What Did the Chumash Use for Shelter?

The Chumash built dome-shaped houses constructed of willow poles with a grass mat overlay and an opening at the top to allow smoke to escape. The houses, called ‘aps, had a door frame built from a whale’s rib with skins hung over the opening. The shelters, partitioned inside, held a large number of people.

This Native American tribe lived along the California coast from Malibu to Morro Bay. They were fishermen and hunter-gatherers. The Chumash used caves for ceremonial purposes and decorated the insides with paintings of animals and humans. They also built roofed sweat lodges in the ground, placing heated rocks inside. Canoes, built of redwood and sealed with tar, were used for fishing and traveling to other villages and measured 10 to 30 feet in length. Fishing equipment consisted of hooks and harpoons, while hunting land animals entailed the use of spears, and bows and arrows. Hunters dressed in deerskins and pretended to graze to get close enough for the hunters to use their weapons. Acorns, fish and shellfish were staples in their diet. The tribe’s territory once measured 7,000 square miles but, after 1769, the population declined when the Spanish began building missions in the area. The Chumash reservation is 127 acres located near Santa Ynez.