Dos Pueblos Chumash

Dos Pueblos Chumash title=
Dos Pueblos Chumash
Reads 9193

By Tom Modugno of Goleta History

Dos Pueblos is Spanish for two villages, but to locals, that’s the name of our high school.

And the name of a ranch on the outskirts of town. But why would this ranch and our high school be named “Two Villages”? Good question….

Dos Pueblos

European explorers nicknamed this area Dos Pueblos because there were two Chumash villages right next to each other. The two villages in question were 10 miles west of Goleta at this picturesque location on the coast. They were called Mikiw and Kuyamu, and they were here long before any Europeans came along and gave them a generic name. But the reality is that these two villages were anything but generic…

This aerial shot from 1936 shows where the two separate villages were located. We emphasize separate because they were very different and unique.

There was just a small stream and an estero between them, but despite their proximity, they spoke different dialects and had different cultures.  The villagers were not allowed to cross the creek without first getting the other tribes’ permission.

The people of the two villages also had different physical characteristics. The people of Mikiw were thought to be descended from the Shoshone tribe, those people being tall, slender and a light complexion. The Kuyamuns were thought to be from Aztec descent, short, thick and darker skinned.

 [This map has been removed as requested by a UCSB Anthropology Professor]

It’s not known which group was there first, which group was more aggressive, and how they came to tolerate each other. We only know that they lived next to each other for hundreds of years.

In the exposed cliffs below Kuyamu was a trickling stream of asphaltum, a great asset to that tribe. It was used for a multitude of things by all the Chumash villages,including the construction of their impressive watercraft, the Tomol.

Their houses were described by European explorers as a half an orange covered with skins. They arranged them in groups and each house slept multiple families, with interior walls to divide the spaces. Some huts housed 50 people! Interior light came from a hole in the roof that also served as a chimney. Unlike most early Californians, the Chumash slept in framed beds raised off the ground and they covered themselves with skins and shawls.


While we like to imagine the Chumash as living in a perfect world, the reality was not so idyllic. Being human, they surely had their problems too. Social inequality was apparent, as there was an upper class, middle class and lower class, distinguished by their apparel. Additionally, many Chumash villages had ongoing disputes with some of their neighbors.


Spanish journals from the 1770s mention the near constant fighting of some tribes, the most common disputes being about trespassing and women. The normal method of warfare was by ambush or late night attacks. The Chumash living at the Dos Pueblos were reportedly seen as “troublemakers” and some witnesses described seeing them with scalps from other Chumash they had killed. The villages at Dos Pueblos were also victims of raids and one report says the attackers came from inland specifically to attack Kuyamu

The Arroyo Quemada area, just up the coast from Dos Pueblos, is named after a village that was burned while the inhabitants slept. According to the journal of a Spanish Governor, the natives from Dos Pueblos were responsible. The same journal states that the Dos Pueblos and the village on Mescaltitlan islandwere “declared enemies”, that fought viciously and often. So often, in fact, that the Spanish considered putting the Presidio in between those two villages, instead of in Santa Barbara, to prevent the constant fighting.

Many other tribes got along well with one another and trading was commonplace between them. There were alliances with villages from different areas up and down the coast and deep in the inland valleys. 

When the Europeans appeared in the Santa Barbara Channel, they were more than welcomed by the natives. Their friendliness towards the explorers was overwhelming. Were they just a naturally happy people, eager to share their paradise with strangers? Or were they hoping for a powerful new ally in their ongoing battles with rival tribes?

Most modern California history books start with Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo cruising up the California coast under the Spanish flag. In fact, Walker Tompkins calls the day Cabrillo anchored off the Dos Pueblos, the day history began. But for the Chumash, it was really the beginning of the end.

Cabrillo’s two ships, La Victoria and San Salvador, dropped anchor off Dos Pueblos in the late afternoon on October 16th, 1542. The ships must have been an awesome sight to the natives, but they probably heard of their approach from fellow Chumash to the south.

Cabrillo had seen and visited many native villages on his six month journey up the coast, and he knew if he let his men go ashore, the Chumash hospitality would put them further behind schedule. His purpose for stopping here was just an overnight anchorage before resuming his search for the mythical Northwest Passage. The entry in Cabrillo’s log this night read, “anchored in the evening opposite dos pueblos”. And so it was, the generic name was born.

