The history of Malibu, California

Posted: September 5th, 2013

The history of Malibu, California






The history of Malibu, California

California is one of the states in the United States that is located on the West Coast. It is the third largest state after Alaska and Texas and has the largest population within the USA. The capital city of California is Sacramento. The overall geography of California is diverse with the Pacific coast to the West and Sierra Mountains to the East, redwood fir forests to the North and Mojave Desert are to the Southeast. California is notorious for having regular occurrences of earthquakes due to its location along the unstable edges of the Pacific Ocean basin. As a state, California is also famous for the gold rush of 1848 that was one of the change factors.

Malibu is a city found towards the northwestern part of California near Los Angeles County. The total population of Malibu as at 2011 was 12,645. Malibu city is famous for the warm climate, sandy beaches and the preferred residence for many renowned actors. The Pacific Coast serves as the focal point along which most of the activities in Malibu revolve around. Most residents live near the beach and on the canyons (Schulte-Peevers, 2000).

The influence of its geography

The overall geography of California is varied. Within the smaller city of Malibu occupying about 19.8 square miles of the whole of California, the geography is mostly beaches, steep slopes and dry bush. Of these, the beaches contribute the most impact to Malibu’s culture and daily lifestyle. As a result, tourism has emerged as the dominant economic activity in this area. Malibu has many tourist attractions that get visits from African, European and Asian tourists. Examples include the Carbon, Paradise Cove, Broad and Westward beaches that are some of the most popular locations.

The close proximity to the Pacific Ocean and the sandy beaches has also brought many sporting activities to Malibu including surfing. Similarly, these activities have increased the commercials activities of sporting companies, hotels and restaurants and water transport companies. The Malibu Beach Inn, the Villa Graziadio and the Malibu Motel are just examples of the prominent hotels that have been established in Malibu because of the tourist attractions. The hilly areas of Malibu also offer many recreational facilities like the Solstice Canyon Park and the Malibu Creek that equally benefit the Californian state in terms of revenue accrued from tourism (Smith, 1936).

The social structures and lifestyles of any pre-Columbian native societies

The history of Malibu and California was long established even before the Spanish colonization. The approximate number was about 200 different tribes that occupied present day California. These tribes each had diverse cultures and ways of life in their concentrated, independent communities. Within each of these communities, political and social institutions thrived under different systems: some of which were absorbed by the later societies that currently inhabit California. The description of these communities was done mainly by explorers who had first hand contact with these tribes

The approximate population of each tribe ranged from about 200 to 500 individuals who were mostly nomadic in nature. Therefore, the boundaries were not given much prominence. There tended to be a rough sense of gender and social equality. The main economic activity was farming. Evidence displayed that most of the individuals were owners of small tracts of tilled land. There was also evidence of trade in agricultural goods among communities. Apart from agriculture, these pre-Columbian societies also took part in hunting and gathering as well as fishing (Kallen, 2003).

Before the Spaniards attempted to colonize parts of California, one of the native inhabitants of the present Malibu area were the Chumash community. Their territory ranged from Malibu up to the San Luis area. The Chumash were mostly hunter-gatherers and fishers. They also engaged in trade as was witnessed by their plank boats or tomols that were used to redistribute goods. They were part of an intense trade network where beads were exchanged with other groups. There were also different ceremonies to mark the Chumash activities like harvests and storage of food for the winter season.

The Chumash people had a strong religious system that recognized the supremacy and significance of the powers of nature in their lives. They believed in and worshipped the Sun as a god who brought prosperity and success in several ways: feasting, dancing and rituals. The governance structure within this community was mainly decentralized. It consisted of a system of chiefs who were powerful and wealthy individuals in the community. These chiefs would administer over five villages. The method of appointment into these positions of authority was hereditary.

The organization of this chiefdom was very detailed for a native community. The leaders of the several confederations of villages would regularly meet to discuss the different issues within their region. Special gifted individuals such as boat makers were also part of this panel. Dispute resolution was a key component of this council of leaders. This type of leadership produced a stratified society consisting of the wealthy and the skilled, the political leaders, the clergy at the top. The middle class consisted of hard working people. The lower class was made up of the lazy, the criminals and unskilled (Librado, Harrington & Hudson, 1977).

