It was an honour to be invited to a gathering of tribes on the Santa Ynez Chumash reservation. A people group that numbered tens of thousands along the islands and coastline of Santa Barbara yet are now down to the last couple of hundred. Sadly, through missions and the European settlement, the Chumash started to speak Spanish and even took Spanish names trying to hide their Indian identity. The last fluent Samala speaker died in 1965.
Today many tribal members are actively reclaiming their language and there is an active program of classes that owe their gratitude to a Boston born linguist, John P. Harrington who died in 1961 leaving over a million pages of notes on over 100 Native American languages. Harrington had a special passion for the Chumash and collated thousands of stories, customs and beliefs, as well as documenting their language.
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