Cabrillo and his men watched as the friendly Dos Pueblans paddled their tomols out through the surf to greet them. They had seen this for the past week, as they had been escorted by the Chumash on these speedy canoes all through the Santa Barbara Channel. They were loaded with gifts of fresh and dried fish, baskets of acorn meal and so on. The Europeans usually reciprocated with glass beads from Italy, brightly colored cloth scraps and other worthless trinkets. But this day Cabrillo was under the pressure of winter approaching and supplies dwindling, so he had to refuse the natives invitation to come ashore.

At the crack of dawn, Cabrillo was off, across the channel to check out the islands, and to meet his fate. (Historians can’t agree on the details of Cabrillo’s death, so we’ll go with Walker Tompkins version.) On his first visit to San Miguel Island, Cabrillo broke his leg. They continued on, around Point Conception, where they encountered rough seas and foul weather. The expedition made it as far as the Rogue River in Oregon, but retreated back to the Santa Barbara Channel for refuge.

Gangrene had taken hold of Cabrillo’s battered body, and when they made camp on one of the Channel Islands he passed away, just a few months after his visit to the dos pueblos. Many believe he is buried on San Miguel Island, in plain view of the villages at dos pueblos.

The people of Mikiw and Kuyamu went back to life as usual after the strange visitors left, and their memory slowly faded. Amazingly, 227 years passed before another European made direct contact with their world. Generations were born and died with the legend of the hairy jawed white men on giant canoes.

A few large ships passed by over the years, but they stayed well off the coast and probably were not noticed by many. Imagine those few telling others what they think they saw and being met by skepticism, much like a UFO sighting today…

The mid 1700s brought invaders from another corner of the world. Russia had claimed Alaska, and they quickly realized the value of the sea otter pelt. Aggressive Russians enlisted Aleutian slaves to help harvest the pelts and they were soon seen hunting in California waters.


This handsome gentleman, King Charles III of Spain, did not like having Russian operatives off the coast of his Northern Mexican provinces. He decreed that Alta California needed armed defenders, ASAP. Spain came up with a three pronged plan; Presidios, Missions, Land Grants. Thus, a land expedition was put together to determine locations for the presidios and hopefully find a good harbor for the Spanish Navy.

A Catalan soldier, Don Gaspar de Portola, was put in charge of the expedition that left San Diego in July of 1769. His group consisted of chief scout and trailblazer Sgt. José Francisco de Ortega, Father Juan Crespí, many soldiers and Baja California natives and 100 mules carrying supplies. There were 63 people in all. In the late afternoon on August 21st, 1769, the group came through the oak groves to Dos Pueblos Creek where they stopped to water the livestock.

The scout, Sgt. Ortega, was the first European to set foot on the soil at Dos Pueblos, and he greeted the awestruck people of Mikiw and Kuyamu. These Chumash were the great-great-grandchildren of the Chumash that welcomed Cabrillo two centuries before. The Chumash were especially amazed by the great beasts these fancy men sat upon. Horses had never trod upon Dos Pueblos before, but they would play a huge role in its future, as would young Sgt. Ortega…

Fr. Crespi kept a daily log and he described an Indian settlement of more than 1,000 souls. Crespi officially named the dos pueblos, “San Luis Obispo de Tolusa”, but it didn’t stick.  The explorers camped near Kuyamu and were immediately greeted with gifts of fresh fish. They had been welcomed at most every village since Malibu and were growing weary of the all night parties. 

Fr. Crespi described how the Chumash at Dos Pueblos were not satisfied with providing the visitors with fresh fish but also wanted to entertain them. The chief came with split reeds that when shook served as a rhythm instrument to accompany their chants and dances, all through the night. The Europeans begged the Chumash to let them sleep, and sent them away, but they returned later in the night blowing some sort of horn that Crespi says, “was sufficient to rip our eardrums to pieces.” The soldiers feared the horses might stampede and they quickly gave the Chumash some beads and convinced them to let them sleep.

The next morning, Portola got a good look at the area surrounding Dos Pueblos, and was so impressed that he ordered the expedition to stay some extra days to make a detailed survey. This lead many to believe this site was seriously considered for the location of the Presidio and Mission. Additionally, this allowed the expedition time to learn more about the Canalino Chumash. A lot of valuable information was recorded at Dos Pueblos. They studied their huts, sweat lodges, cemeteries, stone and basketwork, their tomols and they tried to learn about their society. 

