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Book One In A Series

By Dr. John M. Anderson


"This book is addressed to readers interested in native American beliefs about reincarnation. It focuses on the religious teachings of the Chumash Indians of Southern California. Their ancient homeland is located just north of Los Angeles, in a large region that stretches from Malibu north past San Luis Obispo, and inland to the mountains near Bakersfield.

The text explores the traditional Chumash beliefs about death, burial, and the separation of the soul from the body as it begins its first wanderings over the earth in preparation for entering the heavens.

We know a great deal about the specific beliefs of the Chumash in this area of theology. The term Kut'a means to rise up, or awaken in Chumash. I have adopted it in the following text to refer to the full body of beliefs about the death of a person, their burial, the soul's awakening and separation of the soul form the body and its rising up from the grave to travel on the surface of the earth, its rising into the heavens, and its heavenly journey to a paradise where it is nurtured and prepared for its descent back to the earth to be reincarnated.

The Kuta teachings of the Chumash provide a message of hope to the dying and their relatives. These teachings also provide guide to individual listeners, encouraging their ancestral beliefs about death and the path of the soul to reincarnation. Success is never guaranteed in this life, nor in the hereafter." (From the introduction).

(Commentary By the author)

In the journal of Current Anthropology, Dr. Brian Haley and Larry Wilcoxon denied that contemporary Chumash Traditionalists have maintained a continuous religious belief in the Point Conception area as a gateway into the heavens (December 1997).

About a month later Wilcoxon was quoted by the Santa Barbara News Press as stating: "Everybody knows of the Western Gate, but not everybody knows that it's not a Chumash concept. It wasn't coined by the Chumash." (December 26, 1997, page 14). This statement caused a good deal of reaction from Traditional Chumash, as well as other scholars.

After much consideration of this puzzling statement, and the exchange of emails with Dr. Haley, I have come to the conclusion that Wilcoxon did not intend to deny that the Point Conception area was used by traditional Chumash as a 'gateway' into the heavens, but rather meant only the much weaker argument that the exact phrase "Western Gate" was not preserved in Spanish, Mexican, or American written records about the shrine at Point Conception. If this a correct assessment, then the issue become trivial and uninteresting and certainly does not deserve the space made for it in California's mass media.

The interesting issue, it seems to me, is not phraseology but whether Point Conception was believed by ancient Chumash to have served as a portal or gateway into the supernatural. Brian Haley wrote me and confirmed that he and Wilcoxon acknowledge that "some Chumash peoples probably did believe this prior to colonization" (email, Sept 8, 1998).

M.S. Qiliqutayiwit, a Chumash Indian from the Santa Ynez community, explicitly described how Chumash souls went to Point Conception and ascended from there into the heavens ("The Soul's Journey to Similaqsa," December's Child, Blackburn, page 98). A loud noise was subsequently heard as the ascending soul entered the "gate" of the heavenly paradise called Similaqsa. This paradise of the dead was located in the "west" (99). Clearly Qiliqutayiwit believed that Point Conception was located at the end of the land in the west, that it was a gate (gateway, opening, portal) into the heavens.


The reader can decide for themselves if it is appropriate or inappropriate to describe Point Conception as the "Western Gate." To be distracted too long by this minor contention, is to neglect the more important question of whether the larger Point Conception region deserves special protection as a Chumash religious area.

I maintain a webpage on the California Spaceport. It is being developed by commercial aerospace, on the Vandenberg Air Force Base just north of Point Conception. Information is presented on this website about the coalition of California politicians, state agencies, private industry, local chambers of commerce, and military interests promoting the California Spaceport.

I am gravely concerned that the pro-growth interests in California have moved ahead with development of the Spaceport, without proper consultation with the Chumash Indians. It seems to me, that in the rush of competition with other states developing rival commercial space facilities California has downplayed possible opposition to the spaceport both from environmentalists and native Americans.

In an upcoming article, I will present arguments against commercialization of space and for greater respect for native Americans, who have been excluded from spaceport development coalitions which have sprung up across the country in the last few years.

I am an advocate for preservation of the greater Point Conception region , which remains one of the last pristine areas of coastal southern California. After months of studying industry promotional webpages and literature, I have come to the conclusion that this region should be set aside as a tribal sanctuary, under the joint administration of all the Chumash bands who would want to participate in its guardianship. To this date, the majority of the Chumash remain without a land base or federal recognition. Federal, state, and local governments have failed for generations to remedy this situation.

It is time now to begin the process of returning lands to the Chumash bands in Santa Barbara, Ventura, San Luis Obispo, Kern, and Los Angeles counties. A good beginning would be a joint religious sanctuary at Point Conception. The next step would be to return lands for residency for each of the Chumash bands. My webpage on Wimat (Santa Rosa) island explores the legal and moral issues involved in returning all or part of that island to the Chumash. Wimat Island

Given the moral issues being raised in the upcoming state celebration of the year 2000, with its repetitive proposals to honor the Mission System and the Fortyniners and ignore the holocaust they brought to the Chumash and other native Californians, Christian church leaders should lead this gesture of reconciliation. (September 26, 1998).

To Send Forth the Breath of Life The Chumash used two terms for the human soul, Antik and Ahash. One term may refer to the 'air' soul which ascends into the heavens, and the other may refer to the 'bone' soul which may be buried with the body at death. For related commentary see Circle.

For additional quotes from the text see MORE


This book is no longer in print. It can be read and downloaded for free at:

Related Links

Point Conception
California Spaceport
Within the Abyss (book)
The Author