A tribal organization advancing community collaboration, social justice, and environmental stewardship

Sacred Sites

Chumash records confirm occupation of the central coast area for over 20,000 years with two recorded dates of:

18,000 years at Humqaq (point conception), an extremely important Chumash Sacred Place

14,500 years on the Channel Islands

North of Humqaq (point conception), Jalama is a Sacred Chumash village site. Many other significant Chumash sites associated with the ocean ecology are found along the adjacent coastal terrain north to ‘Ataxīš (point sal), including two 10,000 year-old sites within Vandenberg Space Force Base, including the Swordfish Cave.

Continuing north there are various onshore and offshore Sacred sites, many of which have been continuously occupied for an estimated 10,000 years. These include, but are not limited to:

  • Throughout Los Osos and Montaña de Oro 
  • Hundreds of Sacred Chumash sites ringing Chicqawt’ (Morro Bay)
  • The Sacred Chumash village site of Tsitxala (Cayucos)–continuously occupied for 8,000 years
  • Large sites found in the area to a mile north of Pt. Estero
  • Two Sacred Chumash village sites in tsɨtkawayu (Cambria) –continuously occupied for 10,000 years
  • Tšɨłkukunɨtš (the California Valley Carrizo Plains National Monument site) where our Chumash people return to renew the Traditional Ritual Ceremony Cycle
  • The Sacred Chumash site at Diablo Cove along the coastline of the Pecho Coast

A look into 4 Sacred Sites along the Central Coast…

Photo Credit: Zedekiah Morse

Humqaq (point conception)

Humqaq, meaning “the Raven comes,” is a sacred and highly revered place. According to generational Chumash oral knowledge, it is our Western Gate, the place where the souls of our dead start on their voyage into the celestial world and to Šimilaqša (paradise). Chumash villages span the Humqaq area and even extend westward past the current tide line.

At this most sacred of places, the Chumash and many local Santa Barbara organizations successfully fought and won a battle to stop the development of a proposed liquefied natural gas receiving terminal at Cojo Bay. The plan called for the unloading of 127 ocean tankers annually from Indonesia and Alaska at a proposed marine terminal on the sacred site. Local landowners, environmentalists, Chumash tribes, surfers, kelp harvesters, and fishermen pressed for its defeat. We are still fighting to protect this site and partnering to steward this land.
Photo Credit: Robert Schwemmer

Lisamu’ (Morro Rock)

Lisamu' is an International Sacred Site where the Chumash serve as the guardians and caretakers. In 1865, the State of California issued a bounty on Chumash and California Tribes. 100,000 Indigenous people were killed over the next 50 years. At the same time, Tribes could not protect their Sacred Sites. In 1889, Lisamu' was mined as a rock quarry to make the breakwater in Chicqawt’ (Morro Bay) and Port San Luis, amongst other projects.

The 1960s marked a time of resurgence for people trying to make the world a better place. In 1968, Lisamu' (Morro Rock) was formally classified as California Registered Historical Landmark #821. Native California Tribes brought back lost ceremonies and dances. They taught about balance and the significance of being able to practice our spiritual ceremonies and once again serve as caretakers of Lisamu'.

The Morro Rock Reunification project started with a consultation from the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers and the Northern Chumash Tribal Council on what to do with the rocks originally taken from Lisamu’ but now being replaced during the Port San Luis breakwater repair project.

"Bring them back" was the late Chief Fred Collins' response, who had been tasked by his Elders to protect Lisamu'. Healing and returning the rocks is a symbol of the healing that California Tribes have gone through - a repatriation and reconciliation for how our tribes were similarly blown up and later becoming citizens, voting, healing, reconciling, and regaining our dignity.

In the summer of 2022, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers began reclaiming the breakwater stones from Point San Luis to return them to Lisamu’. On August 20, 2022, the Northern Chumash Tribal Council held the “Reunite the Rock” ceremony and event, celebrating the reunification of Lisamu’ more than 130 years after it was broken apart. The following autumn, the stolen stones of Lisamu’ were laid to rest just west of Lisamu’ in a structure akin to a reef, creating habitat for marine ecosystems.
August 26, 2022
US Army Corp of Engineers: Corps joins Chumash to celebrate reunification of Morro Rock

MORRO BAY, California – The coastline surrounding Morro Rock was shrouded in fog; however, the sun shined brightly over the small port town Aug. 20

August 21, 2022
The SLO Tribune: Northern Chumash celebrate as pieces of Morro Rock are ‘reunified’ with sacred landmark

Forming a human line from the mouth of Morro Bay up to Morro Rock, dozens of people passed rocks up from...

August 19, 2022
Northern Chumash Tribal Council to celebrate the reunification of Lisamu’ (Morro Rock)

“The return of stones taken from Lisamu’ represents a healing of our people and our culture - a healing that is long overdue,” said Violet Sage Walker...

Photo Credit: Gina Farr

Tšīłkukunītš (carrizo plain)

Carrizo Plain, Tšīłkukunītš, holds many sacred sites and remains a space for Chumash ceremony. Within the 10% of Tšīłkukunītš that has been surveyed there have been over 100 heritage sites identified. This cultural and historical abundance is accompanied by the land's abundance of biodiversity. Tšīłkukunītš is the largest native grassland remaining in California and home to the highest concentration of threatened and endangered wildlife in California (The Nature Conservancy). Within Tšīłkukunītš lies Painted Rock, a sandstone formation painted with thousands of years old sacred Chumash art. Painted Rock is not the only sacred site, there are over a hundred heritage sites throughout Tšīłkukunītš with ties to various Indigenous Nations. The historical, cultural and ecological heritage of the Chumash Peoples is deeply tied to this space.

Prior to its national monument designation, many Indigenous sites within the area had been desecrated. The designation of the Carrizo Plain National Monument had Chumash leaders at the forefront, as well as our relatives and neighbors, the Yokuts, Kitanemuk, Tatavium and others, to ensure that the land was safe from development. With the designation and accompanying protections, this land remains an intact space of remote natural landscapes which are accessible to Chumash and other Tribal Nations.


Tsipxatu is the traditional Chumash Capital in the area of Avila Beach, now partially covered by sea level rise. Historically, this village was one of the largest in the area, a hub of trade, arts, community, and more. Tsipxatu includes the Sacred Site known as “the cave of the whales.” Possibly the perfect location to stand on the cliffs and sing the Rosario Cooper song, Chia, which is the calling of the whales. The “cave of the whales” could also refer to an offshore rock that to some observers looks like a whale swimming in the bay.
Northern Chumash Tribal Council: 
Chumash Heritage National Marine Sanctuary: 
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