Archive for July, 2007

Sentinel Rock - Chapter 13 - Discovery of the Yosemite

Sentinel Rock – Chapter 13 – Discovery of the Yosemite

When looking at the book “Legends of the Yosemite Miwoks” written by Craig Bates we Paiutes noticed that there was no mention of the original Paiutes who lived in Yosemite. There could not be any “Yosemite Miwok Legends” without the Mono Lake Paiutes. Because many of the legends had Mono Paiutes in them like the legend of Tissayac. Tissayac was a Mono Lake Paiute girl, but you wouldn’t know it by reading his “Legends of the Yosemite Miwoks”. Some of the tales are actually Central Miwok legends and not Yosemite Miwok ones.

Craig Bates worked for Yosemite Naitonal Park as their official “Yosemite Indian ethnologist” for over thirty years. During the same time he was married to a Miwok woman. We Paiutes discovered that Craig Bates my have not had a college degree to hold this post. Bates was totally involved in his wife’s Miwok culture and he even dressed and danced in Miwok ceremonies.

We Paiutes started to notice that much of Bates’ work was Miwokcentric and we Paiutes were sidelined as ‘visitors’ or ‘latecomers’. But Bunnell’s words say different.

In his book, Legends of the Yosemite Miwok, page 77-78, Craig Bates worte about Dr. Lafayette Houghton Bunnell “But much of what is known about the Yosemite Miwok at that time is derived from this [his] work”.

In fact everything we know about the first contact and the Yosemite Native people was from Dr. Bunnell’s writings and this is what he wrote in Chapter 13 of his book Discovery of the Yosemite and the Indian War of 1851, which led to that event.

Here is what Dr. Lafayette Bunnell wrote about the “Yosemite Miwoks”;

“Though seemingly unimpressed by their sublime surroundings, their figures and comparisons, when not objectionable, were beautiful, because natural. The Pai-ute and Mono Colony originally established by Ten-ie-ya, was the result of a desire to improve their physical condition. They were attached to this [Yosemite] valley as a home.”

“Our Po-ho-no-chee and Noot-chü scouts were familiar with the dialect in common use by the Yosemites, and they also aided me, while at times they confused, in acquiring the proper names. The territory claimed by the Po-ho-no-chees, joined that of the Yosemites on the south. During the Summer months, they occupied the region of the Po-ho-no Meadows, and the vicinity of the Pohono Lake [farthest left side of Yosemite National park, but the Paiutes had the everything to the right from there on, which includes the valley itself]. Their territory, however, extended to the right bank of the South Fork of the Merced. It was there we found a little band on our first expedition. Some of this band were quite intelligent, having with the Noot-chüs, worked for Major Savage. It was from them that the Major first learned that the Yosemites were a composite band, collected from the disaffected of other bands in that part of California, and what is now Nevada; and as the Major said, the dialect in common use among them was nearly as much of a mixture as the components of the band itself, for he recognized Pai-ute, Kah-we-ah and Oregon Indian words among them.”

Bates writes that all we know about the “Yosemite Miwoks” at first contact came from Dr. Lafayette Bunnell. If this the case then Bunnell is documenting that Chief Tenaya and his band of Ahwahneechees were Paiutes and Monos and not Miwoks. This in only a couple of referrences of many of Bunnell writing that the Yosemite Native people were in fact Paiutes and Monos. There is more. In fact there is no mention of Miwoks in the whole book being the original Yosemite American Indians.

Craig Bates has written that the Noot-chus and Po-ho-no-chees were Miwoks. Then he would have to see that Bunnell stated that the Nutchus and Pohonochees were the scouts and guides for James Savage. That they worked for Savage the leader of the Mariposa Battalion.

Concerning many of the Miwoks claiming that the names in Yosemite are Miwok, Bunnell explains that in the second paragraph. It seems the Miwok scouts were confusing Bunnell by supplying Bunnell with THEIR words and translations.

Bunnell also writes that Tenaya’s group was a ‘composite tribe’. The majority of Tenaya’s group were outlaws from the many different Paiute-Mono bands, with some outlaws from unspecific western tribes. Never any mention of Miwuk. None being from Chief Bautista or Cypriano’s band. They were the chiefs who worked with the military.

Here is the Yosemite Paiutes who were made up of different Paiute bands;


Another part is that the Bunnell states that many of Tenaya’s band came from Nevada. There is also another referrence in Bunnell’s book about some of Tenaya’s band being Paiutes from Nevada.

There is no such thing as Nevada Miwoks. So Craig Bates and the Southern Sierra Miwuks cannot claim that.

The evidence is clear. The Mono Paiutes were the original people of Yosemite Valley …and the Miwoks were the scouts for James Savage and the Mariposa Battalion.

…even Bates admits about Lafayette Bunnell’s writings “But much of what is known about the Yosemite Miwok at that time is derived from this [his] work”.

Indian Belle - Chapter 13 - Discovery of the Yosemite

Indian Belle – Chapter 13 – Discovery of the Yosemite

Interestingly Craig Bates never saw this in his 30 years working in Yosemite National Park as the Indian expert for them. Maybe he was too busy making Miwok regalia. Because he would have seen what was staring him right in his face…Bunnell wrote that the original Indians of Yosemite…were Paiutes and not his ex-wife’s and son’s tribe.

Remember Craig Bates wrote over 100 publications as the official Indian Ethnologist for Yosemite National Park. Most of those publications in many Native people descendent of Yosemite Indians eyes are false and biased because he had a personal interest in the Indian history of Yosemite. There are so many ‘implied’ or out right mistakes that because of his long tenure at Yosemite, and it is sad to many of us Paiutes that the Yosemite National Park service, the Yosemite Fund and the Yosemite Association still uses Bates’ work as source reference material.

So it would appear that the only “Legends of the Yosemite Miwoks” would be that they were the original American Indians of Yosemite.

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