Chumashan Family

Chumashan Family. A linguistic family on the coast of south California, known also as Santa Barbara Indians. Like most Californian aborigines, they appear to have lacked an appellation of general significance, and the term Chumash, the name of the Santa Rosa islanders, is arbitrarily chosen for convenience to designate the linguistic stock. Seven dialects of this family are known, those of San Luis Obispo, Purísima, Santa Inez, Santa Barbara, and San Buenaventura missions, and of Santa Rosa and Santa Cruz islands. These are fairly similar except the San Luis Obispo, which stands apart. It is probable that there were other dialects. The Chumashan languages show certain morphologic resemblances to the adjacent Shoshonean and Salinan, especially the latter, but constitute an independent family, as their stock of words is confined to themselves. The territorial limits of the Chumashan Indians are not accurately known. The area shown on Powell’s map 1 includes the entire Santa Maria river drainage, Santa Inez river, the lower half of the Santa Clara river drainage, and Somis creek, the east boundary line on the coast lying between Pt Dame and Santa Monica. Since the language of San Luis Obispo was Chumashan, this region north of the Santa Maria and south of the Salinas drainage must be added. The northern of the Santa Barbara Islands (Santa Cruz, Santa Rosa, and San Miguel) were inhabited by the Chumash, but the 3 southern islands of the group belonged to Shoshonean people.

The Chumashan Indians, both of the islands and of the coast, were visited by Europeans as early as 1542, when Cabrillo spent some time in their territory, meeting with an exceedingly friendly reception. Vizcayno in 1602 and Portola in 1769 also came in contact with them, and have left accounts of their visits. Five missions were established by the Franciscans among the Chumash; those of San Luis Obispo, San Buenaventura, Santa Barbara, Purísima, and Santa Inez, founded respectively in 1771, 1782, 1786, 1787, and 1804, the missionaries meeting with little opposition and no forcible resistance. The early friendship for the Spaniards soon changed to a sullen hatred under their rule, for in 1810 it was reported by a missionary that nearly all the Indian women at Purísima had for a time persistently practiced abortion, and in 1824 the Indians at Santa Barbara, Santa Inez, and Purísima revolted against the mission authority, which they succeeded in shaking off for a time though the Spaniards apparently suffered no loss of life at their hands. Even during mission times the Chumash decreased greatly in numbers, and in 1884 Henshaw found only about 40 individuals. This number has been reduced to less than half, the few survivors being largely “Mexicanized,” and the race is extinct on the islands.

In character and habits the Chumash differed considerably from the other Indians of California. All the early voyagers note their friendliness and hospitality, and their greater affluence and abundance of foal as compared with their neighbors. They appear to have had a plentiful supply of sea food and to have depended on it rather than on the vegetal products which usually formed the subsistence of California Indians. With the islanders this was no doubt a necessity. Their houses were of grass or tale, dome-shaped, and often 50 ft. or more in diameter, accommodating as many as 50 people. Each was inhabited by several families, and they were grouped in villages. The Chumash were noted for their canoes, which were not dug out of a single log, but made of planks lashed together and calked. Most were built for only 2 or 3 men, but some carried 10 and even 13 persons. As no canoes were found anywhere else on the coast from C. San Lucas to C. Mendocino, even where suitable wood is abundant, rafts or tule balsas taking their place, the well-built canoes of the Chumash are evidence of some ethnographic specialization. The same may be said of their carved wooden dishes and of the figures painted on posts, described as erected over graves and at places of worship. On the Santa Barbara islands stone killer-whale figurines have been found, though almost nowhere else in California are there traces of even attempted sculpture. An unusual variety of shell ornaments and of work in shell inlaid by means of asphaltum also characterize the archeological discoveries made in Chumashan territory. Large stone jars similar to those in use among the neighboring Shoshoneans, and coiled baskets somewhat similar to those of their southern neighbors, were made by the Chumash. Their general culture has been extensively treated by Putnam 2. Of their religion very little is known, and nothing of their mythology. The gentile system was not recognized by them, marriage between individuals of the same village being allowed. On Santa Catalina island birds which were called large crows by the Spaniards were kept and worshiped, agreeing with what Boscana tells of the Shoshonean condor cult of the adjacent coast. The medicine men of one of the islands are said to have used stone pipes for smoking, sucking, and blowing to remove disease, dressing in a hair wig, with a belt of deer hoofs. This practice was similar to that which prevailed through Lower California. The dead among the Chumash were buried, not burned as in many other parts of California; property was hung on poles over their graves, and for chiefs painted planks were erected. The Franciscan missionaries, however, rightly declare that these Indians, like all others In California, were not idolaters.

True tribal divisions were unknown to the Chumash as to most other Indians of California, the only basis of social organization being the family, and of political, the village settlement. The names of village sites are given in great number from the time of the earliest voyage in the 16th century, but the majority can neither he located nor identified. The following is a list of the villages, most of the names being taken from the mission archives:

Santa Inez Mission:

Achillimo, Aguama, Ahuamhoue, Akachumas, Akaitsuk, Alahulapgas, Alizway, Asiuhuil, Awashlaurk, Calahuasa, Cascel, Cholicus, Chumuchu, Coloc, Geguep, Guaislac, Huhunata, Hunawurp, lalamne, Ionata, Jonatas, Kalak, Kalawashuk, Katahuac, Kulahuasa, Kuyam, Matiliha, Mekewe, Mishtapawa, Nipoma, Nutonto, Sapelek, Saptuui, Sauchu, Shopeshno, Sikitipuc, Sisuchi, Situchi, Sotonoemu, Souscoc, Stucu, Suiesia, Suktanakamu, Tahijuas, Takuyumam, Talaxano, Tapanissilac, Tarkepsi, Tekep, Temesathi, Tequepis, Tinachi, Tsamala, Tujanisuissilac.

