2024 is the Upcoming Commemoration of the Chumash War of Liberation: 200 Years


In 1824, three of the Chumash ‘missions’ on coastal California rose up in a war of liberation from the brutal colonialism of Spain and Mexico.

In less than a year, southern California governments will be challenged by many Chumash to revise city and county public history programs to acknowledge the bravery of the Chumash who fought for their civil and human rights in this struggle.

1824 was not the first Chumash uprising against the ‘mission’ system, but it proved to be a pivotal year for the traditionalists as they followed different strategies for victory against their abusers. The Stishni Chumash in San Luis Obispo county were dominated by the Catholic faction in this center’s workforce. They did not revolt. And the Lulapin Chumash in Ventura county also did not join the fighting. In the book called Tashlipun Pact, I examined the background on why the Lulapin refrained from the fighting. This study proposed that the Lulapin provincial government at Muwu was entangled in pact with the Catholic church. In exchange for protection of towns loyal to this council, Muwu agreed to facilitate Spanish and later Mexican development of the ‘missions’ on the assumption that they would be turned over to the Chumash as economic assets. This was an illusion, but it served the colonial military by keeping the Lulapin from joining the revolt.

The fighting broke out in the Axalulapu (Santa Ynez) mission, but this demonstration of resistance among the Samala (Ynezeno) did not last long, nor was the fighting as fierce as among the neighboring Kahismuwas (Purisimeno) who seized the Amuwu (Purisima) ‘mission’. Some of the most militant Samala joined the Kahismuwas in a strategic defense of the Purisima ‘mission’ they had captured and fortified. This strategy failed after a brutal suppression by the colonial army. , and the leaders there were hung.

In contrast, the Tsmuwich (Barbareno) Chumash chose the strategy of withdrawal into the interior, to join the Mountain Chumash in their ongoing war against the colonial army. The Tsmuwich fought off the Santa Barbara garrison troops on the opening days of revolt, to make time for their women and children to flee over the mountains to the town of Tashlipun. Here, they hoped for protection of their sacred center, Iwihinmu mountain. But the Mexican army rallied all their troops after the defeat of the Purisimeno and attacked the Tsmuwich exiles. The story of this conflict on the doorstep of Tashlipun is essential to any public history of the Chumash uprising.

A search of the internet now provides numerous articles on the 1824 revolt, to the credit of these revisionist historians. In a number of these sites, the role of Chumash traditionalists is being positively examined. What is often absent, however, is an open assessment of the gold smuggling by the Catholic church and how this intrigue impacted the revolt. The flight of the Tsmuwich rebels to Tashlipun was not coincidental. Tashlipun was the center of the gold smuggling in the interior.