Sunday, October 12, 2014

No. 99 - May 29, 2014 - Isla Vista Memories

by Melinda Pillsbury-Foster

Passersby are now sharing their thoughts on large sheets of plywood, painted black, an ad hoc memorial wall to the victims of the Shooting, standing on Pardall Rd., near Anisq’oyo Park. The name is Chumash for the area just north from Goleta and Santa Barbara. Translated it means, Paradise of Gold.

People pause to read, think, then write, coping with grief and shock. Also present is hope and promises to remember.

Violence has touched this beautiful area many times.

10,000 Chumash lived there when the Spanish arrived to establish Mission Santa Barbara around 1786. The Chumash were a peaceful people, putting serious thought into customs to moderate conflict and violence.

The head of a village, called a Wot, was a very different kind of leader. Chosen by consensus, the person was expected to help everyone who was in need along with providing advise and leadership. They remained Wot as long as they were respected.

A woman could be a Wot and we know the local village's leader was a woman when the Spanish arrived.

A hunter-gatherer people, there has been intense study of Chumash customs through studies of historians and anthropologists. Astonishingly, it appears nothing became extinct during the thousands of years the Chumash occupied the area.

The Chumash themselves are reticent about sharing today.

They were an easy target for the arriving Spanish. In just a few years there were few Chumash left, though today the several Bands still keep their memories and traditions and are relearning the original Chumash language, the oldest in California.

The Chumash have always maintained they came to the area 40,000 years ago in large boats, directly across the sea. The discovery of San Miguel Woman, a burial dated 14,000 years ago, on San Miguel Island just off the coast.

Until after WWII Isla Vista remained undeveloped and quiet except for becoming a target for a Japanese torpedo, aimed at the Marine base which occupied what is now the University of California at Santa Barbara. No damage was done. In 1953 a growing student population caused a housing boom as rentals sprang up.

With the highest concentration of population in Santa Barbara County, most of these students, there is a tradition of activism. In the aftermath of the Isla Vista Shooting many students are talking about violence. A good beginning would include understanding the Chumash and see the world through their eyes.

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