The Chumash and the Presidio of Santa Barbara: Evolution of a Relationship, 1782-1823
Marie Christine Duggan, Ph.D.

Look at a California mission, and what do we see?  A building, perhaps, or several.  What really happened there? Marie Christine
Duggan provides a peek under the hood, at one place, over one period of time, and reveals that the missions were a focal point
for tensions and struggles among all of the different groups who lived in the area, and many of the individuals within them.

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1500 California Place Names: Their Origin and Meaning
William Bright

I believe every Californian should own a copy of this book, and read it through.  By its title, this may seem to be light reading to
entertain oneself with trivia, but it’s a substantial work in etymology put out by the University of California Press.  It contains the
kernels of well over a thousand stories about place names we use every day, usually without knowing why, such as Alhambra,
Antelope Valley, Azusa, Beverly Hills, Daly City, Castaic, the Golden Gate, La Tijera, Los Angeles, Ojai, Pasadena, Tijuana,
Temescal Canyon and countless others.  Because it is compact, this is indeed the sort of book one can digest a page at a time,
here and there.  After reading it all, the 1,500 etymologies come together like a jigsaw puzzle to give a much more complete
picture of what the state has been like at different times, and how it got to be what it is today.  The entries point toward a more
detailed look at whatever happens to catch your fancy.  Many times the origins of a name come as a surprise, and other times an
entry dispels a common myth or supposition about how a particular place name came to be.
The Chumash World at European Contact
Lynn H. Gamble

Gamble goes a long way toward providing a feel for what life was like in the Chumashian cultural sphere of southern California
in 1769 when Spanish colonization commenced.  She addresses some of the important contours of life in communities at the
time,including politics, social organization, household organization, economics, leadership structures, class distinctions, matters
of gender, and warfare.

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Rock Paintings of the Chumash
Campbell Grant

Campbell Grant, the author and, more importantly, illustrator of this significant book said that there were “a thousand and one
theories” about what the paintings of the Chumash signify, but that the only ones who really knew were the people who painted
them.

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Crystals in the Sky: An Intellectual Odyssey
Involving Chumash Astronomy, Cosmology and Rock Art
Travis Hudson and Ernest Underhay

The authors’ purpose is to explain, as best they can, some of what people were thinking and experiencing in California before
the Spanish arrived. In this book, the biological world is an endlessly recurring cycle of reincarnation in which matter is neither
created nor destroyed, but is transformed. After corporeal existence, the human soul attempts to ascend to the sky, visiting
important places along the way. Stars, then, are places that people visit incorporeally. Celestial geography helps explain life
and death and the nature of existence, and reading the sky is part of the fabric of culture.

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Flutes of Fire
Essays on California Indian Languages
Leanne Hinton

To give a flavor for what is in store for you as a reader, the author cites to some examples of how Wintu speakers think differently
from English speakers. Instead of saying, “I live with my sister,” the Wintu person says, “I am sistered.”  Rather than, “I took the
baby,” as a Wintu person you would say, “I went with the baby.” You conceive of your body and the clothes you are wearing
holistically. So instead of saying, “Her dress is striped,” you say, “She is dress striped.” Rather than saying, “My head aches,” you
say, “I head ache.” English has the concepts of singular and plural. The Wintu default is unified categories of beings, unless the
speaker points specifically to an individual member of that category. So a person raised speaking English sees a painting of a
deer. In fact, the Wintu painter is representing “deerness" ...

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First Families
A Photographic History of California Indians
L Frank and Kim Hogeland  

To produce this book, the authors asked California Indian people all over the state if they would be willing to talk about their
family photo albums. The authors then traveled to meet with the families and pretty much just listened as people, mostly elders,
opened up about their lives. Over six months, the authors interviewed two families per day for three hours each. They covered
over 50,000 miles crisscrossing the state as they tried to reach people in as many places as they could ...

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December's Child: A Book of Chumash Oral Narratives
Thomas C. Blackburn, Editor

To me, the greatest value of this book is that it contains stories that germinated on California soil. In California we have the
pleasure of exposure to narrative elements and personalities known to the peoples of distant lands, who are familiar to us today
in a variety of contexts by way of the European diaspora:  Morpheus, Nike, Olympus, Hercules, Calypso, the Sirens, Mercury,
Nemesis, Pan, and hemlock to name a few. The narrative elements and personalities of tales from before the Spanish arrival
ought to be familiar as well, since they are, in fact, from this country:  Momoy, Kaqunup’mawa, the Elyewun, Iwihinmu, Cholchol,
Shimilaqsha, the nunashish, the ksen, Slo’w, Qaq, Humqaq, Shnilemun, and ayip, among many others, and works such as
December’s Child help to address this problem.

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Chumash Ethnobotany
Jan Timbrook

This is a terrific resource for acquiring a sense of Chumashan interactions with the plant world. It contains about two hundred
pages of listings of individual plants with their Chumashan names, Latin names, common English names, and Spanish names,
and discussion of the plants’ roles in life, supported by citations. The book includes dozens of illustrations, a map of Chumashan
and neighboring territories, and a description of the local environment, with emphasis on the flora. Attention is given to plant
uses for food, medicine, and production of shelter, tools, utensils, clothing, and religious items. The individual plants are
discussed not just in terms of their places in material culture, but also in thought, philosophy, and perspective, including in
stories associated with them. This is not a foragers’ guide and the author discourages using it for that purpose. The main source
for the material is notes taken by John C. Harrington during his work together with Chumashan people. The manuscript was
carefully reviewed prior to publication by Julie Tumamait-Stenslie and others. Juanita Centeno is among those who encouraged
the work. At the end, the author includes a summary chart of the plants included in the book, and a separate chart of plant parts.
The author is Jan Timbrook, who at the time of publication was, among other things, Curator of Ethnography at the Santa Barbara
Museum of Natural History.
Flight: A Novel
Sherman Alexie

One of the things I like about Sherman Alexie is how little he seems to care what anyone else thinks about what he is doing. He
just does it. So "Flight" comes across to me as honest. I find honesty to be one of Alexie’s most appealing qualities as a writer.

“Flight” is an exploration of how to respond to and grapple with oppression. One option is through violence: Alexie’s central
character Michael, a.k.a. Zits, is a troubled teen driven out of desperation to the point of committing an atrocity. In the name of
“justice,” which is both personified as a human character and symbolized in the form of firearms, Michael is prepared to commit a
mass shooting of numerous, mostly Euro-American people who happen to be present when he goes to rob a bank ...

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Commentary
Monterey in 1786: Life in a California Mission
The Journals of Jean François de La Pérouse
with an Introduction and Commentary by Malcolm Margolin

This is a book which everyone in California ought to read carefully. It is the best succinct volume I have found to date providing a
factual, firsthand account of what life was like at a California mission. The topic is mature and presented with academic rigor, but
this is a page turner which is easy and fun to read, not a tough slog like many historical works can be. More than any other book
I can recall, the introduction and other interpretive notes are at least as important and interesting as the source document itself,
which is a set of journals by Jean François Galaup de La Pérouse who captained a goodwill expedition from France in the late
1700s.

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Book Reviews
by Glenn Anaiscourt