The effect of Spanish colonization and governance

Spanish colonization came with as strong inclination to convert every individual to Christianity. This agenda came against the backdrop of Indian influences within most of California. Starting with a simple permanent mission in 1697, the Spanish influence slowly spread to the south in the Cape region and finally into the north where the present day Baja California stands. The Spanish were accompanied with troops who assisted in establishing ranches or ranchos where they engaged in commercial beef business. Much of the first quarter of the 19th century was occupied by the Spanish gradual colonization of most of California including Malibu.

The strong religious background in California can be traced back to the Spanish Catholics. Apart from introducing a different culture, Spain also introduced new species of vegetables, livestock and fruits that served to establish a strong agrarian society in California. The labor in these farms was however obtained by enslaving the Native Americans and keeping them dependent on agriculture. Much later in 1810, starting with the Mexican War of Independence, these Spanish establishments and regimes were destroyed by shutting down the missions and expelling Spanish born people. Hispanic Californians have however continued being one of the largest and most dominant groups in domestic affairs.

Spaniards were responsible for shaping the present day borders of the Californian administrative borders. The Adam-Onis treaty that was ratified in 1819 for example is one of the agreements that saw the establishment of an official boundary between Oregon and California that stands until today. The establishment of ranchos encouraged more Spaniard to settle and farm the Malibu areas that were more fertile. This big influx of Spaniard labor and the entrenching of ranching as an economic activity soared to a level where they formed the dominant export commodities for California around mid 19th century (Venegas, 1966).

The impact of state governmental structure

For all of the 18th century and a good part of the 19th century, Malibu was largely governed by the US military at the national level. At the lower levels, the local government was present but there was no other administration beyond this. The local government was later divided into counties, cities, and town, Malibu being one of them. In California, there are two types of cities: charter and general law cities. Charter cities are self-governing and select their own city charters, General Law cities, on the other hand, are governed by the state law and therefore are created by the state.

Malibu City is a general law city that operates under a City Council that is managed by elected officials. This council addresses domestic, regional and Federal issues as far as Malibu is concerned. The major functions of the City council include safeguarding the natural environment especially the beaches from pollutions and land grabbers. The Council is also responsible for security, provision of social amenities like piped water and lighting (Crouch, 1967). The Federal government is still heavily involved in the development as well as the administration of law and order in Malibu. As a result, the tussles between the federal state and the local county councils have led to minimal development of infrastructure in Malibu city.

Effects of various historical events of the twentieth century

Malibu has a rich art tradition that has been promoted over the years by both locals and foreigners. The filming industry has been revolutionized in the 20th century partly to the contribution by Malibu’s beaches and other appropriate residential areas. Many hit movies have been shot either fully or partly in Malibu for example MTV’s Malibu’s Most Wanted.

In the tourism sector, the Adamson House has become a major historical landmark that has greatly contributed to the influx of visitors to Malibu. It became wonder of modern architecture since it was built in 1930. The federal governments as well as the domestic representatives have also embarked on a constant campaign to decrease unemployment rates with excellent success. This has resulted in the complete eradication of dependent and homeless individuals in Malibu (Schulte-Peevers, 2000).


Crouch, W. W. (1967). California government and politics. Englewood Cliffs, N.J: Prentice-Hall.

Kallen, S. A. (2003). Native Americans of California. San Diego, Calif: Lucent Books.

Librado, F., Harrington, J. P., & Hudson, T. (1977). The eye of the flute: Chumash traditional history and ritual. Santa Barbara, Calif: Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History.

Schulte-Peevers, A. (2000). California & Nevada. Melbourne, Australia: Lonely Planet Publications.

Smith, J. R. (1936). California: life, resources, and industries of the Golden state. Sacramento, Calif: California State Department of Education.

Venegas, M. (1966). A natural and civil history of California. New York, N.Y.: Readex Microprint.

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