Among their observations, they determined monogamy was the norm, crime was so rare they had no punishment system, and they had a money system using limpet shells. They recorded random little observations like how  women played a game similar to throwing dice, using snail shells filled with tar. The number of shells landing upright when a handful was tossed determined the winner.

They also reported that sexuality held no moral constraints, so promiscuity with the disease ridden explorers was accepted. Unfortunately, this would help facilitate the demise of their population.

Portola’s group moved on and a few years later, in 1774, Juan Bautista de Anza and his expedition camped at Dos Pueblos. The Chumash probably began to realize these foreigners were not going away.

In 1782, the Spaniards built a Presidio near Chief Yanonalit’s village in Santa Barbara and the commandante was Jose Francisco de Ortega, the scout from Portola’s expedition and a friend of the Dos Pueblos Chumash. A permanent Spanish military base didn’t have an immediate effect on the natives, but four short years later the mission was built, and that’s when things really went downhill for the Chumash.

Father Fermin de Lasuen constructed, with Chumash labor, a small adobe church near the Royal Presidio and was ready to start saving souls.

Father Lasuen visited all the Chumash villages in the area, including the dos pueblos, where he informed the villagers that they were now living on a Royal Rancho, granted to the Mission by the King of Spain. They would now be expected to cultivate their land, plant, farm and harvest crops, to help support the cause of the Mission. To people that had lived off the bounty of Mother Nature for centuries, this must have seemed absurd. But they didn’t have much choice in the matter


Even more ridiculous was the order that they must leave their comfortable home at beautiful Dos Pueblos and go live in tiny windowless adobe huts inside a locked gate at the Mission! Some of the elder Chumash rebelled at this nonsense and wandered back to Dos Pueblos, but the Fathers were determined crusaders. They fervently believed they had to save these pagan souls, even against their will.

In 1769 Portola reported thousands living at Dos Pueblos. Just 25 years later, a census counted 210 people living there. Most residents had been forced to move to the mission and work for the padres and soldiers, or they had died from European diseases. Salsipueto was the chief of the rugged few that chose to stay at Dos Pueblos and refused to suffer the foolish ways of the Spanish lifestyle.

The final blow came for the villagers at Dos Pueblos as a result of a Chumash revolt in 1824. Mission neophytes, fed up with the abuse, briefly fought back against the Spaniards, then quickly retreated to the mountains. Four elders from Dos Pueblos happened to be walking down to visit Santa Barbara the same day, oblivious to the warfare. When they arrived into town, Spanish soldiers brutally beat and disemboweled them in the street, in front of multiple witnesses, simply for being Chumash. The news of this attack sent most of the few remaining at Dos Pueblos packing into the mountains, as far as Tulare county, never to return to their ancestral home.

In 1837, a young Irishman named Nicholas Den rode through Dos Pueblos and fell in love with the area. He vowed to own it one day, and went to work for the Ortega family at Refugio, supervising Chumash laborers. Den had studied medicine in Ireland, but never got his diploma. Since there were no doctors in Santa Barbara at the time, he became very much in demand as a doctor. He helped all walks of life and took pay only when they could afford it. He saved a lot of Chumash lives and befriended many of them. He soon learned to speak Chumash, and they taught him about their medicinal herbs, which he put to good use.

After much hard work and jumping through all the political hoops, Den was awarded the Rancho Dos Pueblos land grant in 1842. He considered himself a friend of the natives, and he allowed some Chumash to live on their ancestral lands at Dos Pueblos. Den lived a good long life here and his last action on this planet was to save a Chumash life. He left his sick bed in the middle of a cold stormy night to assist a Chumash woman giving birth at El Capitan Point. After he managed to save the woman’s life, he journeyed back home through the storm. The next morning, Den died from double pneumonia.

His Chumash friends and employees assembled outside his window and sang an ancient sacred chant, reserved for the passing of a high chief.

