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For thousands of years before Europeans explored and colonized the Southern California region, there were numerous Native American societies thriving on the abundance of the areaís natural resources. On the Channel Islands, there is evidence of Native American occupation dating back p to 13,000 years. The lives of these First People will be explored in this Camp learning expedition.

On the Southern Channel Islands - San Clemente, Santa Catalina, San Nicholas and Santa Barbara - the European historians who were first to arrive in California recorded that there was a cultural group that shared a common language base living or working on these southern islands. They came to be called Gabrielinos, due to the Mission they were moved to in the late 1700s and early 1800s. Their language base is known as Uto-Aztecan, and relates them to Native Americans living from northern Montana down in to Mexico. In Southern California, the tribal affiliations extended from the four southern islands inland to the San Gabriel, San Fernando, Riverside and San Bernardino valleys. The Gabriolino living today are renaming themselves Tongva.

On the Northern Channel Islands - Anacapa, Santa Cruz, Santa Rosa and San Miguel - the Native American villages were populated by Chumash, who had a different language base than the Gabrielino, and are thought to have been the original settlers of the area, predating their neighbors to the south. Their language base is Hokan, one of the oldest in California. It is likely it was the Chumash group who first arrived in the region and crossed out to the islands 13,000 years ago. The Chumash lived on the islands and on the mainland, their region extended north into San Luis Obispo County, across all of Santa Barbara County, down in to Ventura County, and as far south as Malibu in Los Angeles County on the coast.

These two peoples developed peaceful trade networks, exchanged technologies - from wooden canoe manufacturing to the production of bowls and basketry, and appear to have co existed with out a need for major warfare. When confronted by the European colonists, the Native Americans made considerable effort to maintain their traditional lifeways, and from first contact with foreigners in the 1500s, it was nearly 300 years before their culture was so thoroughly disrupted that life on the islands was no longer sustainable for the Native Americans.

But it was not only the influence of European colonization that impacted harshly on the local Native Americans. There were other forces - human and natural - that impacted on island life, making the move to the mainland regrettably a logical choice for the native islanders. We will study these forces to understand the transition the Native Americans went through that lead to them leaving the islands to reside on the mainland.

Join us now to hear the legends of the Channelís First Peoples, to explore their lifeways, and to better understand the rich heritage they offer as the First People of the California Channel.