Tuesday, May 31, 2016

A Walk in the Footsteps of the Chumash

When my daughter switched to homeschool in 3rd grade they were learning about the Native Americans and early settlers.  We continued to learn about the early settlers over on the east coast and the interactions with the Native Americans there, but I wanted to personalize it a little more to make it more immersive and focused toward the Native Americans that are from our area, as well.  Specifically, where I am from, Santa Barbara, CA.  The Chumash Indians inhabited the area extending from Morro Bay in the north to Malibu in the south.  Santa Barbara County, which is in the center, is rich with Chumash history.

I was lucky enough to find this great book at the local library.  We read the whole thing.

I discovered that there was a Chumash Indian Museum in Thousand Oaks, CA.  On a beautiful Saturday we drove up and met my mom there to check it out.  I had never heard of this place before, but it sounded really cool.  It was such a peaceful place, even on a Saturday.  Hardly anyone came through, which made it extra cool.  They had a small museum packed full of artifacts and history.  Then you take a short 8 minute walk down an easy and beautiful trail lined with, literally, thousands of oak trees to a mock village.

Once you reach your destination you feel like you've been transported in time back to they days when the Chumash thrived.  They had several aphs, what the Chumash called their huts.  

They had all the things we read about in the Chumash book that an actual Chumash village would have had.  They had the ceremonial dance ground, a siliyik (sacred enclosure wall that blocked the view of religious rituals performed by priests and shaman), the great council house, a temescal (a sweat lodge), and it was set against a creek and under the oak trees.  

They also had modern day benches there, so I am sure that they still perform some ceremonial events here today.  I wish I would have known they had the benches, I would have packed a picnic to enjoy in the shade of the oaks.  With the lack of people, you really could immerse yourself into the Chumash world.  What a neat little gem this place is.  I highly recommend a visit.

We picked up this book in the museum gift shop, along with a few other cool things.  It was small, but they had some neat stuff for very little cost.  This book is a really cool workbook.  It has a lot of the history that we had already covered, but it includes some fun arts and crafts, word searches, crosswords, and discussion topics to introduce to students.  We have already dug in and started working on it.

On our way out we found a cool bush that had these pods on them.  Some of them had dried up and fallen on the ground.  We picked them up and when you shook them they made a cool rattle sound because they had seeds inside.  My mom told Aubrey that she could take them home and grow her own bush, so we did!  I cannot for the life of me remember what this bush was called, but I bet my mom, the green thumb would know.  

We took our seeds home, put them in some wet paper towels, stuck them in a jar, and stuck them in a dark, warm place.  I got lucky and got 3 out of 7 to sprout.  

We transferred them into little starter cups.  Unfortunately, only one survived.  I know I damaged the root on one accidentally, but I'm not sure what happened to the others.  I'm still trying to germinate the rest, but they seem like pretty sleepy seeds.  

I did, however, get one to grow.  We planted it outside in a pot by our front door.  So far so good!  It's been sprouting new leaves in the middle, so I think its in for the long haul, I hope!

For spring break, I planned an entire vacation around the Chumash Indians.  Bonus was, I got to go home and frolic in my land with my mom and brother.  This was such a fun vacation.  Aubrey likes to complain that we had to "learn", but we really didn't do too much learning as we did playing and exploring.  My hope was that the learning would be done more by osmosis, than anything.

First, I took them to see actual Chumash rock paintings up in the Santa Barbara mountains.  These are called the Painted Caves and are located along Painted Cave Road.  It's a little tricky to find and to park, but it's worth the hunt.  Once again, no people were to be found, other than the regular residents in the area driving by ever so often.  So peaceful and serene.

A short walk up some stone steps will lead you to the entrance to the cave.  These are some of the rock paintings that you can view through a gate.  

Here's the family in front of the entrance to the cave.  Such a beautiful rock formation.  I love the rocks in Santa Barbara.  

My kids have never visited the inside of the Santa Barbara Mission.  We have walked around outside on the grounds.  We have played and picnicked in the rose garden and we've explored some of the Chumash structures that are in the dirt area just to the side of the rose garden, but had yet to tour the grounds within.  

It was a beautiful day, even with the rain.  I think it made it more fitting, since this was a much more tragic piece of their history.

Outside the mission they have the basin which the Chumash washed their clothes.  They carved the animal in the fountain from stone.

We visited the grave yard where several Catholic families of both early spanish settlers and more recent families that are promenant in the area are buried.  According to this sign, 4,000 Chumash Indians are buried in this cemetery, as well ... in unmarked graves ... you know ... somewhere .... 

Here are some of the original Chumash stone art pieces that you can see in the Mission.

They have a small part of the museum dedicated to the arts, culture, and history of the Chumash.  Here are some of the beautiful shell jewelry and money they traditionally used.

This is a photo of the last Chumash couple that worked at the Mission.  They had a few other cool photos and artifacts, but you will have to go see them for yourself :).

As luck would have it, they happened to be having their annual Chumash Day celebration and Inter-Tribal Gathering in Malibu on the last weekend of our spring break.  I couldn't have planned it better myself.  

I took the kids on a Sunday after the rain had passed.  It was a bit of an ordeal to park, shuttle, eat, etc, but I'm glad we went.  It was absolutely amazing to see the Native Americans in their traditional tribal dress and watch their ceremonial dances.  After learning so much about the destruction of their way of life it was uplifting to see the culture bonding together to help continue their legacy, their history, their culture, and their way of life.

They couldn't have picked a more beautiful setting on the bluffs of Malibu over looking the ocean.

Aren't these back pieces, head dresses, and bead work incredible!?!?

Back home we decided to continue on with the fun.  We collected some rocks on the beach while in Santa Barbara to take home and make rock paintings with, like the Chumash.

We all had fun creating our own images on rocks that we now have displayed in our patio.
(Plus a couple Earth Day themed ones, too, since this doubled as an Earth Day activity).

Once again, luck shined upon me and I found this awesome puzzle for sale through a homeschool sell and share group on Facebook.  

I got it for only $2 and it was never used.  Score!!  She was also selling a basket weaving set, but I was too late to snag that one up as someone got to it first, D'oh! I'm sure I can find one on line if I really feel we need it (but I'm pretty sure I'd be the one doing all the work on that, so I probably won't).

We put the whole thing together the other day.  It was a fun history project to do.  It came with a little search and find sheet, that got us doing a sort of 'Where's Waldo' hunt.  It was colorful and inviting.  It really made you want to read all the tribe names.  I think we spent a good 30 minutes pouring over this thing the day after it was put together.

What a fun learning adventure we have been having!  This came together wonderfully.  I probably enjoyed it more than anyone.  We have moved on now to studying the early settlers and the 13 colonies.  I have been dreaming of taking the kids to the east coast to visit some of the historical sights.  That won't be quite as easy to accomplish as this was, but something to save for in the future. 

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