Native Americans of San Buenaventura

Mission San Buenaventura was located in the land of the Chumash 1 people, specifically the Eastern Coastal Chumash who experts say "can be divided into three linguistic - geographic entities: Barbareno (named after Mission Santa Barbara), Ynézeño (named after Mission Santa Ines) and Ventureño 2 (named after Mission San Buenaventura)."

Venturano Chumash Indian Vilage

Model Of Ventureño Village. Ventura County Museum. Photograph by David J. McLaughlin © Pentacle Press 2006.

The Chumash were an exceptional group of Native Americans  whose characteristics and values impressed the Spanish who found them ”of good disposition, affable, liberal, and friendly" and whom they found "extremely intelligent and skillful"  according to Indian scholar Campbell Grant.

The Chumash lived in well organized coastal villages whose hemispherical huts were a marvel. These Indians had well developed woodworking skills, evident in their planked seagoing canoe, called a tomol, whose length could be up to 30'.

Chumash tomal fishing dwellings

Artists Depiction of Chumash Village. From 1992 Outdoor Display in town of Lompoc, drawn by Robert Thomas and a Team of Local Artists. 3

Chumash basketry was exceptional. Their coiled baskets were a popular gift in the mission era.The Chumash rock paintings, mostly found in the interior, are considered "the most interesting and spectacular in the United States" according to Grant.

Their primary food sources were acorns and pine nuts; shell fish; sharks, sea bass, halibut and other fish caught in nets or harpooned; and game birds and small animals hunted with bows and arrows.

Although land was promised the Chumash at the time of secularization, very little was allocated and the few parcels given in 1840s was soon lost. Many of the former neophytes found work on ranches but diseases continued to reduce the population. The lot of the Chumash continued to deteriorate with the arrival of the Anglo-Americans in 1847. In 1855 a small piece of land near the Santa Ines mission was set aside for 109 Chumash, now known as the Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians. 4

  • 1. Chumash:  Introduction"  pp 505 - 508, and "Eastern Coastal Chumash" 509 - 519 two articles by Campbell Grant in Volume 8 CALIFORNIA in Handbook of North American Indians, Smithsonian Institute: Washington D.C., 1978
  • 2. San Buenaventura: The Mission by the Sea by Fr. Zephyrin Engelhardt, O.F.M., Mission Santa Barbara: Santa Barbara CA, 1930.
  • 3. The Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History has an informative presentation on the Chumash, available at:  http://www.sbnature.org/research/anthro/chumash/daily.htm
  • 4. Brian Fagan has an extensive discussion of the Chumash on pp. 75-92 in his book Time Detectives. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1995. Available online at http://cogweb.ucla.edu/Chumash/Fagan_95.html
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