The traditional Obispeño language area is along the Pacific coast around modern-day San Luis Obispo. During the Mission period, it was spoken at Mission San Luis Obispo de Tolosa. The language is attested solely in wordlists and the field notes of J. P. Harrington. Based on archaeological evidence and the testimony of early observers, it has been estimated that speakers of all Chumashan languages together numbered between 10,700 and 17,250 in pre-contact times (King 1969). In the 21st century, there are no first-language speakers of any Chumashan language. However, tribal members and language activists have been pursuing language revitalization and reclamation.

Map of the Chumashan languages
Map of the Chumashan languages (Robert F. Heizer, ed. 1978. California. (Handbook of North American Indians, Volume 8.) Washington: Smithsonian Institute.)

Obispeño (also called “Northern Chumash”) is a member of the Chumashan language family; the others are Barbareño, Samala (Ineseño), Interior Chumash, Cruzeño, Purisimeño, and Ventureño.

Selected archival materials at Berkeley

Selected materials in other archives

Further reading

  • Greenwood, Roberta S. 1978. In Heizer, Robert F. (ed) California, 520-523. Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution.
  • Heizer, R.F., ed. 1955. California Indian linguistic records: The Mission Indian vocabularies of H. W. Henshaw. University of California Anthropological Records 15:85-202. [PDF]
  • Klar, Kathryn A. 1977. Topics in historical Chumash grammar. Ph.D. dissertation, University of California, Berkeley.[PDF]
  • Kroeber, A.L. 1910. The Chumash and Costanoan languages. University of California Publications in American Archaeology and Ethnology 9,2:237-271. [PDF]
  • Milliken, Randall and Johnson, John. 2005. An Ethnogeography of Salinan and Northern Chumash Communities - 1769 to 1810. [PDF - may not be publicly available]