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Chumash Traders

The Chumash, primarily on Santa Cruz Island, manufactured one of the few forms of money recognized by the many Indian tribes in southern California. They were experts in transforming sea shells into decorative ornaments, and specialized in using the Olivella shells to form small shell disks, *ponco*, that were strung on fibre twine and used as a form of currency on and off the islands. The tightly woven, often water tight baskets of the Chumash were also highly prized and admitted object of trade. The island Chumash also traded chert blades and knives they had made using island resources for things they could not find on their islands - deer hides and antlers, and rabbit skins for blankets. They also traded for chia seeds, wild cherry, acorn and pine nuts which they did not have on the islands, using fish, sea lion meat and sea otter skins for trade. They acquired the red pigment used to paint their canoes from the inland Mojave tribe who traveled two weeks on foot to bring their hematite mineral to trade with the coastal Chumash. The seasonal ceremonies held at the larger villages along the mainland coast were common times where the islanders would cross the Channel in their tomol for trading - the most important ceremony being the "Shup" or "Hutash" ceremony honoring the Earth Goddess who was the source of terrestrial food - a ceremony similar to other harvest festivals around the world, including the American Thanksgiving. The *Hutash* Celebration could last five to six days, and was a time of much trading, game playing and no doubt entrancing storytelling, linking the geographically diverse Chumash villages closer to a unified world view and religion.