From the mountains to the sea, Mission Creek flows past the Museum of Natural History and through the heart of Santa Barbara. Along this life-giving stream were many places important to the Chumash people. Here are the names of some of those places, starting at the shoreline.
Syuxtun meaning it splits, or where the two trails run, referred to a fork in the main trail along the coast. Just west of the mouth of Mission Creek lay the large Chumash town of Syuxtun, a political capital. The chief of this town also had authority over several other villages in the surrounding area. In 1542, when Cabrillo visited, the chief of Syuxtun was a woman. When the Presidio was established 240 years later, the chief here was a man named Yanonalit. Today's Yanonali street, one end of which is near the former site of Syuxtun, is named for this chief.
'Amólomol meaning hill, mound, was a large mound that existed along the beach near the town of Syuxtun.
'Alpinche'one that is spread open, applied to the general vicinity of the Presidio and the town of Santa Barbara that grew up around it. This name was said to refer to a place where there were acorns that could be opened easily.
Kashu'nay was a place just upstream from Oak Park. Growing at this spot was a plant called shu'nay, or sumac, which Chumash weavers used in making baskets.
'Axtayuxash, wild cherry seeds, refers to an important food that the Chumash collected. It was also the name of a place where there were wild cherry bushes growing near the bridge by the Mission. In Spanish this seed is called Islay, a street name in Santa Barbara today.
Sixi'm Hul'ashk'a' means Coyote's storage basket, referring to a large rock near a spring somewhere in Mission Canyon, but its exact location is unknown.
Monushmu paint, a place apparently located north of Santa Barbara's Riviera hill, may refer to an area where the Chumash obtained red pigment that had magical and medicinal uses. Along the foot of the Santa Ynez Mountains are outcrops of the Sespe Formation that weather to a reddish, iron- stained soil.
Hushlikayi Hulxshap may be the original name for Rattlesnake Canyon, which meets Mission Creek halfway between the Museum and the Botanic Garden. Xshap is the Chumash name for rattlesnake.
Xana'yan was a Chumash village that existed in Mission Canyon. Its exact location has not been pinpointed, but it was apparently upstream from the confluence with Rattlesnake Creek.
'Utapí'qtse at the site of the mission dam, refers to a Chumash legend. Once Coyote came upon a group of children who were digging cacomites (brodiaea bulbs) for food. Seeing that Coyote was very skinny, some of the children readily gave him bulbs to eat. The others refused to share. Then they all went up to the dam to roast the bulbs they had harvested. Coyote bewitched the bulbs while they were cooking so that those belonging to the generous children came out perfectly, but those of the stingy children got burned to a crisp. 'Utapí'qtse means they roasted and burned the brodiaea bulbs.
How do you pronounce the Chumash names?
The vowels a,e,i,o,u are pronounced the same way as in Spanish. The letter x is like x or j in Spanish, a sort of gutteral kh sound. A special symbol, i, refers to a sound midway between the 'i' in 'tick' and the 'u' in 'tuck' (think of the sound you make when you step on something squishy). The apostrophe ' represents what linguists call a glottal stop, like the catch sound your throat makes when you say 'uh-oh.' In most Barbareño Chumash words, the stress falls on the next-to-last syllable.