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Santa Barbara honors Chumash with street name change

Hutash Street

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. — Santa Barbara City Council vote to change a street name on the eastside of Santa Barbara on Tuesday.

Indio Muerto Street, or in English, Dead Indian, will become Hutash Street. Hutash is Chumash for Mother Earth.

The street stretches five blocks across Santa Barbara's Eastside, from Salinas Street on the east beyond the 101 Freeway ending at South Milpas Street. Chumash Tribe said the name, even in just those five short blocks, is hugely offensive.

Casmali Lopez is a member of the Chumash. He remembers his first thoughts of the street name, "And being a kid and see this street name and knowing a little bit about what it meant, of having to come to terms with the genocide when you're in third, second, first grade."

The neighborhood story is when the street was built, the body of a Native American was found in the ground. The new street name is Hutash. The Chumash chose it to reflect Mother Earth, and to honor Native American women who were kidnapped and killed. Tribal members see this as a small step in the right direction.

Marcus Lopez is the chairperson for the Barbareño Band of Chumash Indians. He said, “I think it’s a historic moment for all of us within Santa Barbara. It means that finally that we can address the question of racism in Santa Barbara. And at the same time creating an atmosphere of understanding who is, what is Hutash, our Mother Earth.”

"I look at the Chumash People as, especially Indigenous People, and in order to describe this notion of a strong historical trauma," added Marcus Lopez. "We're traumatized community and we're beginning to address that."

While some of the neighbors are hesitant in changing the name of the street, most support the name change and like the meaning of the new name.

Sara Varela has lived on the street for fifteen years. She said, "It's hard to explain when there's people from out of town that see our name of our street. They thought that we lived in a really weird place. Why would we name the street Dead Indian?"

On Tuesday Santa Barbara’s city council unanimously voted to change the street name to Hutash.

City leaders said the change will happen on December 14. And it will cost the city $1,500 to update the signs.

The street will have both names for one year. The one year period will give residents and businesses time to change the appropriate documents.  The Chumash are setting up a fund to help residents pay for that.

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Scott Sheahen

Scott Sheahen is a reporter for NewsChannel 3-12. To learn more about Scott, click here.


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