Opinion: Chumash Tribe pays tribute to beloved ancestor
"This month the Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians will celebrate the birthday of one of our beloved ancestors, Maria Solares.

An important figure in our tribe’s history, Solares was responsible for providing most of the significant cultural information on our tribe that was gathered and recorded by John P. Harrington, the linguist and ethnologist who specialized in studying the native tribes of California.

Solares’ collaboration with Harrington was enormously fruitful. Most of what we know today about our Samala language and a great deal of what we know of our culture has been preserved because of her willingness to share her knowledge with Harrington. In fact, without her valuable contribution, a large majority of the cultural information on the Chumash would have been lost — including our language.

I can envision the tall, lanky Harrington taking walks with the elderly Solares and feverishly scribbling notes as quickly as he could, taking in all the stories she shared with him about the Chumash way of life. In reading Harrington’s notes and listening to him on wax cylinder recordings, it was clear that he paid close attention to each and every word she uttered. He was able to capture the nuances of Chumash culture and language.

Maria Ysidora del Refugio Solares was born in 1842 and died in 1923. Her parents were Benvenuto and Brigida. Her father’s parents were from kalawa’aq, the second largest village in Santa Ynez Chumash territory. She married Manuel Solares, the son of Rafael Solares, whose parents had come from soxtonokmu, the largest village in our ancestral territory. Maria’s father-in-law, Rafael Solares, served as chief of the Santa Ynez Band in the late 1800s.

As Maria Solares was growing up in Santa Ynez, there were fewer and fewer of what she called ma molmoloq a ku, “the old-time people” who were born or raised before the mission system was imposed on the Chumash."

Get the Story:
Nakia Zavalla: Honoring Solares’ crucial contributions (The Solvang Valley News 4/2)