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There  is an art form called Western or Cowboy poetry done by poets. This poem was done in the early 1900s by early settlers in California,

There was a western history periodical called The Pony Express which was published out of Sonora, California in Tuolumne County. The periodical has many great historical accounts from testimony of early pioneers and first families who settled in the Central California area.

The Pony Express is a rare find for any persons wanting to know the early history of California in the Central Valley and the high Sierra Nevada.

The Pony Express not only had articles and historical accounts in almost every periodical the The Pony Express had one poem about the history of the area. The poems were done in the classic style of Cowboy Poetry which is popular in the West.

Here is one that is of interest to the Paiute people which was sent to me. The person said it was done in the late 1940s. Once again because the people working at The Pony Express were historians they knew that the Paiutes were the original indigenous people of the beautiful Yosemite Valley.

This poem in the Pony Express was a tribute to James Savage, who by the way was not a hero to the Yosemite Paiute people.

James Savage poem

Here is the poem written out;


Jim Savage was a frontier man,
Pioneer, trapper, guide.
With pretty squaws, it was his plan
To take’em for a bride.

To them old Jim was always true;
Faithful as starts above.
He never fell for eyes of blue,
Just amber inspired his love.

All Redskin tongues, sign language too,
Jim used ‘em far and wide.
He was a frontier Clamper man.
Pioneer, trapper, guide.

In sundry mines he made his sou,
Then walked the Moke Hill trail.
In Clamper style he wore the blue
Where Zumwalt gathered kail.

When Diggers dug their precious gold
They traded it for grog.
Hardware and whiskey Savage sold
For prices “on the hog.”

Warwhooped Yosemite’s Piute brave
In havoc ‘cross the land,
Came Mariposa’s boys to save
The law and order stand.

Yea, trading posts Jim ran galore,
Throughout the Southern mines,
Where Indians, with high grade ore,
Traded for Savage lines.

Alas, a knave of Harvey brand,
(Ignoble was his aim)
Layed poor Jim low in Tulare land.
There ended all his fame.


“Pitue brave” is a referrence to Paiutes. Paiutes have been written as Piute, Pah-ute, Pi-ute, Pitues, and other ways. But the poem still states that the Yosemite Indians were Paiutes.

The poem about James Savage, refered to as Jim, talks about Savage’s Indian wives for the western side, which it was written he had about a dozen ranging from all ages starting from around nine years old.

'Digger' girls in a western mining town

In the poem it states that James (Jim) Savage spoke many Native Californian langauges of the tribes on the western side, meaning that he spoke Miwok and probably Yokut.

Also the poem states that the Diggers (Indians from the western side) dug Savage’s gold and made him well-off. Savage also built a trading post. That the Yosemite Paiutes caused “trouble” to the miners and Savage’s trading post, which the western tribes used to bring in gold to trade with him. Also the the Mariposa Battalion led by James Savage took care of the gold miners problem by ‘subduing’ the Yosemite Paiutes.

Finally the poem ends with the death of James Savage at the hands of a man named Harvey who shot and killed Savage in the Central Valley.

What is very cool is that this small poem found in The Pony Express tells many aspects of the legend of James Savage and the true identity of the Yosemite American Indians.

A great example of Cowboy Poetry famous in the West, a dying art

Here is a link that is dedicated to the Clampers;


Clampers are dedicated to the history of the Gold Rush, western history and minning, sometimes in a satrical way.

There is even a James Savage branch of Clampers in Madera.


This poem, created by early cowboy poets shows that Paiutes were the original American Indians of Yosemite Valley.

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500 Paiute Indians seek safety in Hetch Hetchy after 1872 earthquake

Left; Dr. Lafayette H. Bunnell who met Chief Tenaya and the Ahwahneechees and wrote they were Paiutes and Monos. Bunnell wrote that Paiutes also hid in Hetch Hetchy. Right: Lady Constance Frederica Gordon-Cumming wrote on her visit to Yosemite that Paiutes used Hetch Hetchy as a sanctuary and to gather acorns. Below: Hetch Hetchy Valley before it was flooded. Hetch Hetchy Valley was a refuge for Paiutes.

Around 2:30 in the morning on March 26th 1872 the famous naturalist John Muir was awaken in his Yosemite cabin by a tremendous rumbling. Muir wrote;

“The shocks were so violent and varied, and succeeded one another so closely, that I had to balance myself carefully in walking as if on the deck of a ship among waves, and it seemed impossible that the high cliffs of the Valley could escape being shattered. In particular, I feared that the sheer-fronted Sentinel Rock, towering above my cabin, would be shaken down, and I took shelter back of a large yellow pine, hoping that it might protect me from at least the smaller out bounding boulders.”

Muir had felt one of the largest earthquakes in California history. The seismic event happened along the eastern side of the Sierra Nevada and leveled almost every building in the small town of Lone Pine and surrounding towns. Twenty seven residents died as buildings collapsed on them. Many of those were Mexican residents. Mexicans of the area built their houses of adobe which crumbled and collapsed killing the residents. The earthquake and after shocks were felt all through out Nevada and California. It was one of the most powerful earthquakes in California.

One item that went mainly unnoticed as a result of the 1872 earthquake was recorded in early Sierra Nevada California newspapers. After the earthquake around 500 Paiutes and Shoshones were seen in the Hetch Hetchy Valley.

The local population of Mariposa and Tuolumne were extremely nervous because there had been recent fights between the white military and the Paiute people and some of the settlers were frightened that many Paiutes meant trouble. The Paiutes were just following a pattern. Hetch Hetchy Valley had been recorded earlier as a safe haven and hiding place for Paiutes.

In 1888 Lady Constance Frederica Gordon-Cumming wrote about her visit to Hetch Hetchy in her book “Granite Crags of California”, page 269;

“…but their chief anxiety was to visit a beautiful valley of the same character as this, called the Hetch-Hetchy Valley. It has only recently been discovered, having been one of the sanctuaries of the Pah-ute [Paiute] Indians, who reckon on always finding there an abundant acorn-harvest.”

A sanctuary for the Paiute people recorded by Dr. Lafayette H. Bunnell in his book “The Discovery of the Yosemite, and the Indian war of 1851, which led to that event”, page 231;

“…drawing us into the canyons of the Tuolumne [ed. Hetch Hetchy], where were some Pai-utes [Paiutes] wintering in a valley like Ah-wah-ne [Ahwahnee]”.

When the 1872 Lone Pine earthquake hit the Paiutes ran to a place that had always been a sanctuary and a safe haven for them, and that place was Hetch Hetchy Valley.

Independence County court house after the earthquake.

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Paiute Indian occupation in Yosemite’s Hetch Hetchy Valley – Pinenut trees prove it

Artist rendering of Tabuce or Maggie “Taboose” Howard, Yosemite-Mono Lake Paiute in Yosemite Valley with a wono basket and winnowing tray. These baskets were often used to pick pine nuts and winnow them. The drawing was done by Yosemite-Mono Lake Paiute Roger Salas. The picture on the right is of a Pinon tree taken in Hetch Hetchy Valley in 1937. The tree is very large and hundreds of years old.

