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Yosemite, the meaning is lost in time.

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Yosemite, the meaning is lost in time.

Postby ERIC » Wed Feb 04, 2009 12:26 pm

Yosemite, the meaning is lost in time.

by YosemitePaiutes
Posted on: Feb 2, 2009 at 10:05 AM EST

Every year thousands of people from around the world visit Yosemite National Park to see the beauty and witness the spectacular vistas of one of our nation’s most recognizable parks. From Half Dome, to El Capitan, to its beautiful lakes, Yosemite is a destination spot for many tourists known around the world. But there is one thing many tourists entering Yosemite don’t know, that is the meaning of the word Yosemite. Like most places around the United States, Canada and Latin America, they are named after the original Native people. Yosemite is one of those places.

Dr. Lafayette H. Bunnell wrote "Chief Tenaya was the founder of
the Paiute colony of Ahwahnee". The real name of Yosemite.

Yosemite has been written about in many books concerning the grand vistas, but seldom about the true meaning of its name, Yosemite, and how it received that name.

Yosemite Valley was “discovered” by white people in the spring of 1851. Gold had been uncovered in California foothills in1848. The news of the discovery of gold spread and led to an influx of non-Indians from all over the world to descend into California. The gold miners search for the precious metal devastated many California Indian communities throughout the state. While most gold miners did this individually some enterprising whites living in the area made agreements with Indian chiefs who lived on the San Joaquin Valley floor to have their men go into the mountains and dig gold for them in exchange for provisions. This way they could get a cheap labor force to make them rich while giving the Indian people blankets and clothes. One man took it a step further. His name was James Savage. He was a small thin blonde man who was an early Indian fighter. He made alliances with some of the chiefs of the foothill tribes to work for him. James Savage even married some of their women and learned their language. He got rich off of their labor and decided to build a trading post in an area that was close to the entrance of Yosemite. Many miners who went into the mountains by themselves were attacked and killed by Natives who did not like their intrusion into their tribal territories. In December of 1850 James Savage’s trading post was attacked and burned down. The whites decided to ‘clear out’ the troublesome Indians in the high Sierra Nevada and created a militia called the Mariposa Battalion which was led by James Savage. Led by Indian scouts James Savage captured Chief Tenaya and some of his band of Ahwahneechees. During that time that is how the whites “discovered” Yosemite Valley. The story goes further from there but this is about how Yosemite received its name.

You see you will hardly find the true meaning and definition of the word Yosemite in the Park today.

James Savage, the white leader of the Mariposa Battalion militia, had an ally named Chief Bautista, also called Keechee or Vowchester. Chief Bautista had many years before been an enemy of James Savage, but than changed allegiances and was now an overseer for Savage’s Indian work force. Bautista would keep Indians in line for Savage and would chase down Indian runaways who would escape in exchange for clothes and prominence. When the whites wanted to control the Indians who were attacking the gold miners who ventured in the High Sierra Savage asked Bautista and some of the other chiefs to bring in all Indians of the area. They were all to come and sign a peace treaty, give up their lands and go live on the reservation. Bautista and the other ‘friendly’ chiefs agreed, but they said they could not get two groups to come in sign. Those groups were the Chowchilla Yokuts and the Yosemites. Chief Bautista and another chief, Russio, said that the latter lived in an unpenatrable valley. They also said that they and their people were afraid to enter that valley. That the name of the people that lived there were called in their Miwok language “The Killers” or “They are Killers”. (see photos of Southern Sierra Miwok Language dictionary)

The whites took the name given to them by the chief of the Southern Sierra Miwuks, Chief Bautista, “Yosemite” and gave the Valley that title. Today many people visiting the Valley do not know the true meaning of Yosemite. The real word for Yosemite Valley is Ahwahnee. Ahwahnee is part of our Paiute legends. It is a place in our history.

In the early 1970s Yosemite hired a young white ethnologist who was at the time married to a Miwok woman to run the Yosemite’s Indian program. In 1974 he changed the meaning of Yosemite from the Miwok word “The Killers” to “Some of them are killers” (the ‘some’ being the Paiutes). He wrote that the Miwoks living to the west of the Ahwahneechees, called the Valley dwellers that because the Ahwahnee had ‘some’ Paiutes in their group. He created that new definition and some how Yosemite National Park Service took his new meaning as the gospel without verifying it. Today “Some of them are killers” is now the official meaning of Yosemite.

The only problem was Yosemite does not mean “Some of them are killers” it only means “The Killers”. This is because the Miwoks feared the Yosemite Valley dwellers and were not part of the original Ahwahneechees. It also was later revealed that the Park’s white Indian ethnologist apparently did not have a college or university degree to write officially for the Park concerning Native issues. It appears the Park Service did not do their research and let someone who was unqualified re-invent a contrived Indian history.

There was a witness who documented the early Indian history of Yosemite. There was a doctor who went with James Savage and the Mariposa Battalion and his name was Dr. Lafayette H. Bunnell. Dr. Bunnell wrote a book called Discovery of the Yosemite, and the Indian war of 1851, which led to that event. He was also the only man to meet the original Indians of Ahwahnee and write about them.

Dr. Lafayette H. Bunnell wrote that the Yosemite Valley Ahwahnees was led by a chief named Tenaya, which in our Paiute language means “our father”. Bunnell wrote that Tenaya was born at Mono Lake, which is a Paiute area. He also wrote that Tenaya was the founder of the Paiute Colony of Ahwahnee, that his band was made up of Paiutes and Monos, and that Tenaya spoke a Paiute “jargon”. James Savage had to take along a Paiute translator because Savage could only speak the Miwok language that he learned from his workers and scouts and not Paiute. In other words the original Ahwahneechees were Mono Paiutes, but you won’t find that in Yosemite National Park today. That part of Yosemite’s Native history has been erased and today what the Park is telling the public is incorrect. Today the Mariposa Battalion scouts are now being called the original Ahwahnees and the Mono Paiutes are just visitors. The history of the Park has been reversed.

But the correct definition of Yosemite is from the Southern Sierra Miwuk language meaning “The Killers”, which is such an ugly meaning for such a beautiful place. We Paiutes prefer our original name for the valley which is Ahwahnee because that is the true meaning of the Valley.
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Re: Yosemite, the meaning is lost in time.

Postby The Other Tom » Wed Feb 04, 2009 6:53 pm

Interesting stuff, thanks for posting
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