Sharing Native American Traditional Stories

By Carla Ferris

As we approach the winter months, expressing gratitude, a time of Thanksgiving, and other family gatherings, I have been drawn to the traditions of the Chumash Native Americans who share their history and demonstrate celebrations with ancestral ceremonies and stories. This article showcases traditional Native American travels to the Channel Island in California, a Mother Earth story from a Chumash decedent, and Covid-19 precautionary practices.

The Santa Ynez band of Chumash Indians currently reside on the reservation located in Santa Barbara County in California. They have kept their Chumash traditions alive for 100 years. Their cultural heritage achievements include maintaining a connection to ancestral spiritual beliefs. These Native Americans have a festival called *Hutash*, named after the Chumash Earth Goddess.  Since 2001, the Santa Ynez Chumash tribe has made the journey to the California Channel Islands for cultural holiday gatherings. The celebrations have traditional activities such as feasting, dancing, and singing.

 A youtube video and Chumash celebration titled Awakening Ancestral Memories documents amazing finds. This video presents a Chumash Indian decedent Eva who narrates the reconstructed Ancestral Chumash tradition. “A Hundred years ago, The Chumash Indians traveled for trading purposes in a canoe called Tamal. In 2001, the Chumash Indians recreated the tradition with a sea- voyage trip from the North American mainland to Santa Cruz Ca. Island, which is a section of the Channel Islands. Eva took her father’s place as Captain in the year her stepmother passed away. Eva tells us, “My mother’s spirit was with us and gave us the confidence to make this harsh journey.” The ancestral ceremonies begin with Chumash Indians greeting the arriving sea travels with cooked meals. Early in life, Eva was able to step into the shoes of the “Dark water paddlers” which is an honorable position to hold in the Chumash community. These were the crew members who started the Tamal trek in the early morning, 2:00 a.m. from Ventura Ca. harbor. Eva says, “the crew travels the first 21 miles toward the Channel Island, and this early time is so dark for pacing.” In holding a captain’s position, Eva must listen to the other paddler’s breathing and paddling sounds.” Here is the like to their incredible story.

In my ecofeminism research, I reviewed the concept that binds feminist elements with nature. Here I share a Chumash story called the “Rainbow Bridge”, which illuminates the connection with Mother Earth. Julie is an Island descendant who narrates her family history in her great grandfather’s timeline. She begins with “Sahi papa” (Once upon a time), Limu, meaning in the sea. The American Indian family believed, “Mother Earth was there and created Santa Cruz Island that is off the California coast.  Mother Earth gathered plant seeds and spread the seeds in the Earth’s soil. This activity produced the missing people and she gifted them with happiness. Her husband who was known as the milky way (sky snake) gave the people the gift of fire in the form of a lightning bolt. The villagers learned to cook their food on warm fires which helped to expand population growth. Mother Earth decided to have the people move to another location for further growth. She showed the people a rainbow bridge to cross over to a larger land. The people were scared to take this journey over the rainbow bridge. Then, Mother Earth changed the people into Dolphins who reached Carpentaria California.” As Julie concludes, “the American Indian people did thrive in a happy culture. “

The youtube link to the Native American story can be found here:

I identify with the Native American philosophy and send my prayers to the stars. My heart is sent to the Covid community affected by the Californian and Colorado’s wildfire smoke inhalation. During this healing research, I found the Center for Disease Control provides wildfire smoke inhalation protection in the times of Covid-19. They describe the mask usage as limited protection against smoke inhalation. The CDC suggests limiting outdoor exercise during a smoky wildfire event. They promote cleaner airspace at home to protect from smoke damage to the lungs.  They place emphasis on social distancing when evacuations are required. Here is the link.   

As a Public History student, I had the pleasure to research Native American holiday traditions and cultural stories. I appreciate the Santa Ynez Chumash Indians for sharing their extensive background and spiritual beliefs.  I felt an inspirational element from the research about the ancestral spirituality in the connection to the Chumash heritage. I believe both the Awakening Ancestral Memories and the Rainbow Bridge illustrations are cultural identity markers that will be passed on to future Native American generations. I accept the wildfire smoke inhalation research at the CDC as well as their guidance for safety practices. I believe the stars heard a prayer as the American Public University’s Anthropology club sent me a Covid-19 mask. I have treasured these Native American oral traditions. I will sincerely carry these faith concepts on into the Museum of Motherhood community.


Awakening Ancestral Memories 

Center for Disease Control    

How the Native American Indians came to Carpentaria Ca.

Published by MOM

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