Ventura Chumash to partner with Patagonia to build Tomol canoes
Chumash Elder Alan Salazar announced publicly for the first time that the Ventura Chumash community will be building Chumash canoes, known as tomols, with support and funding from Patagonia. Mr. Salazar made the announcement during his lecture “Chumash Maritime History—Past, Present, & Future” at the Santa Barbara Maritime Museum (SBMM), which took place at 7 p.m. on Nov. 17.
As a storyteller, researcher and knowledge keeper of Chumash history, he shared some of their stories in his presentation and answered questions from audience members.
“It went better than I had hoped. We had a wonderful turnout. SBMM was the most gracious host. There were about 120 seats, and they were almost all taken,” said Mr. Salazar.
“I started in 1997… I have been building and paddling for 25 years,” Mr. Salazar told the News-Press. “I am one the most experienced paddlers and I have probably padded as many miles as anyone. When I talk about being a strong paddler at age 71, I am saying that to motivate my fellow paddlers. If I can do this, so can you.”
Mr. Salazar explained that the Chumash were the first maritime culture in the region, plying the ocean with Tomols, a chumash word meaning canoe. The tomol design, which involves gluing and tying the canoes together using tar, twine and pine pitch, may go back 3,500 years.
A tomol is a flat bottom canoe capable of carrying a lot of weight. It is generally used to catch fish and to transport people. In the 1820s and 1830s, they were used to transport trade items between cargo ships and what was then known as Santa Rosea island. The tomol plays a significant role in the 1824 Chumash revolt against the Santa Barbara priest and soldiers who badly mistreated the tribe at the time. The tomols were used to transport escapees to Santa Rosea during the revolt.
Three modern tomols were built in 1997, with the first, “Elye’wun,” being placed in the water 25 years ago Saturday.
“She is the first working tomol in modern times. She’s the one that was built for the Chumash community,” Mr. Salazar told the News-Press.
Mr. Salazar is excited to announce that starting in 2023, tomols will start being built in partnership with Patagonia.
“We are extremely excited to build authentic tomols in Ventura. I am excited to be able to help Ventura Chumash in collaboration with my tribe, Fernandeno Tataviam Band of Mission Indians, from San Fernando. We are going to build tomols together with the support of Patagonia. It is truly an exciting time, to be able to help a little bit means so much to me,” said Mr. Salazar.