Kenneth Kahn


For over a decade, our tribe has been meticulously working behind the scenes to advance our vision of creating a space where visitors can gather and learn firsthand about the Chumash people of this region. For our tribe, the dream of having a museum dates back to the 1970s when tribal members built a traditional tule house, or ‘Ap, to showcase our cultural objects.

We knew back then the importance of sharing our rich culture and customs with those around us. To be able to tell our story from our perspective is significant to us. It means we continue to flourish as we pass on the teachings of our ancestors. The same stories and belief systems that were passed down to me as a young boy, I made sure I imparted to my son, too.

Today, we are months away from realizing our dreams, as construction and exhibit work continues on the Santa Ynez Chumash Museum and Cultural Center.

In 2009, I had the honor of being appointed to the Museum Advisory Committee. As one of 14 committee members, we are responsible for guidance of the building and exhibit development for the museum. Over the past decade, our committee has held dozens of meetings, visited early Chumash village sites and sat in multiple museum-related workshops that ranged from architectural design to LEED certification to exhibit formation.

We also traveled extensively, visiting 11 museums over six states across the U.S. to view Chumash collections and exhibits, meet with curators and learn about museum practices.

It was a moving experience, walking the many museum halls and exhibits alongside my tribal community members and seeing artifacts from our tribe that had made their way across the nation; artifacts that were expertly preserved and skillfully displayed, paying homage to a way of life that was no more.

In those moments, I couldn’t help but think about our own museum and what experiences would greet our visitors as they walked through our doors.

As we get closer to the opening of our museum, we continue the dutiful work of creating engaging exhibits, developing educational programs for local schools and creating a space where visitors of all ages come together, learn and explore the many aspects of the Chumash.

While walking through the museum, you will encounter exhibits based on narratives of tribal ancestor Maria Solares that offer insight into Chumash belief and world view. You will also see influences from our present-day community members who participated in a number of projects, including the crafting of contemporary cultural objects, storytelling, welding projects, cultural songs and language translations.

With a collection of over 20,000 cultural objects that include baskets, musical instruments, and hunting tools, these historically significant objects not only highlight our diversity, but they speak to the natural resources that were available to our people and specific to this region.

The newest addition to our collections includes a traditional grinding stone, or metate, estimated to be over 5,000 years old. The metate was discovered by our Cultural Resources Monitors on the 6.9-acre museum site and speaks to the historical significance of the land.

We look forward to sharing the metate and our cultural insights with you in the near future.

Kenneth Kahn is the Tribal Chairman for the Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians.