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Museums, Festivals, Classes Open Door to Learning Indian History

March 10, 1990|TOM SANGER and KAY SANGER

An extensive excavation during 1974-75 uncovered artifacts dating back 3,500 years. Archeologists found a particularly large number of objects from the Chumash village of Mitz-kana-kan, which occupied the site for more than 1,000 years. Remains from this Indian occupation are on display at the adjacent museum, along with artifacts from Spanish, Mexican, Chinese and Analo pioneers who lived in the area. Open Tuesday-Sunday, 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Free.


Many natural areas offer docent-led hikes to help visitors understand how early inhabitants lived off the land. Some of the best:

* SANTA MONICA MOUNTAINS NATIONAL RECREATION AREA, National Park Service Visitor Information Center, 30401 Agoura Road, Suite 102, Agoura Hills, (818) 597-9192.

A group of more than 30 parks stretches across the Santa Monica Mountains from Franklin Canyon Ranch in Beverly Hills to Point Mugu State Park north of Malibu. Many of the parks offer hikes led by docents or rangers who teach participants about the area's Indians and and their use of the land. Call for a schedule of hikes.

* DESERT STUDIES CENTER, Soda Springs. From Interstate 15, take the Zzyzx Road off-ramp near Baker, (619) 256-3591.

Take a guided tour of ancient Indian sites to learn how Indians lived in the desert. Sponsored by the Desert Studies Consortium and the Bureau of Land Management, tours are conducted from October-April on most weekends at 10 a.m., noon, and 2 p.m. Per person, $2; family, $5.


Many California Indian tribes left behind paintings (pictographs) and carvings (petroglyphs) on rocks. Because much of this exquisite rock art has been destroyed by vandals, remaining sites are protected. One site can be seen on the tour at the Desert Studies Center. Another site you can visit is:


This sandstone shelter contains a spectacular Chumash polychrome painting. The age of the complicated designs are not known, although one theory suggests the painting may have been made at the time of a solar eclipse in 1677.

To reach the cave, drive north from U.S. Highway 101 on San Marcos Pass Road (Highway 154) 6 miles to Painted Cave Road; turn right to a shady canyon with a sign pointing to the cave.


CHANNEL ISLANDS NATIONAL PARK, Visitor Center, 1901 Spinnaker Drive, Ventura, (805) 644-8262.

Five islands in the Santa Barbara Channel--Anacapa, Santa Cruz, Santa Rosa, San Miguel and Santa Barbara--were once home for seafaring Chumash who lived on these islands and regularly crossed the channel in their canoes. Stop by the mainland Visitor Center to see a display of Chumash artifacts, pleasantly labeled "Please touch." Open daily, 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Free.

* ISLAND PACKERS, the transportation concession for the park, offers daily boat excursions to the islands. The two best islands for learning about Indian life are Anacapa and Santa Cruz. Nature Conservancy guides describe life on the Islands before European contact.

Island Packers, 1867 Spinnaker Drive, Ventura, (805) 642-1393. Reservations required for island tours. Day trips to Anacapa and Santa Cruz islands: Adults, $34 and $39; ages 3-12, $18 and $29; under 2, free.


SATWIWA NATIVE AMERICAN INDIAN NATURAL AREA, Rancho Sierra Vista/Satwiwa, at Potrero Road and Pinehill Road, Newbury Park, (818) 597-9192.

Located in foothills inhabited by the Chumash Indians for perhaps 2,000 years, Satwiwa Native American Indian Natural Area sits on a grassy plain below Boney Mountain, a peak sacred to the tribe.

The Indian Natural Area is open daily. The cultural center is open Sundays, 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Free.

* INDIAN CANYONS, at south end of South Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs, (619) 325-5673.

Andreas Canyon, Murray Canyon and Palm Canyon are desert oases, once tribal home sites for the Agua Caliente Cahuilla Indians. Today you can pack a picnic and hike or ride on horseback along ancient canyon trails. Under majestic palms and along running streams, you'll spot Indian house pits, irrigation ditches, food processing areas and petroglyphs. Open daily, September-May, 8 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Adults, $3; seniors, $2; children, 75 cents.


You'll find books about Southern California Indians at the museums mentioned above and at some bookstores. Three readily available books are:

* HANDBOOK OF THE INDIANS OF CALIFORNIA, A.L. Kroeber, Dover Publications, New York.

* CALIFORNIA'S CHUMASH INDIANS, McCall and Perry, Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History, Santa Barbara.

* ISLAND OF THE BLUE DOLPHINS, Scott O'Dell, Dell Publishing Co., New York. (fiction).

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