There has been talk about the original Native Americans of Hetch Hetchy Valley. Some claim Paiutes were never in the valley, but the discovery of Pinon or Pinenut trees shows that Paiutes were in Hetch Hetchy Valley hundreds of years before whites entered the area.

According to Jan. 1937 Yosemite Nature Notes Pinon trees were found right around Hetch Hetchy Valley, where we knew our Paiute families camped and stayed.

Here is an interesting article;


Early hikers, park officials and Park geologists find Pinon trees in the area of Hetch Hetchy Valley in northern Yosemite and it was documented in early reports. Part of the this story was published in the Yosemite Nature Notes in January 1937. The story was about how a Sierra Club party discovered a Single-leaf or Pinon Pine in Yosemite National Park’s Hetch Hetchy Valley. Then as more people traveled into the location they discovered more Pinon trees. This tree is found mainly on the eastern side of the Sierra Nevada and the nut of the tree, or pinenut, is a food staple of the Paiute Native people.

In the article published by Yosemite Nature Notes it discusses finding Pinon trees on the California western slope of the Sierra Nevada around Hetch Hetchy Valley.


Here is excerpts from the story:

“In 1909, Mr. H. W. Gleason, with the Sierra Club party, discovered the first-known occurrence of the Single-leaf or Pinon Pine (Pinus monophylia, Torrey or Fremont) in Yosemite National Park. Jepson in his “Trees of California” issued December 15, 1909, says, “On the west slope of the Sierra Nevada it occurs in a few circumscribed localities, in Piute Canyon, near Pate Valley (Grand Canyon of the Tuolumne River), Kings River, along the west wall of the Kern Canyon, and southward into the lower Kern country.” Harvey M. Hall recorded in “A Yosemite Flora,” 1932, that the specimen found by Mr. Gleason was at about 5500 feet altitude in the Piute Creek Gorge. This single tree has been noted several times since by park officers. It is supposed to have been accidentally planted by Paiute Indians enroute from Mono Lake country to Pate Valley, a favorite summer camp.

During the late summer of 1935, Junior Forester Elliott Sawyer found a second lone specimen near the Rancheria Trail on the lower western slope of Rancheria Mountain. This find was recorded by Park Forester Emil Ernst in Yosemite Nature Notes for February, 1936. This tree is also on a possible route of the Paiutes entering Hetch Hetchy Valley. Now a third locality is established in the Park.
On September 14, 1936, while on a field trip with Mr. F. E. Matthes, Senior Geologist of the U.S. Geological Survey, from base camp in Tiltill Valley, I discovered a small Single-leaf Pine tree at 5800 feet altitude, 150 yards south of Tiltill Valley Trail at the point where the up-trail from Hetch Hetchy reaches top of the ridge and makes a slight dip. We were once aware of the presence of a number of trees of this species so made a survey, finding there were between 100 and 200, varying in altitude from 5800 to 6100 feet, spread over an area of some two acres.”

An orchard of Pinon trees where found at that location around Hetch Hetchy. They were old and young and of different heights, some being very large. The trees were found on a series of broad, granite shelves which had a marvelous view-point over looking the Hetch Hetchy Reservoir. One of the biggest Pinon trees found in 1936 had a trunk diameter of 28 inches.

The article goes on:

“Where these trees planted by the Indians? Mr. Matthes and I noted a ducked trail out across these natural shelves to “Pinon Point” (which they named after the trees) and on up the ridge. We followed these markers EASTERLY around a high dome, and were led into the upper end of Tiltill Valley. I consulted Mr. Gabriel Sovulewski for many years Supervisor of Road and Trail construction in Yosemite, and he said he had tentatively laid out this route following an old Indian trail, but had later abandoned it for the more direct, present Tiltill Valley Trail location.

Tabuce (Maggie “Taboose” Howard), an old Paiute resident of Yosemite, told me that as a little girl she had gone several times from Mono Lake to camp for the summer with her family in Hetch Hetchy. She said they first went to Bridgeport, and her description of the route seemed to indicate they entered Tiltill Valley, where there are many mortar holes in granite, indicating villages, and then on to Hetch Hetchy, evidently by this old trail. She said children ate pine nuts as they walked along and “maybe lots of times drop’em.” So perhaps a Paiute child several HUNDREDS YEARS AGO started this “orchard” of Single-leaf Pines. It would take TWO or THREE HUNDRED YEARS for one of these slow-growing pines to reach a diameter of 28 inches.” (See Photo 1 in Gallery of Taboose and a 1937 photo of a Pinon tree around Hetch Hetchy)

So if you are ever hiking around Hetch Hetchy and run into the Single-Leaf Pinon trees remember they were once left there hundreds of years ago by Paiutes who camped in Hetch Hetchy Valley.

The Park now avoids mentioning Paiute presence in Hetch Hetchy, or limiting their presence in the Valley. Yet not once did the early Yosemite Nature Notes mention Miwoks in Hetch Hetchy Valley, only Paiutes.

The Pinon tree only grews on the eastern side of the Sierra Nevada and is a staple of the Paiute diet. Even Taboose Howard talks about traveling into Hetch Hetchy NOT to trade, but to live. The pinon trees have been there for hundreds of years.

Old photo of Paiute girls cleaning and preparing pine nuts gathered from Pinon trees which are located mainly in the Great Basin.

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Yosemite Valley Native man and his favorite tree

Photo of Yosemite-Mono Lake Paiute Bridgeport Tom standing in front of his favorite tree, the big yellow pine that was well known in Yosemite.

Yosemite – Mono Lake Paiute Bridgeport Tom had a favorite tree in Yosemite. It was a famous gigantic old yellow pine. Yosemite Nature Notes published a story of the bond between the two here;

Click to access 31-8.pdf

In Yosemite there was a yellow pine that was one of the largest trees that towered over the rest. Many old timers remember the tree which was located a mile west of the Old Village and almost in the shade of Sentinel Rock. Around 1951 snow removal crews found the large yellow pine lying across the path to Yellow Pine Beach, which was named after the tree. The massive tree finally fell and no one was around to see it happen.

But that is not all of the story. In the August 1952 Yosemite Nature Notes story it mentioned how one Paiute man loved that tree and his name was Bridgeport Tom. Here is an excerpt of the tie between him and the old yellow pine:

“But there is more of interest to this tree than its unusual size and length. It is Bridgeport Tom’s tree that has at last fallen, and in this fact alone there is a story to tell which should awaken the memories of the old timers of the valley. A young Paiute Indian surnamed Tom, skilled in breaking and training horses in his early days in the valley when he worked for Coffman and Kenny on a settlement near the present Ahwahnee Hotel. In the off-season periods he operated a horse ranch near Mono Lake, where he raised and trained horses. Bridgeport Tom was famous in his younger days as an enthusiastic horseman who entered many racing events held on holiday occasions in this area. In his later years he is described by his daughter, Lucy Telles, as “not a medicine man” but a man who could “heal through the spirit.” His connection with the great old yellow pine came about when he declared it his favorite tree in the valley and prophesied that he would die when it died.

