The Chumash made great use of the abundant natural resources at their disposal. Their diet was rich in acorn meal, fish and shellfish, elderberry, bulbs, roots, and mustard greens. Their domed homes, called aps, were made with willow poles and tule rush.
The Chumash territory provided abundant food sources. Like many other California Indians, the acorn was a staple food. Other plant foods in the Chumash diet included berries, roots, and nuts. Depending on where they lived in the territory, they ate deer, rabbits, fish, or other sea creatures.
The Chumash were skilled hunters and their diet reflected this. They hunted deer, bear and quail, and from these animals they made clothing, instruments and hunting tools. Along the rivers they hunted water fowl such as ducks, and also consumed fresh water fish.
The most important food for the Chumash was the acorn, which they gathered from the live oak trees. Those who lived along the coast also depended on sea food. They ate many ocean fish (shark, sea bass, halibut, bonito) as well as mussels, barnacles, and clams. Abalone was a main food on the islands.
Wild Plants/Berries All the wild berries could be eaten fresh without preparation. Some wiled berries were straw berries, elder berries, and “The amole, or soap plant, was a favorite of the Chumash. Other plant foods gathered were pine nuts, wild cherries, cattails, berries, mushrooms, and many types of seeds.
Other plants important to Chumash manufacturing included elderberry, used for whistles, clapper sticks, and bows; willow, used for house frameworks, basketry, and cordage; tule, used for matting and for thatching houses; and milkweed, used for string.
Many Chumash children like to go hunting and fishing with their fathers. In the past, Indian kids had more chores and less time to play in their daily lives, just like colonial children. But they did have dolls, toys, and games to play. Chumash kids also enjoyed swimming on the beaches.
Datura (also called momoy by the Chumash) is a hallucinogenic plant commonly consumed as a liquid in traditional Chumash spiritual practice.
Chumash, any of several related North American Indian groups speaking a Hokan language. They originally lived in what are now the California coastlands and adjacent inland areas from Malibu northward to Estero Bay, and on the three northern Channel Islands off Santa Barbara.
Methods such as rain-catch barrels, use of native, less-thirsty plants, mulching and drip irrigation have saved the Tribe over 15,000 gallons of water a year! As an added bonus many of the plants have Chumash ceremonial and other cultural uses, and can be harvested on a regular basis.
The Chumash house, or ‘ap, was round and shaped like half an orange. It was made by setting willow poles in the ground in a circle. The poles were bent in at the top, to form a dome. Then smaller saplings or branches were tied on crosswise.
Today, the Chumash are estimated to have a population of 5,000 members. Many current members can trace their ancestors to the five islands of Channel Islands National Park.
Unlike most early Californians, the Chumash slept in framed beds raised off the ground and they covered themselves with skins and shawls.
Some Chumash became Catholics reluctantly and returned to their traditional religious practices when the mission system ended. Many, however, retained the Christian belief in a supreme being. Although many modern-day Chumash identify themselves as Catholic, few attend mass on a regular basis.