September 27, 2007

The "Chumash Buy-Way"

Case of the Perfidious PoodleDon’t get me wrong; I have no beef with the new highway name. In fact, I think it’s overdue. I’ve long been struck by the inexcusable dearth of street names and place names that acknowledge the region’s original Chumash inhabitants. (Anacapa, Anapamu, and Yanonali streets being three exceptions that approximate the actual Chumash pronunciation; Valerio, Cacique, and Rancheria streets reflect Chumash realities as seen through a Hispanified lens.) Personally, I think the off-ramp signs directing motorists to downtown Santa Barbara should be replaced with the glow-in-the-dark inscription “Syuxtun,” the name of the Chumash village that once thrived here.

As for the new Chumash Highway, the historical record clearly indicates that for thousands of years it functioned as the main thoroughfare by which coastal Chumash visited their country cousins living inland, and vice versa. So the name makes plenty of sense. That being said, the timing of the announcement could not have been worse, and the way it went down could not be more vulnerable to scoffing and suspicion. Little wonder that casino critics in the valley now call it the “Chumash Buy-Way.” And as for Assemblymember Pedro Nava’s role in all this, well, Our Main Man in Sacramento could not have been more coy if he tried.

The big problem was timing. No locals were notified that a possible name change was in the works until well after it was a done deal. Sheriff Bill Brown didn’t know about the new name until he read about it in the papers last week; neither did Santa Barbara County Über Executive Mike Brown. And neither did Brooks Firestone, the county supervisor through whose district the new Chumash Highway runs. As a matter of courtesy, it’s almost always a good idea to notify the local officials in advance.
Comment:  Don't ask me why this article is titled "Case of the Perfidious Poodle." I have no idea.

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