The Dos Pueblos Ranch changed hands through the following years and several prominent archaeologists came and studied the Chumash remains. Much of the village site of Kuyamu has fallen into the sea due to normal erosion, and famed archaeologist David Banks Rogers happened to be working on this site when the Great earthquake of 1925 hit. He describes watching a large portion of the village site dropping into the sea, all at once. Another archeologist, Dr. Yarrow working in 1875, took 10 to 15 tons of artifacts from this area.  He reported arched whale bones above the graves at Mikiw. Some thirty skeletons were buried on the bluff in beach sand. Archeologists were baffled by the reasoning to carry about 5 tons of sand up the 60 foot bluff for burial rites.

Further up the canyon they found remnants of a village of the Oak Grove people, an ancient people that were here thousands of years before even the Chumash arrived. This place we call Dos Pueblos has been desirable for eons….

And continues to be so today. If you have enough money, this sacred place can be rented to celebrate your own special occasion.

So, if you’re ever lucky enough to find yourself there, take a moment to imagine how it once was, and the people that lived there for centuries before us.

Login to add Comments


Show Comments
ljmdance Nov 03, 2018 12:12 PM
Dos Pueblos Chumash

This is riveting! Thank you so much for sharing it!

CoastWatch Nov 03, 2018 01:04 PM
Dos Pueblos Chumash

Seems to me, the Chumash should live down by the coast - If I were one of the 261 tribe members, I would rather build my home near the Ritz Carlton-Bacarra than the Santa Ynez Airport...
A Casino location by the Ocean would be a HUGE draw to the South Coast / Santa Barbara / Goleta area... What were these members thinking...?

KuroNeko Nov 03, 2018 02:49 PM
Dos Pueblos Chumash

Coastwatch - Building a home on the beach doesn't mean you can operate a casino from your home! I wish it did mean that, on second thought maybe not.. Anyway, when the Europeans came they pushed out the natives and kept the best land for themselves. Example close to home? The Barbareno Chumash reservation at Hope Ranch. I'm hoping to read a story that includes how the reservation land there was stolen. The tribes were most always relegated to the land that nobody wanted. The Santa Ynez Chumash are very fortunate to have kept their ancestral land. Unlike the Barbareno, Ventureno and Obispeno Chumash groups.

a-1541301932 Nov 03, 2018 08:25 PM
Dos Pueblos Chumash

Are you joking? Do you actually THINK that the Chumash chose to live in Santa Ynez where the reservation is? Try again! They got what they were given. It's pretty messed up.

Phin Nov 04, 2018 09:36 AM
Dos Pueblos Chumash

Might I suggest a swap: McCaw's Hope Ranch clifftop estate for the "Camp Nine" land in the SYV?

mtndriver Nov 03, 2018 01:10 PM
Dos Pueblos Chumash

Thank you so much! Reading this was heartbreaking, actually. But here we are, living in this beautiful place. I hope we can take good care of it so a couple hundred years from now it's still a paradise.

Bodyboarder73 Nov 03, 2018 02:25 PM
Dos Pueblos Chumash

Fascinating! Can I recommend an article about the history of the Wild West Period here on the Central Coast after this period? I find the stories of a gang of cattle rustlers intriguing as well

Flicka Nov 03, 2018 04:23 PM
Dos Pueblos Chumash

The Chumash reservation in Santa Ynez was chosen by the powers that be because it was about the most useless property found to give the Native Americans. Naturally beach property was too valuable for people whose ancestors were here long before the Europeans arrived.

EastBeach Nov 03, 2018 04:31 PM
Dos Pueblos Chumash

Enjoyed the history and perspective. Can't wait for the winter low tides to do a beach hike out there.

NostraChumash Nov 03, 2018 07:25 PM
Dos Pueblos Chumash

Unfortunately Ladies & Gentlemen..
This Westernized Euro-Christian historical revision of the story of the hogwash.
It comes conveniently, after mission vandalism events,
& attempts to paint the Chumash as "normal american folks", but this is not usual when it comes to the telling of our history.
As I've said on each of my local radio shows;
"You want to know about us..
then ask US"....

tMo Nov 04, 2018 10:00 AM
Dos Pueblos Chumash

This page was done before the mission vandalism events, but I like your conspiracy theory. Could you specify what makes this page hogwash? We all want to know the truth.

