Learn about the history and culture of the Chumash Indians

Many of these returned exiles were faced with difficult tasks of reconstructing their decimated communities in the wake of crippling population declines. Furthermore their tribal lands had become transformed by the introduction of vast herds of horses, cattle, sheep, goats and hogs that destroyed the native flora, the primary source of native diet. Wild game animals were likewise driven off by these new animals. What developed from this new condition was the emergence of guerrilla Indian bands made-up of former fugitive mission Indians and interior tribesmen from villages devastated by official and unofficial Mexican paramilitary attacks and slave hunting raids. Eventually a significant number of these interior groups joined together to form new conglomerate tribes. These innovative and resilient tribes quickly converted the anti-mission activities of their members into systematic efforts to re-assert their sovereignty by widespread and highly organized campaigns against Mexican ranchers and government authority in general.

: Map showing the original territories of the Chumash and other California Indians.

Like everywhere else, in California, villages were fiercely independent and governed internally, The abundant food supply allowed for the establishment of villages of up to 1000 individuals, including craft specialists who produced specific objects and goods for a living. In smaller communities, each family produced all that was necessary for survival.
Southern California


Culture, history and genealogy of the Pomo Indians.

: Profile and historical timeline of the Chumash Indians of California.

These Indians found tule to be a useful source of both food (the rootbulb is consumed) and a convenient material when laced together to form floor mats and structure covering. Volcanic mountains in the Western portion of their territory supplied the valuable trade commodity obsidian. The Social-political organization of these peoples was independent but connected to their neighbors by marriage ties. Following contact, the Achumawi and Atsuguewi suffered a tremendous population decline due to vigilante violence and respiratory diseases. The Modocs spectacular 1872 resistance to removal to the Oregon territory was the last heroic military defense of native sovereignty in 19th century California Indian History.


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Native American Indians welcomed us to these shores in Florida, Virginia, and Massachusetts, and eventually the entire East coast. The first Mass of Thanksgiving on American soil was actually celebrated by the Spanish with the Timucuan Indians from Seloy village in attendance on September 8, 1565 in St. Augustine, Florida.

The , who sought religious freedom and crossed the Atlantic in the in 1620, were treated kindly by the Wampanoag tribe in Massachusetts. Samoset and Squanto showed the Pilgrims how to plant corn, beans, and pumpkins, and where to hunt and fish. William Bradford and the sachem Massasoit made a treaty which they honored as long as both were alive. The image of the first at Plymouth in 1621 with the Pilgrims, Massasoit of Pokanoket and the Wampanoag Nation is forever etched upon the American conscience.

The Pilgrims in Massachusetts, Roger Williams and the Baptists in Rhode Island, Leonard Calvert and the Catholics in Maryland, and William Penn and the Quakers in Pennsylvania began their religious settlements buying the land and treating the Indians with mutual respect. For example, Father Andrew White SJ, who was one of the first settlers to arrive in on March 25, 1634, worked patiently with the Piscataway Indians of Maryland and prepared a grammar dictionary and catechism in their native tongue: this was the first time an Indian language was distilled into grammatical form. The Missionary Reverend John Eliot in Massachusetts translated the entire Bible in 1649 into the Algonquin language, the dialect of the Massachusetts Indians. Indians who did convert lived mainly on Cape Cod and were known as .

They view nature as Mother Earth

First, Native Americans had no immunologic protection against such European diseases as smallpox, typhus, and measles. For those in frequent contact with European settlers, the effects were devastating: it is estimated that up to 90% of native Americans, perhaps numbering in the millions, died during the first century of contact with the Europeans.

Second, Native Americans had different spiritual beliefs than Europeans. They saw the land as a living being, as a mother who nurtured her children. The thought of buying and selling land was unthinkable to them. The Indians saw the offers from Europeans for land to build and farm as joining an existing relationship, not to transfer ownership. Misperception ensued. Some tribes resented the attempts of the Europeans to convert them to Christianity.

And third, the Indian tribes, with the exception of the Five Nation Iroquois, lacked unity, and, as most of the European nations at the time, were often rivals with each other. This made them vulnerable to the Europeans with their superior weaponry.

The Virginia Company was the first to establish a permanent English colony in 1607 at Jamestown, named after King James I of England. The Anglicans barely survived the first winter, but antagonism quickly developed with the Powhatan Indians. The first of three Anglo-Powhatan Wars ensued as early as 1609, and did not resolve until the of Pocahontas and John Rolfe in 1614. Tobacco brought survival to the English colony. The first meeting of the House of Burgesses in a Jamestown church on July 30, 1619 was the first representative government in the English colonies.

Atrocities between Indians and colonists happened everywhere and were committed by both sides. Five Spanish Franciscans who attempted to introduce monogamous marriage to the Guale Indians were martyred in Darien, Georgia in September 1597. Five hundred Pequot Indian men, women, and children were burned alive in May 1637 at Mystic River, Connecticut by a vengeful Puritan militia in the name of divine retribution. Isaac Jogues and seven French Jesuits were martyred by the Mohawks at Auriesville, New York in October 1646. Metacomet, known as King Philip, the son of the Pokanoket sachem Massasoit, tried to preserve Native American presence against the unprincipled land grab of colonial expansion in New England, and led the June 1675 - August 1676 King Philip's War, but died August 12, 1676. But the worst devastation began in 1702, when James Moore, the English Governor of South Carolina, wrote his own Black Legend when he, his soldiers, and Yemassee Indians swept through Georgia to Florida and annihilated the Franciscan missions and massacred the Timucua and Apalachee Mission Indians of Florida, some by impaling them on stakes or burning them alive. He then attacked St. Augustine, but the townsfolk retreated to St. Mark's Castle. Moore bombarded the castle for 50 days, but, unsuccessful, Moore finally gave up, but not before he torched most of the town. By his own writings, Moore captured several thousand Indians and reduced them to slavery. Disgraced, he stepped down as governor upon his return, not because of his extreme cruelty, but because of his failure to capture St. Augustine!