“My primary education and introduction to Chumash culture was through my father, Vincent Tumamait, whom I assisted for many years in his cultural presentations. I trace my Chumash ancestry through my father, a leader or paha among the Chumash until his death in 1992, the same year he served as Grand Marshal of the Ojai Independence Day Parade. Our family’s Chumash lineage extends throughout Chumash historical homelands, from the villages of Hichimin, Lu’upsh and Swaxil on Santa Rosa and Santa Cruz Islands, to as far north as San Luis Obispo County, and as far south as Humaliwo (Malibu), and throughout Santa Barbara and Ventura Counties (including Mishopshno, or Carpinteria, and Matilija,here in the Ojai Valley). We have traced our family to at least 11 known Chumash villages, and as far back historically as the mid-18thCentury, prior even to the Portolá Expedition of 1769 into Alta California.
I proudly carry on the traditions of my family by sharing songs and storytelling in cultural presentations. My programs consist of Chumash culture, history and song, within the context of Chumash storytelling and my own family’s native roots and experience in the Ojai Valley. Each program is prepared individually and adapted to the nature of the audience – whether youth groups or schools, elder hostels, church or civic organizations – and encourage everyone to celebrate their own unique roots as well as to discover the rich material and spiritual culture of the Chumash. Whenever possible, and especially with youth groups, the programs are interactive and may involve the sharing and making of Chumash crafts and learning Chumash songs.
Over the last several years I have presented programs for numerous private and public groups including Elder Hostel, Boys and Girls Clubs and Camp Fire Girls, public and private school groups, the Ojai Valley Historical Society and Museum, the Ventura Museum of History and Art, the Carpinteria History Museum, and the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History. Other groups include Native American history and culture classes at community colleges, Channel Islands National Park, State Park Service, Rotary Clubs, and field excursions and workshops at the Channel Islands for the Nature Conservancy. [I am currently in the process of building a traditional Chumash home, or ‘ap, along with several elementary school students and teachers at Monica Ros School in the Ojai Valley.]
I have worked as a cultural resources consultant from Malibu to Santa Barbara to the Channel Islands, providing guidance for private groups and state, county and city regulatory agencies, including the Ventura and Santa Barbara County District Attorney’s offices. I have worked extensively with the U.S. National Parks Service, and served one year as a research associate for the Park Service and Hunter College in Chumash genealogical research, cataloging materials from area Mission archives.
I am Tribal Chairperson for the Barbareño/Ventureño Band of Mission Indians (Chumash) formed in 2003. We are seeking federal tribal status. I perform ceremonies in my Native ways, such as weddings, burials, naming ceremonies, and blessings. I continue to act as the Spiritual Advisor for the Cal State Channel Islands University where I was asked to present the benediction for the first graduation commencement in 2004.
For the past several years I have been the fortunate beneficiary of two sponsorships to provide regular programming for 3rdthrough 5thgrade students: one through the Ojai Music Festivals (BRAVO) presenting native music to 5th graders in Ojai and Ventura County public schools, and another through the Channel Islands Ballet for Ventura and Oxnard public schools including 9 years with the Rose Ave. Elementary School in Oxnard, CA, 3rdgrade workshop. Many programs are ongoing. The “ONCE UPON A WATERSHED” program focuses on the Oak tree woodland community, educating children on the importance of our Valleys Oak trees and the restoration of the Oak forest. I also work with Edible Ojai teaching children about the native edible plants around us and I am a proud member of the Ojai Valley Land Conservancy. In 1995 I was named Community Services Volunteer by the Ventura County Commission for Women and an Ojai Living Treasure in 1997.
I have been interviewed by many different organizations for a variety of subjects. Some include: Keep the Sespe Wild (1983), Santa Barbara KEYT News with Kevin Landers (1991), Whales: Earth’s Giants Return (1995), The Real West (1996), The Ojai Valley Land Conservancy (1998), German Video Festival (1999), interview for Ojai high school project by Nimmer Pictures (2000), Triage Entertainment Scariest Places on Earth (2001), interview for Eden Productions for The Matilija Dam Removal Project (November 2002), The Dune Center, Guadalupe, CA, Tom Newsom segment on Chumash storytelling (2002), public film on the Restoration of Santa Cruz Island for the Channel Island National Parks Service as well as the newly installed Visitors Center on Santa Cruz Island (December 2007), film project for Cal Lutheran University entitled Chumash Today (2007), and “WHY OJAI” for Carole Thompson.
In 2005, along with my then-9-year-old daughter Rane, I helped the Santa Ynez Reservation pull together a video on the Chumash culture. [I have worked on a project called the JASON PROJECT. I am the host researcher. This project will be completed in the year 2003 and its focus is on the Channel Islands ] I continue to work with Jean Michel Cousteau’s Ocean Futures Project out at El Capitan Canyon. Many college students interview me for their class papers. In October, 2008, I and my two daughters, Paula and Rane, performed storytelling and music at the Getty Museum.
I have lived in the Ojai area nearly my entire life and currently own a home in the Meiners Oaks neighborhood, very near the birthplace of my great, great grandmother, Maria Ricarda Alulalmeque, who was raised in the Chumash village of Matilija. My husband, Bruce Stenslie, is the President of the Economic Development Collaborative in Ventura County. We are raising three adorable children, Paula Pugh, Rane Tumamait-Stenslie, and Aren Tumamait-Stenslie. We also share our home with 3 dogs, 2 rabbits, several fish, chickens and birds, and too many cats at any one time, it seems, to count.”