Chumash Indians

When you visit the Lompoc Museum, you enter the world of the Chumash Indians, recreated through the objects they made and used in their daily lives. The Chumash Indians lived along the California coast and inland where the climate was gentle and the food bountiful. Occupying the area for at least 13,000 years, their villages are found from Malibu to San Luis Obispo along the coast and as far inland as the western edge of the San Joaquin Valley. The Chumash occupied the Northern Channel Islands as well. Click to view a Map

The Chumash hunted and gathered all they needed to eat from their rich environment. A major part of their diet was shellfish and other sea life collected along the coast. A whale stranded on the beach was an occasion for feasting. Good hunters, the Indians tracked deer and other wild game. Fish and waterfowl were taken from area rivers. The versatile acorn was a diet staple. Food was plentiful.

The Chumash made no metal artifacts; everything they used was made from stone, shell, bone, wood, animal skins, or plant fibers. Superb craftsmen, they wove beautiful baskets and created superb stone and wooden bowls. The tomol canoe was perhaps their supreme achievement. An ingeniously constructed and swift-moving boat, the tomol was used for ocean fishing and trading journeys between the Channel Islands and mainland.

For shelter, well-built dwellings were constructed on a framework of poles and covered with tule grasses. Several families lived together in these houses which may have been thirty feet or more in diameter. Music and games were very important in the lives of these artistic Indians. The Chumash belonged to one language group, but spoke differing dialects in different districts. Rock art figured prominently in Chumash spiritual life. Chumash rock paintings are among the finest in the world in their use of color, form, and complex constructions.

“Chumash Indians”, painted by Master Artist Robert Thomas. | 1992 Mural-in-a-Day sponsored by Lompoc Mural Society. Used with permission of the Lompoc Mural Society.

At the time of the founding of the Missions, perhaps 20,000 Chumash were living in Santa Barbara, San Luis Obispo, and Ventura counties. Thousands died from exposure to western diseases, but scant records make exact counts difficult. Gaps in our knowledge of the Chumash Indians are being filled by ongoing research in archaeology, ethnography, and history.

Most of the kinds of artifacts the Indians used can be seen in the Lompoc Museum, collected from nearby beaches, canyons, and hillside forests. A stone bowl... a perfectly flaked arrowhead... the replica of a mysterious pictograph... These tell the story of the Lompoc residents of yesterday, the Chumash Indians before the Spanish Missions of the eighteenth century. Daily Life.  Read More.

The Chumash Indians of today still occupy their ancestral lands, fully participating and adapting to modern communities while preserving their native customs. Read More.

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Last updated: Wednesday, September 30, 2015 9:06 AM