No one knew the exact age of Bridgeport Tom when death claimed him on November 24, 1935, at Coleville, California. He had been in evidence in Bridgeport and in Yosemite for at least 80 years. As for his favorite tree, it is far more difficult to write a death certificate indicating the moment of death for a tree than for a man, but we do know that the big pine did die fairly close in the time to Old Tom.”

The old yellow pine and Paiute Bridgeport Tom will always be a part of Yosemite National Park’s history. Bridgeport Tom, a Paiute man who loved that old yellow tree, would travel back and forth from Coleville, Mono Lake and Yosemite. Bridgeport Tom never lived around western Mariposa County. He resided in the Paiute areas and traveled the old ancestral Mono Paiute trails that Chief Tenaya and the Ahwahneechees did.

The lives of the Yosemite-Mono Lake Paiute and the large famous old yellow pine were intertwined and this article is to honor the memory of these two.

Note: Bridgeport Tom was the father of many of the famous Yosemite – Mono Lake California Paiute basket makers. Coleville, Bridgeport and Mono Lake are Paiute areas, like Yosemite Valley.

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Yosemite Native People – A famous Yosemite Indian Icon

One of the most famous photos of Native people in Yosemite is this photograph taken by J. T. Boysen in 1901.

The Icon of early Yosemite Native American Indian life.

Suzie and Sadie McGowan in Yosemite - Yosemite Icon

The photo is of Suzie and her young daughter Sadie McGowan in Yosemite Valley, Ca. 1901, taken by J. T. Boysen.

The photo is a beautiful portairt of early Indian life in Yosemite. Mother and daughter as they walk along the green meadows as the waterfall cascades in the background.

A Paiute mother carrying her child in a Paiute cradleboard in one of the most wonderful places in the world, Yosemite Valley. Bringing back a time when Paiutes roamed the green meadows of Yosemite Valley during a simpler time.

Suzie and Sadie McGowan

Native Madonna and Child in the valley of Ahwahnee.

Sadie McGowan was also a favorite for many local photographers and tourists. Below is a photo of Sadie McGowan in her Paiute cradlebroad propped up against a tree. Later Suzie added decorative beadwork on the top of cradleboard and on the sides.

Sadie McGowan up against tree

Here someone created a colored painting of Sadie’s photo. Titled “Piute Indian Papoose”.

Sadie McGowan in color

Suzie McGowan, mother of Sadie, had another name. Her real married name was Suzie Bill. Her maiden name was Suzie Williams. She was the daughter of Rose Williams. Suzie’s husband was Poker Bill, son of Yosemite-Bridgeport-Hetch Hetchy-Mono Lake area Paiute Captain Jim and Patsy Jim.

Captain Jim was also called “Toha’eesha” translated in Paiute to English as “White Wolf”, but to his family he was just “na’ah” or father. He was called “White Wolf” because his hair was pre-mature gray by a certain age.

Captain Jim - Yosemite-Bridgeport-Mono Lake area Paiute

Captain Jim, father of many of the Paiute Indians around Bridgeport, Yosemite, Mono Lake. His daughters and grandchildren were famous basket makers in the whole area. He was also the father of Suzie’s husband, Poker Bill

The Bill family acquired the name McGowan after working for a white man with that name. Like many Indians they changed their last names to white persons they worked for.

Like many Paiutes they were nomadic and traveled around their ancestral areas hunting and gathering. Here is Poker Bill and Suzie Bill (McGowan) in Yosemite with their daughters.

Poker Bill and Family

Poker Bill and family in Yosemite. Left to Right; Yosemite icon Suzie Bill (McGowan), without her headscarf holding Sadie McGowan still in her signature plaided blanket, daughter Carrie Bill (McGowan) who later became the famous Indian basket maker Carrie Bethel, daughter Minnie Bill (McGowan) who later became the famous Indian basket maker Minnie Turner – Minnie Mike, then Suzie’s husband and father of the children, Poker Bill, son of Captain Jim.

So the photo is Suzie, holding Sadie, Carrie, Minnie, and Poker Bill.

Sadly not to long after this photo Suzie McGowan, the famous Yosemite icon, died giving childbirth.

This is an excerpt from C. Hart Merriam’s August 5, 1903 notes about Suzie’s Burial;

“I am told that a Paiute woman (wife of the Paiute called Poker Bill) died in childbirth a short time ago and was buried here. A fine basket bowl was put over her head when she was buried”.

So tragically this Yosemite Indian icon died only a couple of years after some of the most famous photographs of her in Yosemite Valley were taken. She left behind her family and her husband remarried Paiute Suzie Thompson. Suzie Thompson became their step mother and raised the girls who would later grow up to become some of Yosemite – Mono Lake Paiutes most famous basket makers.

Suzie’s daughters Carrie Bethal and Minnie Mike became famous in their own right in the California Indian basketry world. They created some of the large baskets sought after by auction houses and located in cultural Musuems.

This one Paiute person from the early Yosemite-Mono Lake Paiute area caught forever on film lives in our hearts and minds and in time. She will always be remembered in photographs that captured her and her family in Yosemite Valley. Snap shots in time that caught a young Paiute mother who lived a life too short, but lives on in our memory because a photographer was intrigued by her and her child.

The Paiute people of Yosemite and Suzie McGowan, a Yosemite icon, never to be forgotten.

Suzie and Sadie McGowan - Paiutes in Yosemite

Suzie and Sadie McGowan, photographic icons of Yosemite. 1901 by J. T. Boysen.

A life too short, but always to be remembered.

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Yosemite Miwok Indian basket makers or Mono Lake Paiute basket makers in Yosemite?

Carrie Bethel basket - full blooded Mono Lake Paiute

Carrie Bethel Basket – Full blooded Yosemite-Mono Lake Paiute.

The Baskets of Yosemite and the basket makers: What people see on the internet is not always what the truth really is.

What we are going to do today is a lesson for all you Paiutes out there about misinformation that is on the web concerning the tribal identification of the baskets of Yosemite, which by the way are tied directly to the Paiutes of Mono Lake and eastern Sierra.