EastBeach Nov 04, 2018 11:55 AM
Dos Pueblos Chumash

@NOSTRA - I think there's a great opportunity for the local Chumash to tell their history with the upcoming museum and cultural center @SYZ. Possibilities include videos for visitors (like the National Parks do at their visitor centers) and a website with historical info (also like the Park Service). There is a Chumash museum down in Thousand Oaks but their website has very little educational content.

a-1541298365 Nov 03, 2018 07:26 PM
Dos Pueblos Chumash

It is wonderful that you gave everyone this history lesson but you definitely need to update your resources as a lot of what you have presented is not factual. The other thing to remember is the Spanish documentary is also very biased as they were observing the Chumash from their own cultural lens so what they wrote should not be taken as factual.

tMo Nov 04, 2018 10:02 AM
Dos Pueblos Chumash

Please enlighten us and name some up to date reliable resources. It's hard to find any written history of the Chumash that's not European....

Factotum Nov 04, 2018 12:04 PM
Dos Pueblos Chumash

When a culture develops no written text, all latter day versions about their early history are only conjecture and speculation. Thank the Spaniards to providing at least a modicum of documentation. Otherwise it would be zero. No one can assign blame or victimhood this late in the game. Chumash today are making money hand over fist taking gambling profits from those who often can least afford it. That is the Chumash history today - well-documented. Move on.

EastBeach Nov 04, 2018 12:16 PM
Dos Pueblos Chumash

I'm sure Tom worked hard on this article and had good intentions pulling together all the sources. One interesting and somewhat amusing thing I noticed about the three illustrations of sailing vessels ... the second illustration (La Victoria and San Salvador) seems to show the flags blowing in the wrong direction!? Any sailors out there?

EastBeach Nov 05, 2018 09:48 PM
Dos Pueblos Chumash

Spoke to a co-worker who sails. He explained the second photo depicting Cabrillo's two ships shows them tacking into the wind. The ship can sail up to 45-degrees from the wind that way. The sail forms an airfoil like on an airplane and the low pressure on the "front" side of the sail essentially sucks the ship along. That's different than when the wind is "driving" the sails and is blowing in the same direction as the ship is travelling. Never too late to learn something!

SBZZ Nov 04, 2018 12:29 PM
Dos Pueblos Chumash

OK NostraC - I am asking you - what would you correct in this article?

tMo Nov 04, 2018 01:45 PM
Dos Pueblos Chumash

It's kind of frustrating that there isn't much info out there about the Chumash and the people before them. And whenever anyone tries to share what info is out there, people claiming to be Chumash call it inaccurate and biased. So I guess their preference is to have no recorded history so they can claim whatever they want to be true and not have to prove it. Certainly the only recorded history is written by Europeans, but it is something to consider and at least give us a one sided glimpse of what California was like in those days. I tried to be as fair as possible with this story and I had it approved by a respected member of the Barbareno Band of the Chumash. If this person that wants to promote his "local radio show" wants to help me correct whatever errors I have made, I would greatly appreciate it. If he just wants to down vote everyone's comments and hide, that is as helpful as throwing paint on the mission. My intention was to share some info about the people that were here before us and I think this page does that. Thanks.

a-1541368485 Nov 04, 2018 01:54 PM
Dos Pueblos Chumash

I am Spirit-Bear,aka NostraChumash.
I'm in the process of cleansing a parcel of local property in order that I may have a place for people to gather & learn those things requested of our ancient knowledge.
When ready, I will announce on AM 1290, when & where this info will be offered.
Please stay alert for future announcements.

Bodyboarder73 Nov 04, 2018 02:17 PM
Dos Pueblos Chumash

Call it like it is. It’s just misplaced anger towards the ancestors of Europeans resulting in racism towards white people today. All cultures were savages back then. Let’s try to maintain a healthier outlook on what we all have today. Bury the past and love one another’s differences

NostraChumash Nov 04, 2018 05:36 PM
Dos Pueblos Chumash

Bboarder & Larry q...
No guys..not the case.
Come & listen & be enlightened.

Bodyboarder73 Nov 04, 2018 06:29 PM
Dos Pueblos Chumash

What are your on air dates and times on 1290am Nostra?

PitMix Nov 05, 2018 09:39 AM
Dos Pueblos Chumash

Nothing would stop the Chumash from buying oceanfront property, especially if it had artifacts, and then getting some Central Valley politician to petition the Dept of Interior to make it part of their reservation. Then building the ocean front casino. If you build it, they will come.

