The Chumash Era

Chumash Period

Simi Valley was once inhabited by Chumash Indians. They lived on what nature provided. Along the coast they had an abundant supply of fish from the ocean, while inland in valleys like our Simi Valley, they ate the seeds from sage, acorns from the oak trees, and whatever small game animals were available.

The Chumash were among the most advanced California native peoples. Cave paintings (pictographs) help us to realize how much they knew before contact with the white man. We have a very famous pictograph at Burro Flats near the Rocketdyne facilities. It has been just within the last few years that we learned the importance of this pictograph. This particular cave with its pictographs is now known to have been an astronomical observatory where celebrations were held at the time of the winter solstice. The Chumash would celebrate the “return of the sun” because they knew their existence depended upon it.

The Chumash built plank canoes, using only their stone age implements. The canoes were seaworthy enough for trips to all the Santa Barbara Channel Islands. In addition they created fine basketry and were skilled in making wooden bowls, so perfect that they looked as if they had been turned out on a modern lathe.

There are many Chumash sites within the Simi Valley and much more to be learned about the Chumash. Some writers contend the name Simi came from the Chumash word “Shimiji”, meaning little white clouds (the kind you find during the East Wind or Santa Ana’s.)

The Spaniards regarded the Chumash as superior to the other Indian tribes of California.