San Francisco Chronicle July 29th 1923 photo and article of Hazel Townsley, Yosemite Chief Ranger Townsley’s daughter and Bertha Dolbow holding Mono Lake Paiute baskets. Article says “…Chief Ranger Townsley, who returning from the Mono Lake country where the basket weaving Indians now live…”

S. F. Chronicle - 7-29-1923

At the height of the early Yosemite Indian Field Days, basket makers from Mono Lake, Nevada and along the other Paiute and Washo areas brought their best baskets to the celebration to win prizes and money. Early Chief Ranger Townsley had an idea to generate more interest in Yosemite. He went to Mono Lake to drum up the local Paiutes to create baskets for sale for tourists who visited Yosemite. Unlike Miwoks of that time, Paiutes still created baskets. The park service created a basket and bead competition and other Indian contests so the tourists would come and visit. The majority of winners of the basket competitions were mainly Paiutes from Mono Lake, Washoes and some Yokuts. There were never any known Miwok basket makers during that time. This was during a height of the basket making Renaissance of Yosemite-Mono Lake Paiutes.  Famous Paiute baskets makers Carrie Bethel, Minnie Mike, Nellie Jamison, Nellie and Tina Charlie, Daisy Mallory, Alice Wilson, and other Paiutes from Mono Lake, Benton, Coleville, Bishop and Bridgeport made some of the most impressive baskets in California Indian history…yet no one would ever know this. That is because their talents and mastery went unnoticed because the Park Service was pushing the story of the Yosemite Miwoks, who did not make any of those large baskets you see in Yosemite Indian Museum today. The Park Service went with the lie that the baskets were done by Yosemite Miwoks, the Paiutes were always placed secondary, and sometimes the Paiutes were not mentioned at all. The Park Service instead went with the myth of the great Yosemite Miwok basket makers, when there were none during that time.

What we are going to do is examine the information of one particular well known basket making family in Yosemite, who are really Paiutes from Mono Lake and how many writers started to add “Yosemite Miwok” to all their stories and books. Yet the majority of the baskets were done by Yosemite-Mono Lake Paiutes.

Mono Lake Paiute winners Yosemite Indian field days - Mono Indians

Yosemite-Mono Lake Paiute basket makers at Yosemite Indian Field Days basket competition 1925. Most of the winners were Mono Lake Paiutes. From Left to Right: Tina Charlie, Carrie Bethel, Alice Wilson, Leanna Tom and Maggie “Taboose” Howard – Mono Indians with Chief Ranger Townsley.

So let’s look at this site. This one really had bad information.


“Lucy Parker Telles (1870-1956) was of Yosemite Miwok and Mono Lake Paiute descent. Shortly after her son Lloyd was born in 1902, her husband Jack Parker, Paiute, died.”

Lucy Telles with her prize winning basket

Lucy Telles, famous Yosemite-Mono Lake Paiute with one of her prize winning baskets

Lucy Parker’s maiden name was Tom, she was Lucy Tom. Lucy Tom’s father was full blooded Yosemite-Mono Lake Paiute Bridgeport Tom and her mother full blooded Yosemite-Mono Lake Paiute Louisa Sam-Tom. Lucy Tom’s mother’s grandparents were full blooded Yosemite-Mono Lake Paiute Captain Sam and his wife Susie Sam who died on August 1903.

Captain Sam - Mono Lake Paiute at June Lake, Mono County.

Captain Sam at June Lake located in Mono County where he spent the majority of his life. Full blooded Paiute Captain Sam spent half year in Yosemite and the rest of the year in Mono County. He was a famous guide and fisherman for the local Yosemite hotels.

Yosemite Indian Captain Sam 1

Here is Captain Sam’s 1928 California Indian Application,

Yosemite Indian Capt. Sam 2

This is the second page of Captain Sam’s application stating he is full blooded Paiute and so is his wife Susie Sam.

Here is Lucy’s mom, Louisa Sam-Tom’s 1929 California Indian Application;

Yosemite Indian Louisa Tom 1

Second page of the application showing her tribe and where she was born; Paiute from Mono Lake.

Yosemite Indian Lousia Tom 2

So how is Lucy (Tom) Parker Telles a Yosemite Miwok? There has been stories that Susie Sam was a Yosemite Miwok, which there were none, but lets say she was, who much Miwok blood would Lucy Telles have

This means Lucy Telles would be 3/4ths Mono Lake Paiute…so why is she a Yosemite Miwok …and Mono Lake Paiute. She should be Mono Lake Paiute with some Miwok blood, and that is IF Susie Sam was a Yosemite Miwoks and as you can see Captain Sam, her husband, said differently.

The article goes on to say;

“Unlike other California weavers, Miwok-Paiute women concentrated on tiny rod foundations, as well as close coil stitching, an overall effect of great fineness,”

There was no proof that any Miwok made any of those huge beautiful baskets in Yosemite. The only ones who made those big baskets were Mono Lake Paiutes.

“After Lucy Telles died in 1956, the Park Service asked Julia Parker to take over as a cultural demonstrator. She continued her studies with Carrie Bethel, Minnie Mike and Ida Bishop (local Miwok-Paiutes),”

Local Miwok-Paiutes?…no Mono Lake Paiutes and a western Mono, Numic people, not one of those mentioned, Carrie Bethel, Minnie Mike or Ida Bishop were Miwoks, but Mono and Mono Lake Paiutes. In fact there were no Miwok basket makers in Yosemite during that time.

“To support her family, Lucy turned to basket weaving, which she had learned as a child. Her innovations had a large and continuing influence on the styles of Yosemite weavers. She modified traditional Miwok shapes.”

The basket tradition was not Miwok, but of eastern Sierra Paiute and Washoe construction and design.

Then let’s look at this site.


“Julia Parker is a Kashaya Pomo who primarily practices her husband’s family traditions – Yosemite Miwok, Miwok and Pauite – and weaves Pomo style. She also teaches honoring songs that celebrate people and nature. Lucy Parker, a descendant of the Yosemite Indians, is Miwok, Paiute and Pomo and practices those traditions. She was brought up as a youngster in Yosemite in a traditional cradle basket.”

Note in this quote in the second sentence Paiute is last as the identification of Julia Parker’s husband’s tribe.

The fourth line in the quote from the same quote Paiute is after Miwok.

Here is LLoyd Parker’s 1929 application stating he is Paiute. Lloyd Parker is the father of Ralph Parker, Julia’s “Yosemite Miwok” husband. Note he is a “Piute – from Mono County”.

Yosemite Indian parker 1

Here is the second page which shows what tribe Lloyd Parker was from and his wife, Virgina Murphy, is also a Mono Lake Paiute and she is the mother of Ralph Parker.

Yosemite Indian Paker 2

Let’s look at this website;


“After Lucy Telles died in 1956, the Park Service asked Julia Parker to take over as a cultural demonstrator. She continued her studies with Carrie Bethel, Minnie Mike and Ida Bishop (local Miwok-Paiutes),”

Once again “Local Miwok-Paiutes”?…no Mono Lake Paiutes and a western Mono, Numic people, not one of those mentioned, Carrie Bethel, Minnie Mike or Ida Bishop were Miwoks, but Mono and Mono Lake Paiutes. In fact there were no Miwok basket makers in Yosemite during that time.

Julia Parker in other articles is written as “married a Yosemite Miwok”, but on the same website her husband Ralph Parker is written as he really is “the last FULL-BLOODED Mono Lake Paiute, which by the way there were others;

“When she was 17 she married her husband Ralph and moved to live with his family in Yosemite. Ralph is the last full-blooded Mono Lake Paiute Indian. Ralph’s grandmother, Lucy Telles, was a very famous basket weaver and worked in the visitor’s center museum in Yosemite.”

Then this site which states;


“Parker has emerged as preeminent in her field. She is an expert in several Native basketry traditions, including her own Pomo traditions and the traditions of her husband’s people, the Sierra Miwok.”

Sorry, the baskets were the tradition of the Yosemite-Mono Lake Paiutes and Ralph is not Miwok. Mono and Inyo County basketry was the real tradition of the Yosemite area.

Here are two June 1927 Indian census rolls showing the Tom, Telles and Parker families as Mono Lake Paiutes, living at Mono Lake, Mono County;

Here are is Bridgeport Tom and his two wives, Louisa and Leanna with their children as Paiutes living at Mono Lake. They are the parents of Lucy Telles.

Bridgeport Tom and his family - Mono Lake Paiute Indian census

Here is the Lucy Telles, mother of Lloyd Parker, father of Julia Parker’s husband Ralph Parker showing they are Paiutes from Mono Lake, Mono County;

Indian census - Paiutes of Mono County

This one is from the prestigious National Endowments of the Arts foundation.


“Julia Parker has spent most of her years living and working in Yosemite Village in California.  Although she was born in her native Pomo territory, her early teachers were elder Indian traditionalists and basketweavers of the Sierra Miwok and Mono Lake Paiute people.”

In the passage above Mono Lake Paiute people play second fiddle to the art of Mono Lake Paiute basketry, when Sierra Miwuks were not known to make those big round baskets. That is the tradition of the Mono Lake Paiutes.

This even appears in popular books, like this one called It Will Live Forever: Traditional Yosemite Acorn Preparation, by Bev Ortiz.


In the book review it says this;

“It Will Live Forever looks at Julia Parker, a Kashaya Pomo woman who married into the Yosemite Miwok tribe and is still practicing this traditional art as Indian women have done for generations.”

Once again saying that Julia Parker married into the mythical Yosemite Miwok tribe, which there was none. Ralph Parker, her husband is a full blooded Yosemite-Mono Lake Paiute. Now even if he had Miwok blood it would be 1/16th Miwok, yes 1/16, and the rest would be 15/16ths Mono Lake Paiute, the tribe that made those huge baskets in Yosemite. The same tribe who were the original people of Yosemite in what Bunnell calls the Paiute colony of Ahwahnee. His grandchildren would be 1/64th Miwok, but have more Paiute blood.

Also in the book It Will Live Forever: Traditional Yosemite Acorn Preparation, it has Young Charlie and Chief Dick as Miwoks…they are Paiutes.

Here is what was written about Lloyd Parker, Ralph’s father, husband of Julia Parker in the book by John Bingaman who knew them personally. This from his book The Ahwahneechees, which you can see here by scrolling down to Lloyd Parker;



“Born 1902, near Mono Lake. A Piute. His father was Jack Parker, his mother Lucy Tom. His wife was Virginia Murphy, of Mono Lake. They had three sons. Ralph lives and works in Yosemite for the Road Department. Clarence died about three years ago in an automobile accident. Kenneth lives in Bootjack; near Mariposa; his wife is Dorothy Bolton and they have three children.
Lloyd has lived and worked in Yosemite Valley most of his life, on road and trail crews, and at this date he is making his home in the Indian Village.”
Let’s look at Yosemite Ranger Bingaman’s book. Bingaman writes that Lloyd Parker is a Paiute from Mono Lake and not a Yosemite Miwok. His wife Virgina Murphy is a Paiute from Mono Lake and not a Yosemite Miwok. So how is their son a Yosemite Miwok?

In Tradition and Innovation, Craig D. Bates and Martha Lee, a supposed book of the basketry of the Yosemite – Mono Lake area, the book barely mentions the real baskets makers families, the Murphys, Stevens, Harrisons, James, McBrides, and other Paiutes, instead it focused on several supposed Miwoks, who by the way were really Yokuts, as basket makers and of those women several where not known to make baskets at all, but their descendants are going for federal recognition as “Yosemite Miwoks”.

Yosemite Indian field days basket competition held at June Lake, Mono County

Photo of the Yosemite Indian Fields Days basket competition held NOT in Yosemite Valley, but at Paiute June Lake, in Mono County, where the Mono Lake Paiutes lived. Featured in the photo is Maggie “Taboose” Howard and Tina Jim – Charlie, Mono Lake Paiutes.

So my Paiute people, the next time you see that the “traditions of the Yosemite Miwok basketmaking is still being carried on” on the internet and in books, remember it was really the basketry tradition of the Yosemite-Mono Lake Paiute Indian people, no matter what some of these people tell you.

So be proud of your legacy my Paiute people, a legacy that was almost co-opted, co-opted by others until now and now you know the truth. That the great basketry in the Renaissance of Yosemites early Indian Field Days was that of our people, the Paiute people of that area.

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Eadweard Muybridge

Famous British photographer Eadweard Muybridge

Famous British photographer Eadweard Muybridge was an innovator and pioneer in the early motion picture and film process. He was ahead of his time in trying to capture movement and bring photography to life.

As a Yosemite-Mono Lake Paiute Native American Indian person I can appreciate his pioneer spirit as he captured the early life of my people camping in Yosemite Valley along the Merced River.

For eons the Paiutes had camped along the Sierra Nevada and every now an then a photographer would capture Paiutes camping in the high Sierra.

Like this photo below entitled “Piute Indian Camp”;

Paiutes camped in the Sierras

What Eadweard Muybridge, the famous English photographer, did that was innovating and different was he decided  to capture a Native American scene like a movie director.

He started off far away from his subject and moved closer in giving the impression of someone seeing the Paiute village and then moving closer until they are inside the camp. Like a person walking into the camp and moving around.

Muybridge moved around the camp photographing early Native American Paiute life in Yosemite. A feat that no one had done before. This was Eadweard Muybridge’s vision of an early movie scene that he probably tried to capture and convey in this series.

We Paiutes believe that his genius would have gone unnoticed in this series if not for one Paiute who had seen several of Muybridge’s photos. People had thought that Muybridge had taken individual photos at different times, but they were actually photos taken in a series. Yosemite National Park Service believes that they were Miwoks, but that is not true once the Paiute started to see that the photos were numbered.

Once he noticed the numbers on the photos the Paiute put them together in numerical sequential order and the genius of man, Eadweard Muybridge, was revealed.

Eadweard Muybridge, the famous British photographer, and an early father of motion photography, had experimented in taking photos like a movie director would. The photos in this series appear like a photographic movie board. You can see the mind of this genius as he perceived a scene in motion, like a walk into an early Indian camp.

Muybridge also put the question of what tribe the people in the photos were to rest. Yosemite National Park Service hired a person years ago who was married to a Miwok, who tried to pass off serveral of Muybridge’s photos as Miwok people, but we Paiutes suspected they were really Paiutes. Not only was this one of Muybridge’s early experimenation in moving pictures, but he also documented early life of the Paiute people in Yosemite Valley. He saved the memory of our people that a certain Yosemite employee was trying to erase.

