The culture of the Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians is deep within the souls of every tribal member and rests within our hearts. Over the years, various political and religious groups have tried to take our culture from us. By forbidding us to speak our language, sending Chumash children to boarding schools and forcing us to move away from our traditional native religion, many of our core beliefs were stripped away from us.

The pressure has always existed for us to assimilate and forsake our culture. Despite the many attempts to eradicate our culture, we maintained our connection to our ancestors and to our core identity of being Chumash. We survived because of our strength as a tribe and our spiritual connection to Chumash heritage.

Chumash culture hasn’t been erased. Thanks to the revenue from our Chumash Casino Resort, we can now implement cultural enrichment programs that we couldn’t previously afford. We can ensure that our culture remains strong within our tribe and is preserved for our children.

We have many cultural programs available for our Chumash tribal members and their children ranging from basket weaving classes to Samala language classes. The following are examples of the ways in which we instill and preserve our Chumash culture:

Chumash Language Program
Speaking the language of our ancestors has only been a dream…until now. Under the guidance of Dr. Richard Applegate a 10-week language class was established to provide students with the necessary skills to speak, read, and write the native language of our Chumash ancestors.

Learning the language directly from our elders would have been the ideal situation. Unfortunately, that wasn’t a possibility since the last Chumash elder who spoke the language passed away many years ago. However, Dr. Applegate is an excellent teacher and, most importantly, is a foremost expert on our language.

In the late 1960s and early 1970s, while he was a graduate student at UC Berkeley, Dr. Applegate spent time working with materials from linguist and ethnologist John Peabody Harrington. He wrote his dissertation on the Ineseño Chumash language and it became dear to his heart. With our language program, he put his knowledge to practical use by sharing his expertise with us.

After the successful development of the language program, a decision was made to expand the program to include a language dictionary. After years of hard work, the comprehensive, encyclopedia-type dictionary was unveiled. Along with over 4,000 entries, the “The Samala-English Dictionary-A Guide to the Samala Language of the Ineseño Chumash People,” also features a resource guide, a pronunciation guide disc, and a English to Samala index.

Tomol Crossing
If there was ever a clear illustration that culture is alive and strong with the Chumash people, it was during the tomol crossing of the Santa Barbara Channel.

On September 26, 27, and 28, a group of descendents from various Chumash nations will be embarking upon a tomol channel crossing for a sacred site gathering and a time for celebration.

Reginald Pagaling, a tribal elder from the Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians, represented our band as a member of the main crew in this exciting venture.

It was the eighth crossing for Pagaling who recalled the optimal conditions of the voyage. “This most recent trip there wasn’t much wind to compete with, currents weren’t a concern, and we didn’t have any problems with supply ships in the shipping lanes.”

The recent crossing would prove to be the fastest voyage to-date with the paddlers leaving the Channel Island Harbor in Oxnard at 3:00 a.m. and reaching Scorpion Bay on Santa Cruz Island by 11:00 a.m. It took the paddlers only 8 hours to reach the area on the island known as Limuw, which was the site for the largest Chumash village on the island.

The tomol, a redwood planked boat held together by tar and pine pitch, was used by our ancestors some 2000 years ago for both cultural and commercial purposes.

Click here to see photos of the crossing. Click here to read a first-hand account of last year's Tomol crossing from Reggie Pagaling.

Pow Wow
Our inter-tribal Pow-Wow has featured drummers from the U.S. and Canada, a variety of foods and beautiful hand-made native crafts. Although Pow-Wows weren’t traditionally part of the Chumash culture we wanted to provide the community with both an educational and cultural experience that focuses on Native American music, arts and customs.

In addition to providing an exciting and rewarding experience for those attending the Pow-Wow, our goal in producing this inspiring event is to promote self-reliance and pride in Native Americans by honoring our traditions and culture.

The 2019 24th Annual Chumash Inter-Tribal Pow-Wow will be held October 5-6 at the Live Oak Campground in Santa Ynez. Check back for more information.

Culture Day
Chumash Culture Day is an event celebrating California style singing and dancing along with storytelling and crafts. Highlights include a Handgame Tournament and Native California Signing Contest with prizes for 1st, 2nd and 3rd place.

The 13th Annual Santa Ynez Chumash Culture Day will be held at the Tribal Hall on October 19, 2019. Check back for more information.


2019 Inter-Tribal