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Chumash Community Returns to Limuw

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Date: September 1, 2004
Contact: Yvonne Menard, 805-658-5725

Channel Islands National Park Superintendent Russell E. Galipeau, Jr. announces an event on Saturday September 11, 2004, in which members of the Chumash community will paddle across the Santa Barbara Channel to Santa Cruz Island in a traditional tomol or plank canoe. A similar event, the first to travel the historic route since the 1870’s, took place on September 8, 2001.

A crew of four to five paddlers from the Chumash Maritime Association will paddle the tomol ‘Eleye’wun (pronounced “El-E-ah-woon”) for more than ten hours to complete this journey of over twenty miles. Chumash people from throughout the traditional region of San Louis Obispo to Malibu and beyond, will await the arrival of ‘Eleye’wun at Scorpion Beach on Limuw (Santa Cruz). Chumash Maritime Association Member and paddler Marcus Lopez states that “The crossing is meant to create bridges for different communities, both internal and external.”

As residents of the Northern Channel Islands for thousands of years prior to the arrival of Europeans, the Chumash represent a true maritime culture. Today the tomol remains the oldest example of an ocean-going watercraft in North America. The Island Chumash manufactured stone drills of Santa Cruz Island chert, which they used to create ‘achum (shell bead money). These olivella shell beads were part of the monetary system used throughout the coastal Chumash region. They traded extensively using the tomol to travel routinely between the islands and mainland.

Superintendent Gailpeau said, “It is exciting to see the present day Chumash community connect to their rich island heritage. As the tomol was used to connect the islands and the mainland, this crossing will link past generations of Chumash with the present-day Chumash community.”

In celebration of the rich and continuing culture of the Chumash people, Channel Islands National Park, Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary, and the Santa Barbara Maritime Museum are hosting this event. Currently, ‘Eleye’wun is at the “tomol house” at Arroyo Burro beach in Santa Barbara. Meaning swordfish in a Chumash dialect, ‘Eleye’wun was constructed by and for the Chumash community. A replica tomol is also available as part of a living museum exhibit at the Santa Barbara Maritime Museum. The Chumash Maritime Association crew will launch the tomol well before dawn on Saturday morning with hopes of reaching Limuw by midday.

Did You Know?

Blue whale                                          Photo: Brad Sillasen

Park and sanctuary waters are home to the largest aggregation of blue whales in the world. Approximately 10% of the global blue whale population gathers in the channel during the summer. More...