The Chumash people lived in California from Malibu, in the south, to Morro Bay, in the
north, and on the Channel Islands. Archaeologists say we have been living here for about
8,000 years, while some of us believe we’ve been here for as long as 35,000 years.
I produced this coloring book to share some of the rock art images created by my people.
There are hundreds of caves decorated with rock paintings or pictographs on Chumash
territory, usually near rivers or streams. The images had particular significance for the
person who painted them, but we all shared an understanding of the symbols because
they related to stories that we knew about our history and legends. Usually, the people
who created this rock art were shamans, or special doctors who could help us if something
was wrong. The caves were sacred places to these shamans and the artwork represented
the things around us, as well as dream visions, prayers, stories, and events. Everything
was considered sacred. Everything.
The Chumash used three basic paint colors from nature: white, black, and red to reddish
brown. Black represents the male, white represents female, and red is a sacred color.
Gray is sometimes used, too. It doesn’t have a particular meaning, but it is a mixture of
black and white. Blue was a special color reserved for only a few things.
The paints were made from rocks, charcoal, and diatomaceous earth. In other words, my
ancestors ground up things in nature to make their paints. Paint cups were made from
stone, fish vertebrae, or shells, and paint brushes were made from the roots of soap
plants, yucca, animal tails, fish bones, and feathers. Once the minerals were ground up,
the paint was mixed with water, animal oil, bird eggs, or even oil from plant seeds. The
paint could even be dried in cakes, with oil added to it later to soften it up for use.
When you color in this book, you can use the colors any way you wish, not necessarily the
way I did. But you should use these same colors.
This is the story I heard from my father about how my people, the Chumash, were created.
For us, the world wasn’t round: it consisted of three layers. The Middle world, where
people lived, included the North and South American continents. The Middle World, Earth,
is called Itiashup, which means “Here in This World.” (We knew the world was this size
because our people interacted with other native people on the continents.)
Under this middle layer, there were two large serpents. If people were out of balance, the
serpents in the Lower world would move around, causing earthquakes and disasters. The
Lower World was called C’oyinashup. The Upper World is where the Sky People lived. It
was called Malahshishshnish, or “She Who Thunders.”
We called the Middle World, where the people lived, Turtle Island. We were told by our
Creator that we were the caretakers of Turtle Island. Because of this connection, the turtle
has always had a strong symbolic meaning for us. Not only did it represent our home, it
also provided us with food and we used its shell in our dress regalia.
Our creation story says that the Creator made the First People of Turtle Island. Then, big
floods came and all the First People were killed. Creator then took the spirits of all those
people who died and made them into everything that is now here: animals, plants, the sun,
moon, and stars, and planets—everything. So, we believe every living thing truly has the
spirit of the First People in it. Even in rain, there is the spirit of the First People. Because
we honor our ancestors, we honor everything around us because it is a part of them.
Seeing that all the First People were gone, the Creator created people again, and he put
them on the islands off the coast of California. They stayed there and had children and
after a while, the islands were heavily populated. Then, Mother Earth made a magical
rainbow bridge to the mainland and she asked some of the people to walk over the bridge
to the mainland because the islands were becoming too crowded. But she told the people
to be careful not to look down as they crossed the bridge because they might get dizzy
and fall down into the sea.
Some of them did look down. They fell off the bridge and drowned. These people became
the dolphins. This is why we consider the dolphin to be our relatives.
The people didn’t succeed in getting across the rainbow bridge. Mother Earth then made
the people small though magic and asked Grandfather Pelican to open his mouth and
carry them over. They all got in his beak and he carried them to the mainland. This is how
our people came to the mainland.