For this we Paiutes want to thank the genius of Eadweard Muybridge and his early attempts at motion pictures.

Here are the photos after they were put together in numeric sequential order. They appear like one of his early attempts of motion pictures. We also want to thank the Paiute who put the photos together and his blog.

Below are some of the earliest photos of Paiutes camping in Yosemite around 1870, by Eaweard Muybridge, the famous photographer.

Here are the photos in sequence, so you can see the progression. Remember Eadweard Muybridge also did those great photos in motion of nude people running and animals in motion.

photo no. 1571; Here Muybridge can see the Indian encampment along the Merced in the distance as he approaches. I can’t tell if he is on a boat, on the other side of the river or on an embankment.

1571 Yosemite Paiute encampment along Merced River
photo no. 1572; Here Muybridge is getting closer to the Indian encampment along the banks of the Merced. You can see the granite rocks in the back.

1572 Yosemite Indian encampment closer
photo no. 1573; Muybridge is now on the beach and shoting the village. You can see a camp fire in the close distance.

1573 Yosemite Indian camp along the beach
photo no. 1574; Titled “Piute Chief’s Lodge”. Here Muybridge goes to the “Piute Chief’s Lodge” and photographs the interior of the Paiute chief’s lodge. He probably went up to the headman first to ask if he could take photos or try to converse with him. That last sentence is just a guess, but it is probable since that is the first photo up close.

1574 - Piute (Paiute) Chief's Lodge
photo no. 1575; Muybridge takes photo of a meeting of ceremonial significance. Someone is talking. In Paiute we had people we called “Talkers” who told of the traditions and history of ceremonies since we had no written language.

1575 - Yosemite Paiute ceremony
photo no. 1576; Muybridge walks over and shots a small group or family sitting in their own corner of the camp. In the back you can see another small family grouping. They have their Wonos in front and other baskets. A Wono is Paiute for Burden basket.

1576 small Yosemite Indian group

photo no. 1577; Muybridge takes a photo of men sitting on a log. They are wearing hats and other western style clothing. It was titled “Piute Bucks on a log”.

1577 - Yosemite Indian men sitting on log

photo no. 1578; I don’t have this one.

photo no. 1579; Muybridge takes photos of young teen males swimming in the Merced. Trying to keep cool in the summer. The title indicates that it is summer time and is called “A Summer Day’s Sport”. Paiute kids are trying to keep cool as the older people meet.

photo no. 1580; Muybridge takes photo of an “Octenigarian” and a young boy. The face of the woman is blurred. They have a simple camp.

1580 - An eldery Yosemite woman with boy.

photo no. 1581; Muybridge then photographs a “Medicine Man Sleeping” below. His house was created  with boards leaning against a tree to make a shelter. His Wono (burden basket) lays next to him.

Medicine Man Sleeping

photo no. 1582; Muybridge then goes to photograph women leaching acorns and making bread. One is stirring her basket.

1582 - Paiute women cooking

photo no. 1853; I don’t have this one.

photo no. 1854; Five marriage age girls. One on the farthest left wears an early style Paiute beaded collar. The others have headbands.

1584 - Five Marriage age girls. One wears Paiute collar.

photo no. 1855; Muybridge than takes his camera to the outer edge of the camp where there is a Paiute sweatlodge with someone in it. Paiutes would sweat than jump into the river to cleanse themselves.

1585 - Paiute sweatlodge in Yosemite.

photo no. 1856; At the same camp is the famous German born painter Albert Bierstadt who is working on one of his paintings or drawings. Paiute children are to his right watching him, like kids do. Meanwhile the ceremony continues in the background. The group in the back looks like they are performing a Paiute round dance off to the side as the marriage age girls sit in the foreground.

Albert Bierstadt at the Yosemite Paiute camp.

photo no. 1857; Muybridge photographs Albert Bierstadt painting a an Indian man in front of the Paiute chief’s lodge as other Indian men watch Bierstadt paint from behind. The man in front of the chief’s lodge looks like Captain John, the leader of the Yosemite – Mono Lake Paiutes. The man who one of my elders said threw the rock that killed Chief Tenaya.

1857 - Albert Bierstadt painting Yosemite Indian man

Thank you for going with me on journery to early Yosemite Paiute Indian life.

Some of the earliest photographs of Yosemite Native Americans.

*These photos were numerically sequenced to show Eadweard Muybridge’s journeys into Yosemite Valley.

This is in dedication to the genius of the early pioneer of motion pictures, Eadweard Muybridge, the famous British photographer and innovator.

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A couple of Paiute elders went to the newly remodeled Yosemite National Park Visitor Center and found something very interesting. What caught their eye was not what was written, but WHAT WAS NOT WRITTEN and identified. The odd omission that leads people to assume something that is really unknown.

The new Yosemite National Park Visitor Center was partially funded by the Yosemite Fund. We would hope that Yosemite National Park Service would get the story of the Native American people of Yosemite correct, instead they have done the opposite.

After the early formation of the Yosemite Valley exhibit the elders went towards the Yosemite American Indian section and here is what they saw;

Miwok Legend, Yosemite Indian people, Battalion buring caches

A Miwok legend, showing Native people living in Yosemite. They completely forgot the story of Chief Tenaya being born at Mono Lake of a Paiute mother and being married to Paiute woman before entering Yosemite and estabishing the Paiute colony of Ahwahnee. In the drawing of whites burning the acorn caches they left out the Miwok scouts and guides that helped the Mariposa Battalion locate the Ahwahnee camp, that is documented.

Next is a photo of Captain Paul or Saponanche, which in Paiute means someone who is part Mexican. He lived around the town of Coulterville and had a daughter named Julia. He was not the father of Mono Mary as has been falsely written.

Captain Paul Coulterville Indian

The picture in top left looks like one of Edweard Muybridge photos of Paiutes camping in Yosemite found here;


The next photo is the series is of Mary Lebrado Yrdte. She was married to Mexican miner in the area and had several children. She admits she had not visited Yosemite Valley in 75 years until around 1928 a couple of years before her death.

Maria Yrdte

Maria Yrdte claimed to be the granddaughter of Chief Tenaya. If Maria was the granddaugther of Chief Tenaya she would have to be documented half Paiute from his side. Here is why. Tenaya’s father was from a tribe unlike any surrounding tribe, that would include Miwoks, and his mother was a Mono Lake Paiute. Tenaya was born at Mono Lake and raised amongst his Paiute mothers people til he was was old enough to marry. Later in life he married a Mono Lake Paiute woman and had children. LATER a medicine man advised Tenaya it was safe to return to Yosemite Valley where took 200 to 300 people from Mono Lake back into Yosemite and there established the PAIUTE colony of Ahwahnee. Tenaya also spoke Paiute. The photo does not have any information of Maria Lebrados famous Paiute grandfathers past.

The next photos in the series at the Yosemite Visitor Center were in a group, and this is what Paiute people have a dispute with this exhibition. Where is the tribal indentification of the photos and sometimes the names are missing, yet the Indian people in the photos are known?

