LocalNews Briefs

Chumash maritime culture to be featured at Channel Islands

Native American elder will discuss 2001 voyage to Santa Cruz Island in traditional tomol plank canoe.

VENTURA — Native American elder Alan Salazar will describe his experiences on the 2001 voyage to Santa Cruz Island in the traditional tomol plank canoe ‘Elye’wun, during a film screening of Return to Limuw, July 15 at 2:00 p.m.

The 2001 crossing was the first attempt to cross the channel in a tomol since the Chumash travelled this historic route in the 1800s. Since 2001 the Chumash Maritime Association has sponsored tomol crossings nearly every year.

Return to Limuw captures scenes of Salazar and his crew as they journey 24 miles to Santa Cruz Island (Limuw), in a strenuous 12-hour channel crossing. They arrive to the island and are greeted by a large gathering of over 150 Chumash people, families from San Luis Obispo to Malibu, including some that trace their roots to the Channel Islands.

Salazar sees the tomol crossings as an opportunity for the younger Chumash members to get in touch with their cultural connection to the ocean and the traditional way of life of their ancestors.

As a founding member of the Chumash Maritime Association, Salazar helped build one of the first traditional tomols in modern times. Over the past 17 years he has paddled the plank canoe, continuing the Chumash maritime tradition that began thousands of years ago.

Salazar is an elder with Chumash and Tataviam ancestry. He is a tomol builder, paddler, and traditional storyteller. He has dedicated most of his life to learning about Native American cultures and sharing that knowledge with the young and old, including hundreds of presentations in California schools.

The talk will be held at the Channel Islands National Park Robert J. Lagomarsino Visitor Center at 1901 Spinnaker Drive in Ventura Harbor. The program is free and open to the public.

Chumash traveled the waters for hunting, fishing, and trading. They built canoes, called tomols, from redwood trees that drifted down the coast, fastening the cut planks together with animal sinews and sealed with a tar-like substance called yop. Yop is a combination of pine pitch and asphaltum which occurs naturally in the Santa Barbara Channel and along the coast from oil seeping into the water from below the earth’s surface. The tomol remains the oldest example of an ocean-going watercraft in North America.

Share This:


Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *