Tribe Outlines Plans for $32 million Santa Ynez Chumash Museum and Cultural Center
Source: Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians
After decades of longing for a place to celebrate its heritage, share its history, and educate visitors about its rich culture, the Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians is one step closer to realizing that dream.
Tribal leadership was joined by architects, designers and dedicated members of its staff on Monday at the reservation’s Tribal Hall to present plans for its forthcoming Santa Ynez Chumash Museum and Cultural Center, a $32 million project that will be located adjacent to Highway 246 on 6.9 acres of land that was placed into federal trust for the tribe.
“We are excited that we’ve finally reached the stage where we can begin construction on our Santa Ynez Chumash Museum and Cultural Center,” said Kenneth Kahn, Tribal Chairman for the Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians. “This is something our tribe has wanted for a long time. To see it come to fruition will be a dream come true for many of us.”
The stated mission of the Santa Ynez Chumash Museum and Cultural Center is “to promote respect, knowledge and dialog by sharing the cultural heritage of the first people of the area and the present day Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians. Our stories will connect the past with the present in order to inform our shared future. The museum and cultural center will achieve this through collecting, preserving and presenting outstanding collections, images and programs about our Chumash culture.”
The quest for a tribal museum began in the mid-1970s, when a traditional tule ‘Ap was erected on the Santa Ynez Chumash Reservation to showcase artifacts and replications. The tribe also once applied for its Flores adobe to be registered as a historic place, with the intent of restoring it as a tribal museum.
Then, in 2005, the Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians submitted an application to place its 6.9-acre parcel across from the reservation into federal trust for the purpose of building a museum.
While the tribe endured the long federal fee-to-trust process, Kathleen Conti, the tribe’s Director of Museum Programs, Research and Resources, was hired, and a 14-member museum advisory committee was appointed to begin working with Conti on the process of building a growing collection of artifacts and replications.
In 2014, when the Bureau of Indian Affairs officially placed the land into federal trust, the tribe hired Seattle-based, award-winning architects Jones & Jones to begin plans for the Santa Ynez Chumash Museum and Cultural Center.
Jones & Jones has completed more than 650 projects in the Americas, Asia, Europe, Australia and Africa. Founding Partner Johnpaul Jones, who was awarded a National Humanities Medal by President Obama at the White House in 2014, is Choctaw/Cherokee by heritage and was the designer of the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian on the Mall in Washington, D.C. His designs have won widespread acclaim for their reverence for the earth, for paying deep respect to regional architectural traditions and native landscapes, and for heightening understanding of indigenous people and cultures of America.
Armstrong Associates, a Santa Barbara-based construction company, and Summit Project Management of Culver City have been hired by the tribe to work with Jones & Jones to make the museum dream into a reality.
Three highlights of the new tribal museum will be its architecture reflecting Chumash culture, its unique visitor experience and a dedicated gathering place where visitors can learn about the first people of this region.
The design includes a Welcome House, Heritage House, Traditional Tule House, Samala Language House, and a Tomol House; symbolically bringing together several houses to make a village. These components and others will offer visitors informative exhibits and exciting programming that tell the Chumash story in the authentic voice of the people across the site.
A 3.5-acre cultural park adjacent to the museum features an amphitheater for storytelling as well as a living village. The museum landscaping includes traditional plants gathered for food, medicine and making items used in everyday life. A basketry and cordage garden will highlight plants used for weaving highly specialized baskets.
The museum will also advance the legacy of Chumash environmental stewardship and keep ancient sustainability traditions alive in the 21st Century by seeking to become one of the first LEED-certified tribal museums in the United States. The project will feature high-efficiency systems to protect the tribe’s artifact collection, locally sourced materials – like stone from the Santa Ynez River – and landscape irrigation that utilizes recycled water.
Visitors will come away with a deeper understanding of the challenges and opportunities Chumash ancestors faced living in the Santa Ynez Valley for more than 8,000 years.
The Santa Ynez Reservation is located in Santa Barbara County and was established and officially recognized by the federal government on December 27, 1901. Today, the Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians remains the only federally recognized Chumash tribe in the nation. The tribe is a self-governing tribal sovereign nation and follows the laws set forth in its tribal constitution.