ETHNONYM: Santa Barbara Indians

The Chumash are a Hokan-speaking American Indian group who in the late eighteenth century was located in Present-day southern coastal California near Santa Barbara and numbered between ten thousand and eighteen thousand. The Chumash were primarily gatherers whose food staple was the acorn. In addition, inland groups hunted deer and rabbits, while coastal groups fished, hunted waterfowl, and harvested shellfish.

The Chumash were missionized by the Spanish during the late 1700s and thereafter were divided into six local groups, each associated with a specific mission station and led by a chief who inherited his position. Shamans cured the sick with a combination of herbal medicines and powers obtained from guardian spirits. Missionization was complete by the beginning of the nineteenth century and was accompanied by a dramatic decline in the population as a result of disease. In 1980 an unknown number of Chumash were assimilated into the general population of southern California, while about 120 of their number lived on the small Santa Ynez Indian Reservation near Santa Barbara. The tribal Government on the reservation consists of a general council of all members twenty-one years of age or older and an elected five-member business council.


Landberg, Leif C. W. (1965). The Chumash Indians of Southern California. Los Angeles: Southwest Museum.

McCall, Lynn, and Rosalind Perry (1986). California's Chumash Indians. Santa Barbara, Calif.: John Daniel, Publisher.

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