Next to this photo is the mention of the Ahwahneechee who were absorbed into the Mono Lake Paiute population in 1853 after the death of Chief Tenaya and taken back to Mono Lake,

Paiute Laundress in Yosemite Valley 1875

the photo has no title or tribal identification in the new Visitor Center, but the photo is called Piute Squaw, Yo-Semite, ca 1875 by J. P. Soule. The photo is of a Paiute Laundress in Yosemite Valley, ca 1875, capturing Yosemite Native American life. In the Visitor Center there is no tribal identification.

This is the next photo;

Bridgeport Tom and his family in Yosemite

The photo is of Mono Lake Paiutes Bridgeport Tom and his two wives Leanna and Louisa in Yosemite Valley. They are Yosemite Mono Lake Paiute Native American indians. Who spent most of their lives in Yosemite and Mono Lake. Even though they are identified as the Toms, there is no tribal identification.

the next photo in the series;

Calepena and Lena Rube

The photo is of Calepena or Callepina, which is Spanish for half-breed and Lena Rube-Brown-Wilson. Calepena was married to one of the Mono Paiute Captain Johns and Lena was a Chuchansi Yokut, Washo-Paiute woman.

The next picture not shown here, was a photo of family grouping which was identified incorrectly years ago.

Then when they looked on the opposite side this is what they saw;

Maggie Tabuce Howard and her family

Early Yosemite Native American California basketry demonstrator Maggie “Tabuce” or “Taboosee” Howard and her family. They are a full blooded Yosemite Mono Lake Paiute American Indian family who lived in both Yosemite and Mono Lake. They are unidentified with name and no mention of the Paiute tribe.

There were interesting photos behind Maggie Taboosee Howard and family;

Mono Paiute Tom Hutchings

Photo behind Tabuce and family is picture of Tom Hutchings, Mono Paiute, Yosemite National Park’s first mailman. Yosemite National Park has markers in the park with Tom Hutchings identified as a Miwok, THAT IS INCORRECT. These Paiutes are not identified in the newly created Visitor Center, yet they are very well known to many people. The notice on the right of Tom Hutchings and behind Taboose’s head is a notice to the Indians in the Yosemite area. The notice states that if Indians ‘dressed up’ in Plain outfits they would be paid and given phony titles. This was for the pleasure of the Yosemite white tourists, many Paiutes declined.

The next unidentified Native American photo;

Captain Sam Paiute

Captain Sam, FULL BLOODED YOSEMITE MONO LAKE PAIUTE. Father of many Mono Lake and Yosemite Native Americans. Many of his children and grandchildren were some of the most famous Yosemite Indian basket makers. He was married to Paiute Susie Sam who died in August of 1903. You can see two of his daughter’s Louisa and Leanna who were married to Bridgeport Tom in the Tom family photo. His photo is unidentified and has no tribal affiliation of Paiute.

The next photo is of Yosemite Indian Field Days, with the winners of the Yosemite Native American basket makers, which were always Yosemite Mono Lake Paiutes. Once again they are not identified.

Yosemite Field Days - Mono Lake Paiutes

The Yosemite Mono Paiutes in the photo are from left to right; Carrie Bethel, Alice Wilson, Leanna Tom, and Maggie Taboosee Howard, all Paiute women. Those huge beautiful baskets in Yosemite National Park Indian Museum were mainly made by full blooded Yosemite Mono Lake Paiute Indian women. Yet you would not know that by viewing this exhibit.

Then you wind around the exhibit and see three Indian women from old times to comtemporary;

Minnie Mike, Lucy Telles, and Julia

Yosemite Visitor Center exhibit of Indian basketmakers.

The first woman in the group;

Minnie Mike Mono Lake Paiute

Yosemite Mono Lake Indian basket maker Minnie Mike, full blooded Paiute. Yet she is unidentified.

Then the next one in this series;

Lucy Telles Yosemite Mono Lake Paiute

Lucy Parker Telles, IS indentified. She is a famous Yosemite Mono Lake basket maker.

Here is her biography;

Lucy Telles biography no Paiute

Interestingly Lucy Parker Telles is identified, but not were she was born or her tribal identification. Lucy Parker Telles was born at Mono Lake and is a Paiute.

Next to Lucy Telles;

Julia Parker

Just to the left of Lucy Telles is Julia Domingues Parker who now works in Yosemite National Park.

If you look below her photo here is Julia Parker’s biography;

Julia Parker biography

Not only is Julia Parker identified but so is her tribe. In previous years Julia was known as a half Pomo on her moms side and half Mexican on her fathers side, now she is a “Miwok”? Of all the people in the exhibit her tribe is identified and so is her name. Meanwhile all the others who have ancestral ties to Yosemite and the area are not? Interesting for an exhibit about Yosemite Indian people.

The elders looked down an saw a photo, a photo of one of the Mono Lake Paiutes greatest historical chiefs. That was Captain John, who distrusted white people and was one of the earliest Indian chiefs of Yosemite;

Captain John Yosemite Mono Lake chief

Captain John did not have any identification as a Mono Lake Paiute Chief and one of the historical chiefs of Yosemite. He distrusted white people and told his people not to fight in their wars. He took control of the Yosemite Mono Lake Paiute people as a very young teen and was reported to have killed Chief Tenaya for his betrayal to his own brethren. He was not only a chief but a powerul medicine man. In the newly remodeled Yosemite National Park Visitor center he is just some unknown Indian, but to us Paiutes, he is one of the greatest men in our history, the history of Yosemite and Mono Lake Paiute Indian people.

Right before they left they saw a little video on the wall of 19 year old “Annual Indian Trek”.

Yosemite Indian annual trek video

This “trek” was created about 19 years ago to prove to the BIA’s Branch of Federal Acknowledgement that the no-profit “Southern Sierra Miwuks” had an annual celebration, but this Annual Trek was started by a Mono Lake Paiute.

Now here is something that is really funny about this “Annual Trek”, if they are Southern Sierra Miwuks why are they walking to PAIUTE MONO LAKE from Yosemite Valley? Why aren’t they ‘treking’ to Mariposa or Sonora or Calaveras if they are Miwoks? Why use OUR Mono Paiute Trails to do YOUR Annual walk and trek if you are not Paiutes? That is the way we Mono Paiutes used to enter Yosemite and not the trails Miwoks used. It was never recorded that Miwoks went in groups to Mono Lake, only Tenaya’s Mono Paiute band of Ahwahnees. During that time Paiutes and Miwoks were fighting.

Here is why we believe that there was NO TRIBAL IDENTIFICATION in the Yosemite National Park’s new Visitor Center. First is starts out with a Miwok legend and if you don’t indentify the Indian people, many people, who do not know, would ASSUME that the rest of the photos were of MIWOK PEOPLE when you start with a Miwok legend. Why is only one person identified with name and tribal identification, yet she is not a Yosemite Indian? Why aren’t the majority of the Indians identified and why do NONE OF THEM HAVE PAIUTE on them???

