The Story of Santa Barbara - Native American Civilizations

Santa Barbara Historical Museum

Basketry was a life-sustaining part of Chumash culture. They were utilized in carrying, cooking and storing foods; in ceremonies to collect offerings and burned in honor of the dead. Grave markers of women were decorated with baskets.

Chumash Coiled Baskets, circa 19th century
Museum Acquisition Fund
Through the generosity of Robert Easton

Santa Barbara Historical Museum

Early European explorers described the Santa Barbara region as semi-arid with tranquil streams tracing through coastal canyons blanketed in growth and teeming with wildlife.

Coastal Canyon Landscape, 1884
Henry Chapman Ford (American, 1828-1894)
Oil on canvas
21 x 33 ½ inches
Gift of Jean Smith Goodrich,
The Smith-Walker Foundation

Santa Barbara Historical Museum

The Chumash were masters at working steatite, a heat-resistant, soft stone obtained by trade from either Santa Catalina Island or the San Joaquin Valley. Many objects were made from steatite including cooking vessels called ollas.

Steatite Olla
Gift of Dr. Irving Wills Estate

Santa Barbara Historical Museum

Prior to European contact, the Americas were home to a multitude of diverse cultures whose religious beliefs were rich and symbolic.

"Crouching Jaguar" Throne, c. 800-1500 A.D.
Manteño culture, south central Ecuador
Volcanic breccia stone
Anonymous gift

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