Flicka Nov 05, 2018 11:55 AM
Dos Pueblos Chumash

I always get a kick out of "the Chumash Casino is taking money from people who can least afford it". I can't afford it so I have never gone there. No one makes anyone go throw away their money. We are responsible for making decisions for ourselves. Maxed out credit cards also are to blame for taking money from people who can least afford it, just a poor irresponsible decision by card holders. I never use one.

a-1541488874 Nov 05, 2018 11:21 PM
Dos Pueblos Chumash

Gambling is an addiction, which is a disease, for some people.

NostraChumash Nov 05, 2018 12:44 PM
Dos Pueblos Chumash

Notice the tonality of many of the comments ie pitmix..
There ARE artifacts along the coast, but the SYV band has NOT done as you suggest.
This is the main reason we as Chumash do not discuss matters with make poor
But, Bboarder, as I stated in an earlier post.. I will announce when my shows air.
In the meantime, feel free to call AM1290 & request Peter to come on & the station may make arrangements.
If you guys truly want to know some "things", I will divulge what has been hidden for the last 200 yrs.

EastBeach Nov 05, 2018 09:43 PM
Dos Pueblos Chumash

Sad to think it's a paid subscriber who's doing all the excessive down-voting. I also found the history interesting. It motivated me to do some Google searches on the Chumash. As Tom said, there is little historical info out there, academic or otherwise.

a-1541533655 Nov 06, 2018 11:47 AM
Dos Pueblos Chumash

This is a fascinating history, but it comes almost verbatim from Walker A. Tompkins' 1987 book, "Santa Barbara's Royal Rancho: The Fabulous History of Los Dos Pueblos." I wonder why the author didn't credit Tompkins.

Normandie Kent May 26, 2020 10:27 PM
Dos Pueblos Chumash

What in the Sam Hill!!!! Most of this article is wrong! And outdated too! Where the hell did you get your info about 2 different tribes living in two villages of Dos Pueblo’s 1. The Shoshone 2. The Aztec ?!?! Have you bumped your head?! There have never been Shoshone or Aztec in Chumash territory, in fact, both are Ute-Aztecan language speakers, and have always lived East and South of the Coastal Chumash. The villages that formed DP would of been Barbareno Chumashan speakers. These are two mistakes you made, but there are many others. I doubt you had any Chumash person go over your article to correct its many mistakes. So I’ll leave it at that! Just so you know, the Chumash have lived in the Channel Islands and area for 14,000+ years! There were no dark skin light skin indians. All Chumash are genetically related, but are not genetically related to any other non-Chumash Indians North, East, or South of them. They are a genetically distinct genetic and linguistic isolate people.

Normandie Kent May 26, 2020 11:01 PM
Dos Pueblos Chumash

To everyone who thinks that all Chumash are rich with all their casino money! Go suck a fat one!! The 120 or so Chumash that do have Casino proceeds, are only a small number of the actual Chumash descendants who have no money and who have nothing to do with San Ynez Casino and the Mission! There were 6 missions built in Chumash territory, out of 20,000+ Chumash people at first contact, they were the most populous tribe spread out from Malibu, Simi Valley to Paso Robles, out of the original number of ancestors, there are now about 6-7,000 Chumash left! Subtract 120 San Ynez Chumash Indians out of the 6,500 and how many are left?! The ones you have left don’t live on the Rez, have no federal recognition, and have no money!! Use your critical thinking skills for once!! There is no reason for White Americans to hate Native Americans and the Chumash!! Why is there no animosity against the Germans, Japanese, Confederates, or Italians for all the wars that were fought against the USA?! The Chumash never went to war against the American invaders! So what gives?! I have my theories, and the one that fits, is because white Americans hate Native Americans and the Chumash for the simple fact that While the Native American exists, the White European American will NEVER belong to the Americas, while the Native American exists, survives, the White Man will never be Native to the land they stole!!. There is no other reason! Straight up spite!! The Natives are just reminders of theft, genocide, ethnic cleansing, after all that , they still remain as reminders of what the Euro immigrant on Native land will never be, Native to the land!

Please Login or Register to comment on this.