The northern Channel Islands and the surrounding waters have a rich human history dating back more than 13,000 years. For the Chumash, or island people, who are indigenous to the region surrounding the Santa Barbara Channel, the northern Channel Islands and adjacent waters hold a value that is beyond measure. The island and marine ecosystems co-evolved with the Chumash and their culture. Chumash maritime culture has been, and continues to be, intimately shaped by that connection.
An explanation of Chumash history connected to the northern Channel Islands and surrounding sanctuary waters, as well as an introduction to ongoing Chumash community values, traditional knowledge and practices, and historical trauma, can be found in the âChumash Ecosystem Services Assessmentâ within the sanctuary's Condition Report.
Chumash Maritime Culture... An Ongoing Journey
A tomol is the traditional plank canoe of the Chumash people, who navigate along the Central and Southern California coast and among the Channel Islands. In the past, tomols allowed for extensive trade, fishing and travel. Today, tomols continue to be built and navigated by the Chumash community. Constructed from redwood, a tomol can be built to lengths ranging from eight to 30 feet. Look for tomols on the ocean!
Chumash people are participating in the global revival of Indigenous maritime cultures and the continuation of their own unique maritime traditions. Sanctuary staff are proud to support their ongoing journey.
Annual Tomol Channel Crossing
In the fall, Chumash crews paddle 23 miles across the Santa Barbara Channel to Limuw (Santa Cruz Island). They leave Channel Islands Harbor in the dark hours of the morning, guided by stars, and are welcomed home with songs and hugs by the Chumash community encamped at Swaxil (Scorpion Valley).
Additional Resources, Reading and Viewing
Dark Water Journey, by Eva Pagaling
Full Circle- Chumash Cross Channel in Tomol to Santa Cruz Island, by Roberta R. Cordero
Island Homeland: The Village of Swaxil (2004), by Georgiana Valoyce Sanchez
Our Ancestors' Gift Across Time: A Story of Indigenous Maritime Culture Resurgence, by Roberta R. Cordero