? and why did we pass a sign that said Chumash Reservation and Chumash Casino?)  According to, 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.  Bummer.  And as many time as I've driven the California coast and hung out in Santa Barbara, I'd never tuned in to the Chumash Indians before (tsk tsk) and I couldn't help but think about how fortunate they were to have lived in such a beautiful place and how unfortunate it was that yet another tribe of American-Indians lost their land. also has this to say:


"The 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.  There were at one time over 20,000 Chumash living along the California coastline.  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 lived by three basic laws which were:
1. Limitation; this meant each individual should recognize and accept his or her limitations, and not envy those of others. This mean that each member of the tribe should be happy in their abilities, for they all had equal value in the community.
2. Moderation; take only what you need from the land and the ocean. Leave some for future days and future peoples. The same goes for your tasks; better to take your time than make a mistake which would render all your work useless.
3. Compensation; give without expecting anything in return, give from the kindness of your heart, and recognize the fact that compensation comes in many forms which are not always tangible." 
And while there's way more to Chumash culture than what I've typed in this blog post, I can't help but think out loud that we could all probably take a few pointers from the Chumash Indian's three basic laws.  I'm just sayin'...



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