The Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History
Anthropology Department

Chumash life 13,000 year timeline Museum resources/info California Regional Maps Artist's conception of early Santa Barbara-'Syuxtun'
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:: The Chumash People of  California ::

Chumash life was centered around the village.

At one time there were hundreds of separate Chumash villages here in Santa Barbara. Some villages were as large as towns while others were quite small. The villages were constructed on high ground near lagoons, creek mouths, lakes, or springs. The largest villages were built along the mainland coast near the Santa Barbara Channel. Some other Indian people had similar customs, but no other Native Americans lived in exactly the same way as the Chumash people. Their invention and use of the plank canoe, their extraordinary baskets, tools and bead making, their customs and beliefs, and their craftmanship are what make the Chumash Indians unique. Various groups spoke distinct languages.

Each Chumash family lived in a house called an 'ap. A village would have many such dwellings. At least one sweathouse, or 'apa'yik, was built in every village, too.

Each village had a playground: a smooth level area big enough to play outdoor games such as shinny, kick ball and the hoop-and-pole game. Another area in the village was a ceremonial dance ground surrounded by a high fence of tule mats to serve as a wind break. Inside was the siliyk or sacred enclosure, a semi-circular area, enclosed for privacy, where priests and shamans conducted religious rituals.

return to topTO TOP Canoe travel Basket making Houses How money was made Clothing

Chumash flute music Listen to a contemporary Chumash flute player. The music you hear are recordings played by Lew Silva Chumash Indian.

On 28k modem, these sound files will take 1.5 minutes to load into your computer.
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This links to
information about the
Lone Woman of San Nicolas Island.
The Lone Woman was not a Chumash Indian. Follow this link to learn about her life


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This Tishle' blade is the only surviving example of a Chumash tomol paddle. The paddle was collected during Vancouver's visit to the Santa Barbara area in 1793 and presently resides in the British Museum collection.

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