Rites of Passage

The Chumash

As we mentioned in our Rites of Passage Vision statement, we wanted our film to educate others about the incredible civilization that once dominated the central and southern coast of California, the Chumash. While many Hollywood films have been made about the Indians of the Plains, the Indians of California have been generally ignored. Other than knowledge of the children's book, Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O'Dell, the aboriginal peoples of California are virtually unknown to the dominant culture. We sought to change that.
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Unfortunately, most of the available books on the Chumash are either written for children or highly technical publications by anthropologists. The best overall book is The Rock Paintings of the Chumash by Campbell Grant, but it is currently out of print.

The Chumash remain a vibrant people. The Santa Ynez band has a reservation north of Santa Barbara. Their website provides some good insights into who the Chumash are today.

Another good source of information on the Chumash is the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History. It has a fairly accessible website that presents many of the basics of Chumash culture.

Below are some excellent resources to help expand your knowledge of Native American culture today.



Freedom of Speech
in Film Making


Please help us stand up to a handful of folks who are burdened by issues unrelated to our movie and want to suppress the rights of film makers by calling for the destruction of our film. Please experience our story for yourself, then go to the IMDB site and rate our movie fairly and write a constructive review.

Here are the details behind the controversy.

Our film "Rites of Passage" is about a young man trying to replicate an ancient California Chumash Indian ritual in an attempt to strengthen the bonds with his friends. The story's results are tragic as are the real-life responses by a very vocal and misinformed number of individuals claiming to represent the Chumash. They have demanded that all copies of the film be destroyed.

There are several groups of Chumash in the Santa Barbara area. One group has a reservation in the Santa Ynez Valley with a casino. We worked with some of these folks during our film. Another group of questionable descent claims a coastal heritage, but have never been federally recognized as a tribe. They are reportedly quite bitter over this situation. The two groups apparently do not get along very well.

We do not assume to fully understand the complexities of the matter, but we do know many members claiming to be part of the coastal group have a lot of resentment in their hearts and strongly believe the portrayals of Chumash history, culture, or rituals are off limits to "white people." A handful showed up at our October 18th premiere in Isla Vista and began shouting during the Q&A panel discussion after the screening about "cultural prostitution," "white liars," "the glorification of violence," as well as Christopher Columbus. It was clear their opinions were established BEFORE seeing the film and that they were not interested in a discussion, just disrupting the evening by shouting their views.

Mylo Ironbear, the Native American actor who played the shaman in our film, stood up on stage with us and said he was proud of his work, important work he said, because people (all people) need to know about the Chumash and the beauty of Native American culture. The protesters tried to shout him down, but were unsuccessful. Mylo was a powerful force. After the protesters were escorted out of the theater, a member of the Chumash Nation apologized for their behavior.

Ironically, we took great pains to portray the Chumash accurately and with respect. That isn't the issue (although a few misguided folks claim it is). The issue is that some people feel we shouldn't portray the Chumash at all. Comparisons to the riots in the Middle East over the portrayal of Mohammad come to mind. In a time of increasing exclusiveness and hate, we reject this perspective. Instead, we feel the need to share as much as we can about each other to foster understanding and compassion. Although our film was a thriller, it also offered a window into an incredibly beautiful culture few have heard about. We have helped change that.

These folks certainly have the right to express their opinions, but their intensity and false characterizations are creating an unfair bias on the internet. We need you to help correct that bias.

Please go to the IMDB site and rate our movie fairly and write a good review. It will help a lot.

If you have time you can also write a review at Amazon.com.

Support the rights of film makers to tell their stories.