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The Legend of the Rainbow Bridge

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The Chumash people have lived for centuries along the California coast between San Luis Obispo and Malibu, whose very name calls forth the memory of the Chumash village Humaliwo, meaning "The Surf Sounds Loudly." Here they created a special way of life, and while some other California tribes had similar customs, no other Native Americans lived in exactly the same way. Their invention and use of the ocean going redwood plank boat (Tomol), their complex village and religious life and their extraordinary craftsmanship are what make the Chumash unique. Even their language, with eight regional dialects, belongs to the Hokam language family, which is the oldest in California. This suggests that Chumash-speaking peoples were living in this part of California for thousands of years.

According to legend, the First Chumash people were created on Li-Mu Island, which we now call Santa Cruz Island. This island lies off the coast near Santa Barbara. The people were made from the seeds of a magic plant by the Earth Goddess whose name is Hutash.

Hutash is married to the Sky Snake, the Milky Way. He can make lightening bolts with his tongue. One day, he decided to make a gift to the Chumash people, so he sent down a lighting bolt that started a fire. After this, people kept fires burning so that they could cook their food and be warm.

After the Sky Snake gave them fire, the Chumash people lived more comfortably. More babies were born each year, and the villages grew larger and more noisy. The island was growing very crowded and the noise began to bother Hutash, keeping Her awake at night. She finally decided that some of the people would have to leave the island and move to the mainland, where no one lived.

Hutash wondered how to get the people across the water to the mainland. Then She had an idea. She built a bridge out of a very long, very high rainbow, which stretched from the tallest mountain on the island all the way to the tall mountains near Carpenteria.

Hutash told the people to go across the Rainbow Bridge, and fill the world with people. So the Chumash people began to cross the bridge. Most got across safely, but some made the mistake of looking down. Far, far below the water shone, and the fog swirled. They got so dizzy that some of them fell off the Rainbow Bridge, down, down, through the fog, into the ocean. Hutash felt terrible about this, for she had told them to cross Her bridge. She did not want them to drown, so She turned them into dolphins. Later, when the Chumash went to sea in their plank Tomol, they always remembered that the dolphins were their brothers. And in September, they honor Hutash with a great Harvest Festival, which is named after Her.

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