Posted Jan 17, 2023 | By Alejandra Cerball

Learn about Native American Culture in Oxnard

Explore the deep roots of Native American Culture in Oxnard

Take the scenic route to Oxnard and learn about the deep roots of Native American culture in California. From voyages to villages, Oxnard is home to historical and cultural sites.

“My family has been monitoring many cities, including Oxnard, for nearly 50 years. We have been doing it the longest in the area and have protected many Chumash sites,” said Marianne Parra, the Cultural Director for hi stokoy hil-xus (bear claw cultural circle) under the umbrella of CLAWS.

Parra is a Traditional Chumash singer and dancer and has been a culture monitor for the past 30 years.

CHumash life on the coast

Two-thirds of the Chumash population lived near the coast. They used shell bead money, produced mostly on the Northern Channel Islands, which indicates the increased importance of trade between communities to buffer local shortfalls of wild food resources.

Voyages took place from Santa Barbara to Ventura, Hueneme and Mugu, as well as to the Channel Islands. “There were many trade routes and the Island Chumash were the manufacturers of our shell bead money. We would pick up otter fur and plant roots, amongst other things, that did not grow or live on the mainland,” Parra said.

The Indians on Santa Catalina Island carved heat-resistant stone pots from steatite, a soft, easily worked soapstone from the island. They were traded to the Chumash of the Northern Channel Islands and to people on the mainland coast, in exchange for local resources.

HONORING CHUMASH ANCESTORS

“The goal is to share some of the culture, continue to protect, respect it and not romanticize our people,” Parra told Visit Oxnard. “This is extremely important. Give an understanding that we are still here but also to try and help people understand not all Chumash practice traditions.”

At the Museum

Visit the Channel Islands Maritime Museum to see the Chumash Tomol mural by Joe Galarza.

Events & Exhibitions

The Museum also hosts several events and exhibitions where visitors can learn about Native American culture.

February 4 - There is a book launch and celebration for Alan Salazar's latest children's book Coyote Rescue's Hawk. Alan (Puchuk Yaʼiaʼc) is a tribal elder in the Chumash and Fernañdino Tataviam Band of Mission Indians.

Coyote Rescues Hawk
is based on a Chumash story dating back at least 300 years. Alan, a traditional storyteller and native educator, brings back the traditional Chumash canoe culture in this beautiful book.

June 6 to August 22 - Don't miss an art exhibition in the downstairs gallery by Chumash and Tlingit Elder Brenda Mercado.

Native American Pow Wows in Oxnard

In 2019, the Oxnard Powwow Committee hosted the first intertribal powwow at Oxnard Beach Park. The OPC's mission is to promote awareness, unity, and respect for native peoples and the rich tapestry of their cultural history through songs, drums, and dances. They also offer a network of service providers that Native People can contact to better their lives.

Oxnard Beach Park was selected to recognize the Channel Islands' ancestral ties to the Chumash people.

Redbird's Children of Many Colors Native American Intertribal Powwow

Redbird's Children of Many Colors Native American Intertribal Powwow takes place every year at the Oxnard College Gymnasium Field. The cultural celebration included singing, dancing, drumming, flute music, arts and crafts, jewelry, food, and cultural demonstrations.

View the events page here.

Redbird is a Native American and environmental organization that gained state and federal nonprofit status in 1994.

Programs include:

  • The Children of Many Colors Native American Powwow (Oxnard)
  • The Blanket, Toy and School Supplies Drive and Mini-Powwow (Simi Valley Library)
  • The Forest Recovery Project
  • The Highway 2 art show
  • Moto Yoga
  • and ongoing programs at Chilao School, including culture, the environment, arts, healing arts and motorcycle safety.

About the Author:

Alejandra Cerball (Journalist | Travel Writer)

Alejandra Cerball is an award-winning journalist, writer, and editor of alexcerball.com, a Travel + Lifestyle online destination filled with compelling and honest travel tips + resources. On her blog, Alex shares inspiration for your bucket list, family travel + adventure itineraries, and style guides to help you pack for your next trip.

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