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Chumash Economy Essay

1218 words - 5 pages

When the Europeans first started to explore and settle the New World they saw themselves as heroes and saviors who would be bringing the savages of the Americas to civilization. In their arrogance they were blinded to the fact that those so called savages they sought to civilize were already developed into a complex and structured societies that excelled in many elements of social workings. One keen example of a civilized native society was that of the Chumash who inhabited the coast of the Santa Barbara County, of what was then called Alta California, for the better part of one or more millennia; this longstanding influence on the land can be seen in the names of places in California such ...view middle of the document...

. . They have their own kind of government, two, three, or four chiefs, and one of these chiefs is the headman, who gives orders to everyone.” Taking this into account the true question to be analyzed is to what extent did the Chumash control and/or facilitate the trade that occurred in Alta California. Although the Chumash were viewed as a primitive people in the eyes of the European explorers and missionaries, the Chumash proved to be a highly developed society capable of developing an economic system which can be argued to be the first presence of capitalism in America. It was through their technology, resources, and geographical location that they were able to construct the foundation for their economy to exist.
When it comes to the historiography of not only the Chumash but of most indigenous people in the Americas there is a thin red line between the acceptance of their self-histories in a field dominated by western interpretation. A key component learned in the study of the methodology of history is objectivity and how it is crucial to analyzing and interpreting historical sources, particularly those that are primary. Unfortunately as previously stated the primary sources that the Chumash utilized existed as self-histories that often took the form of mythological narratives. The problem with this format of recording history is that according to western interpretation the style in which history should be recorded is centered on the facts of the given subject, facts that are relative to the real physical world. In the minds of those that wrote the mythologies “a dream-like ‘other world’ is considered to be just as real as the predictable, everyday world.” The Chumash believed that those myths, while often supernatural in nature, held the same historical value as the archived documents that was popular for the western world. Therefore, the inability for the self-histories of the Chumash to be properly recognized from a historical standpoint has greatly hindered the likelihood for objectivity in the history of the region and of the Chumash themselves. This is because the only histories that will be recognized as part of the historiography of California are those that are written by westerners as it is they who have biased the general interpretation of sources.
When one analyzes a civilization it is often in its technological advances that an approximation can be made as to how much the civilization in question has developed. In the case of the Chumash one of their greatest technological innovations was their long range canoe called the Tomol. The Tomol was an expertly engineered watercraft “constructed of rare and expensive materials, including drift redwood 300 to...

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