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.

Tomol Journey to Limuw (Santa Cruz Island)

Today, members of the Chumash Indian community continue to paddle through the Santa Barbara channel to Limuw, also called Santa Cruz Island. This cultural tradition of crossing the channel happens on a traditional Chumash tomol plank canoe called Muptami, or “Deep Memories.” Tomols are plank like canoes that are made of redwood. They were used for ocean navigation, trade and deep-water fishing by the Chumash people over 1,000 years ago. This crossing between the mainland and the Channel Islands is an 8-hour, 24-mile journey that the Chumash did for thousands of years.

This crossing represents a pilgrimage for the Chumash people, and an opportunity to spend time together on Limuw celebrating Chumash culture and the deep spiritual connection to their sacred ancestral island. The Chumash originate from the Channel Islands off the coast of Oxnard, California and lived on the northern part of the Channel Islands for over 13,000 years. Their belief is grounded in the fact that all life is sacred. Today, tomols and channel crossings provide Chumash and all peoples with a deeper understanding of the rich Chumash maritime heritage and connections with the Channel Islands.

See the tomol mural at channel islands maritime museum

With a grant from the Alliance for California Traditional Arts (ACTA), Ventura County Arts Council partnered with muralist Joe Galarza, Chumash and Tataviam elder and storyteller Alan Salazar, and the Channel Islands Maritime Museum to create the Tomol Project, a mural celebrating the Chumash and their tradition of tomol canoes. Additional support was provided by the California Arts Council.

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.


“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.”

About the Author:

Alejandra Cerball (Journalist | Travel Writer)

Alejandra Cerball is an award-winning journalist, writer, and editor of, 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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