The Chumash Creation Myth
(or how the condor became black)

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The first Chumash were created on Santa Cruz Island by the Earth Goddess Hutash who fashioned them from the seeds of a magic plant. Hutash was married to the Sky Snake (the Milky Way), who could make lightning bolts with his tongue. One day, the Sky Snake decided to present a gift to the Chumash. So he sent down a bolt of lightning, which started a fire on the island grasslands below. After this, the Chumash kept fires burning in their villages, so that they could keep warm and cook their food.

click here for a larger pictureIn those days, the condor was a great white bird. One day, Condor was curious about a fire he saw burning in a Chumash village, and he wanted to find out what it was. So he flew low over the fire to get a better look, but he flew too close, and his feathers were scorched black except for under his wings, which he folded tight against his sides as he swooped through the flames. That is why the condor today is a black bird, with just a little white in the spots under his wings, the only part of him that did not get scorched.

click here for a larger pictureAfter Sky Snake gave the Chumash fire, they lived more comfortably than before. More children were born each year, the Chumash villages grew, and the island became crowded. The noise of all these people talking, playing and working began to annoy Hutash and kept her awake at night. So, she decided that some of the Chumash had to leave the island and move to the mainland, which in those days was uninhabited.

But how was Hutash going to move the Chumash across the sea channel to the mainland? Finally, she got the idea of making a bridge out of a long, high rainbow, which she stretched from the tallest peak on the island to a tall peak in the mountains of the mainland. Some Chumash believe the mainland peak was in the Palos Verdes Hills near Long Beach, but others would argue it was farther north in the Santa Barbara area. NO matter, perhaps there was even more than one Rainbow Bridge.

Hutash then sent the Chumash across the Rainbow Bridge to fill the whole world with people. A few stayed behind, but most started across the bridge on the long journey to the mainland. Many made it across safely, but some made the mistake of looking down to the water far, far below. Because the bridge was high and there was a thick fog swirling about, those who looked down became very dizzy and fell off the bridge into the churning waves of ocean below. Hutash felt very bad about this, and she didn't want the Chumash in the water to drown, so she turned them into dolphins. This is why the Chumash have always said that the dolphins are their brothers.

Click here to learn about the Yokuts Creation Story


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