San. Miguel Island:

Nimollollo, Zaco.

Santa Rosa Island:

Kshiwukciwu, Lilibeque, Muoc, Ninumu, Níquesesquelua, Niquipos, Patiquilid, Patiquiu, Pilidquay, Pisqueno, Poele, Siliwihi.

Santa Cruz Island:

Alali, Chalosas, Chosho, Coycoy, Estocoloco, Hahas, Hitschowon, Klakaamu, Lacayamu, Liyam, Macamo, Mashcal, Mishumac, Nanahuani, Niakla, Nichochi, Nilalhuyu, Nimatlala, Nimitapal, Nitel, Nomkolkol, Sasuagel, Xugua

San Buenaventura Mission:

Aguin, Alloc, Anacbuc, Chihucchihui, Chumpache, Eshulup, Kachyayakuch, Kanwaiakaku, Kinapuke, Lacayamu, Liam, Lisichi, Lojos, Luupsch, Mahow, Malahue, Malico, Matilhja, Miguihui, Miscanaka, Piiru, Sespe, Shishalap, Simi. Sisa, Sisjulcioy, Sissabanonase, Soma, Tapo, Ypuc, Yxaulo.

Purísima Mission:

Alacupusyuen, Ausion, Esmischue, Esnispele, Espiiluima, Estait, Fax, Guaslaique, Huasna, Huenejel, Huenepel, Husistaic, Ialatnma, Jlaacs, Kachisupal, Lajuchu, Lipook, Lisahuats, Lompoc, Nahuey, Naila, Ninyuelgual, Nocto, Omaxtux Pacsiol, Paxpili, Sacsiol, Sacspili, Salachi, Sihimi, Silimastus, Silimi, Silino, Silisne, Sipuca, Sisolop, Sitolo, Stipu, Suntaho, Tutachro.
Santa Barbara Mission: Alcax, Alican, Alpincha, Alwathalama, Amolomol, Anejue, Awhawhilashmu, Cajats, Cajpilili, Casalic, Cashwah, Chiuchin, Cholosoc, Chuah, Cinihuay, Cuyamus, Eleunaxciay, Eljman, Eluaxcu, Estuc, Geliac, Gleuaxcuqu, Guainonost, Guina, Hanava, Hello, Huelemin, Huililoc, Huixapapa, Humalija, Hunxapa, Inajalaihu, Inojey, Ipec, Ituc, Lagcay, Laycayamu, Lintja, Lisuchu, Lugups, Majalayghua, Mishtapalwa, Mistaughchewaugh, Numguelgar, Otenashmoo, Salpilel, Sayokinck, Sihuicom, Silpoponemew, Sinicon, Sisahiahut, Sisuch, Snihuax, Sopone, Taxlipu, Texmaw, Xalanaj, Xalou.


Anacoat, Anacot, Antap, Aogni, Asimu, Bis, Caacat, Casnahacmo, Casunalmo, Cayeguas, Chwaiyok, Cicacut, Ciucut, Ciyuktun, Elquis, Escumawash, Garomisopona, Gun, Helapoonuch, Honmoyaushu, Hueneme, Humkak, Immahal, Isha, Ishgua, Kamulas, Kasaktikat, Kashiwe, Kashtok, Kashtu, Kaso, Katstayot, Kaughii, Kesmali, Koiyo, Kuiyamu, Lohastahni, Mahahal, Malhokshe, Malito, Malulowoni, Maquinanoa, Masewuk, Mershom, Michiyu, Micoma, Misesopano, Mishapsna, Misinagua, Mismatuk, Mispu, Mugu, Mupu, Nacbue, Nipomo, Nocos, Ojai, Olesino, Onkot, Onomio, Opia, Opistopia, Paltatre, Partocac, Potoltuc, Pualnacatup, Quanmugua, Quelqueme, Quiman, Salnahakaisiku, Sapaquonil, Saticoy, Satwiwa, Shalawa, Shalkahaan, Shisblaman, Sholikuwewich, Shuku, Shup, Shushuchi, Shuwalashu, Simomo, Sisichii, Sitaptapa, Siuktun, Skonon, Spookow, Sulapiu, Susuquey, Sweteti, Swino, Tallapoolina, Temeteti, Tocane, Topotopow, Tukachkach, Tushumu, Upop, Walektre, Wihatset, Xabaagua, Xagua, Xocotoc, Yutum.

Chumash Tribe

The Santa Rosa islanders, of the Chumashan family of California.

For Further Study

The following articles and manuscripts will shed additional light on the Chumash as both an ethnological study, and as a people.

  • Bowers in Smithson. Rep., 316, 1877


  1. 7th Rep. B. A. E., 1891[]
  2. Wheeler, Survey Rep., VII, 1879[]

Hodge, Frederick Webb, Compiler. The Handbook of American Indians North of Mexico. Bureau of American Ethnology, Government Printing Office. 1906.

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