Resurrecting Lengthy Plank Canoes: California’s Chumash Tomol Builder Pays Homage


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The waters between California’s Channel Islands and the coast are treacherous and complex to navigate. So, when the Chumash Native People would cross that 20-mile stretch of water, they’d achieve this in heavy picket “canoe tomols” made out of thick planks of wooden.

These boats have been sacred to the Chumash, who used them for fishing and buying and selling, and sustaining their very own lives and livelihoods. The tomols have been practical artworks. Individuals have been making plank canoes like them for shut to three,000 years. Fashionable canoes take cues from the identical design.

However over centuries, after California was colonized, the craft of constructing these vessels was misplaced to historical past. Till one man, a descendant of these individuals, and Native American activist Alan Salazar picked it again up and began to rekindle the flame. In 1997, he constructed the primary trendy canoe tomol in historical past — and made the epic journey throughout that channel for the primary time.

This Patagonia brief profiles Salazar, who’s been recreating the Tomol Route between Ventura and Santa Cruz Island for 26 years. He hand-builds the tomols and paddles himself utilizing the identical strategies his ancestors did a whole bunch of years prior. Then, yearly, he and his workforce load up and hop aboard, ready to make the 20-mile journey west.

“The very first crossing, my Chumash DNA was asleep,” Salazar says. “Getting on the water within the open ocean in a 24-foot canoe tomol, that DNA kicked in.”

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