Chumash Heritage

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Currently undergoing the designation process

Located along the south Central California coastline, from Gaviota Creek in Santa Barbara to Santa Rosa Creek in Cambria, the proposed Chumash Heritage National Marine Sanctuary is a culturally and biologically diverse coastline. These waters are an essential part of the heritage of the Chumash, one of the few ocean-going bands among the First People of the Pacific Coast.  The area provides a very special sense of place to coastal communities and international visitors because of the significant historic, archaeological, cultural, aesthetic and biological resources found here. 

The central coast of California encompasses some of the most biologically diverse and ecologically productive regions in the world. The proposed sanctuary contains a key transition zone that includes vital upwelling of great bioproductivity supporting kelp forests, wetlands, estuaries and rookeries. Onshore, the Guadalupe-Nipomo Dunes are the largest remaining dune system south of San Francisco and the second largest in California. These diverse habitats are crucial for vulnerable species such as the endangered western snowy plover and the threatened southern sea otter and are also designated critical habitat for several species including the Chinook salmon and the leatherback sea turtle. Sustaining these vulnerable populations requires maintaining ecosystem diversity through protection of this wide variety of representative and unique habitats. 

The island and marine ecosystems co-evolved with the Chumash and their culture and traditions that continue on today. The Chumash people’s long standing historical relationships with land and sea run deep. Chumash heritage sites, including evidence of astronomical observatories and other cultural resources, are now submerged. The more holistic perspective on stewardship that this knowledge offers is invaluable for equitable,  effective, community-led management and collaborative conservation moving forward. The sanctuary designation would continue to strengthen indigenous perspectives and cultural values in ocean conservation by supporting locally led and locally designed conservation efforts and providing support for Tribal nation priorities.

In addition to these submerged Chumash historic and cultural resources, there are also over 40 known historic shipwrecks in the region. The area encompassed by the proposed sanctuary contains Honda Point – site of the Navy’s worst peacetime loss of ships, as well as the gold-laden steamship S.S. Yankee Blade. Sanctuary designation would preserve these wrecks in perpetuity, allowing for study and interpretation of these historically, culturally, and archaeologically distinctive national treasures. 

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