Material Culture of the Chumash Indians
The disruption of trade life for Chumash Indians on the Santa Cruz islands became unbearable and the Chumash were forced to leave. The Chumash Indians were one of the first peoples to occupy the land along the California coast in 1542. They had to formulate their own ways of surviving, and creating the necessities to do so. The Chumash or “Islanders” were the greatest hunters and gatherers, being first to the mainland them to depend on only their current surroundings which included several different plants and trees and almost every part of those possible. The Chumash Indians used each and every material resource in their surroundings. The materials found and used provided everything from the shoes on their feet to the roofs covering their heads and all in between. The material culture of the Chumash Indians was widely based on the plants available for use. Juncus, sage, tule, and yucca, just to name a few are some plant materials used to create many different things that contributed to the survival of the Chumash Indians.
The materials used by the Chumash were all hand-made and from scratch. Women were in charge of going out and finding the appropriate plants for that specific material like tule, also known as bulrush which were stems of plants used to make the thatching of the houses. They also used tule to create custom floor mats, rather than sleeping on dirt, which could also be rolled into pillows. The tule mats had never ending functions. Sandals or warm moccasins were made from tule as well to keep their feet a little safer and warmer when going out for chores. Tule was the most common and most widely used material in the Chumash culture depending on how it was cured it could be made more or less flexible for a specific purpose. “To cover the outside of houses, bulrush or cattails were added in layers starting at the bottom, each row overlapping the one below. Like shingles on a roof, this thatched covering kept out the rain.” The houses looked as if they were covered in grass almost, creating a nice warm home with a fire when it was cold outside. As the Chumash came to California from Santa Cruz Islands, they created boats called tomols. “The tomol is 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.” These boats were very sturdy and kept in moist areas until they were ready to be used. They could fit approximately three to ten people inside to travel across lakes or the ocean, or just out for fishing. “Without the canoe and the sea contact the dense population could not have been supported.” Another kind of boat created by the Chumash Indians was a dugout. The dugout was made by hollowing out a large piece of any wood available and jumping in. These were generally sturdier than the other boats that had to be pieced and stuck together with asphaltum. The Chumash Indians relied a lot on basketry. Basketry was “for gathering, storing, preparing and serving food, holding water, keeping money and other valuables, measuring acorns for trade, carrying babies, in gambling, as gifts, and for ceremonies. Even the Chumash house was much like an upside-down basket.” Baskets played an enormous role in the lives of the Chumash Indians. The baskets were made from different plants including juncus and twine. These plants stems were soaked in water to soften them and then they were peeled to the centers and woven by the Chumash women. These were all created with different designs by curing the juncus and twine to create different colors of the plants and then being weaved into the normal colors of the baskets. Zig-zags and strips were common designs of the Chumash baskets. Several baskets called “feather baskets” were made with the feather from birds woven between the juncus, adding a different texture and design to...
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