So if you were to visit the new Yosemite NPS visitor center you would be fooled to think that you were viewing a bunch of Miwok people, when in fact the faces staring back at you are mainly Yosemite-Mono Lake PAIUTES.

CC: National Park Service

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This is an excerpt from the San Joaquin Republican on the 2nd expedition to go after the Yosemite Indians;



Camp, Near Fort

Mr. Foster – Since my last, we have had

several changes in this region and on the Fres-

no. Lieut. Comn’d
Moore, accompanied by

Lieut. McLean, with 45 rand and file, proceed-

ed towards the mountains, ‘with intent to kill,’

                                               no doubt

There is a troublesome tribe of about 250

warriors, called Osemetas, I think, who were

mainly brought in during the last Indian war,

but escaped again to the mountains; so soon as

their chief was unfettered, they bid defiance to

the whites and have thus far done as they pleas-

ed. Lieut Moore has resolved to bring them

into the fold treaty, and no doubt he will

accomplish something important before he has

done. The expedition is well appointed in

every particular, and will be out for two or

three months, mostly probably. Major Savage,

left camp with 100 Indian warriors, chosen

from different tribes, on Tuesday morning, and

proceeded to a point designated in the vicinity

of the belligerent red-skins. They are pretty

hard cases, and will elude the expedition if pos-

sible, but they take ground in the rear of the the

Tribe in order to cut off retreat to the moun-

tains. Much depends on the success of this

signal for a general outbreak amongst the In-

dians. They are all at ease. The govern-

ment has not carried out the stipulations of the


The Osemetas are the Yosemites or the Ahwahnee Indians, who are mainly Paiutes. Note in the excerpt that Maj. James Savage used “100 Indian warriors, chosen from different tribes”. These tribes were from the Southern Sierra Miwuk and Nutchu tribes to go after Chief Tenaya and his Yosemite Indian people on the second expedition. The 100 Indians scouts and guides blocked the escape of Chief Tenaya and he cursed them for that. Tenaya was trying to escape to Mono Lake, the home of the Mono Lake Paiutes, his brethren, who always hid him out.

 This is part of Mono and Mariposa County Indian history that many people are unaware of.  Savage used Indians to capture Chief Tenaya and his band and these scouts and guides are now many of the same Indian ancestors of those now claiming to be part of the descendents of the modern day Ahwahneechees.  Believing that they are part of the Yosemite Indians, but in fact, they are the descendents of the enemies of the Yosemite Ahwahnees and workers for Jim Savage and the Mariposa Battalion.

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 Awiah - which means acorn in Paiute

Awaia or Aweah is acorn in Paiute. Many place names in Paiute are named after food groups. Many of our Paiute bands are also named after food groups like Taboose and Agai. Pah is water in Paiute. Pah-weah is “water acorn” or “acorn lake”.

I am sure many of you who have gone to Yosemite National Park have visited the Yosemite Indian Museum, seen the many beautiful baskets, and bought many of the little booklets published by the Yosemite Association that have stories about the ‘mythical’ Yosemite Miwoks.

If you go behind the Yosemite Indian Museum there was even a ‘mythical’ Yosemite Miwok village created in the late 1970s to show how the ‘mythical’ Yosemite Miwok lived before the Europeans entered the valley.

Now I bet some of you are wondering why I keep writing the word ‘mythical’ when referring to the (once again) ‘mythical’ Yosemite Miwoks?

That is because there were NO Yosemite Miwoks…well at least NOT before the Europeans entered the Yosemite Valley.

You see the real early Native indigenous people of Yosemite were NOT Miwoks, but were in fact Paiutes.

You see the Southern Sierra Miwoks in the area were afraid to enter Yosemite Valley. The main chief of the Miwoks in the area, Chief Bautista or Vow-chester, was the person who gave the valley and the people within the name that is now attached to the valley; Yosemite.

Yosemite in the Miwok language meant “They are Killers” or “the Grizzlies”. Now you might ask yourself why would the chief of Southern Sierra Miwuks call the Indian people living in the valley “They are Killers” or “Yosemites”, in their language, if they were supposed to be the same people?

That because they were not the same people…but from a different tribe. A band made up mainly of renegade Pauites and Monos. A composite of different Paiute bands who were a rough and tough war like tribe who fought many battles with neighboring tribes of the western slope. They surely didn’t fight with the Mono Paiutes since it was documented that the Monos bragged about their war exploits. Interestingly in Paiutes bragged that the Yosemite Indians were part of their people, but the Miwoks called them the “Killers”? That would’ve set off a big alarm in head that the Miwoks and Ahwahnees were not from the same tribe.

So around 1978, that is right 1978, NOT 1878, an unqualified non-Indian ethnologist working for Yosemite National Park, who btw was married a Miwok woman, suddenly came up with a different and new definition for the word “Yosemite”. He suddenly discovered a new translation. Yosemite now meant “SOME AMONG THEM ARE killers”…and of course those “some among them are…” where the Paiutes, after all how can you explain why Miwoks were calling themselves “They are Killers”? That would not make sense to any thinking person. Suddenly this new fangled meaning and definition started to appear in Yosemite Association publications, Yosemite Fund and even in Yosemite National Park and their websites. Yet there is NO explanation where this unqualified non-Indian ethnologist found this new definition. Where did he get it…was it from a divine revelation? Did it suddenly appear out of the blue from his own imagination? Where did this definition come from? To this day no one atYosemite
National Park has been able to explain how this new manifestation for the meaning of
Yosemite first appeared or was written.
Yes, during the time of the capture of Chief Tenaya and his band of Yosemite Indians aka Ahwahnees it was reported there were some “Diggers” as they were written, but the main body of the tribe were Paiutes and Monos. They were never identified as to what type of “Digger” they were. They could’ve been Yokuts, Maidus, Washos, or Miwoks? But it was definitely written that the Yosemite Indians were Paiutes and Monos.

You might ask yourself where the first ‘mythical’ Yosemite Miwok reference appeared. Around 1870 a journalist, yes a journalist, named Stephen Powers, was traveling around the state of California writing about the tribes of the state. His article was very popular and featured in a monthly magazine called “The Overland Monthly”. He would travel to towns in certain areas and talk to the local Indians and write about their culture. It was a very successful article for the Monthly.

One month Stephen Powers travels along the road that was to be hwy 140 that leads to
Yosemite. He stopped off at Knight’s Ferry, located in the central valley right outside of Oakdale. There he spoke to Wukalumnes, whom he called Miwuks, He met a Captain of the area and continued on to the town of Sonora and talked to a woman there. Not knowing that around 1848 Charles Weber, the founder of Stockton, had made an agreement with a Knight’s Ferry chief to move about 100 of his people up the foothills around Sonora and the lower Tuolumne to dig for gold for him in exchange for provisions. The woman told him the story of Hetch Hetchy and about the area, but unknown to Powers, a journalist not from the area, that above Big Oak Flat and the Upper Tuolumne was a Paiute area. He then traveled to Yosemite and spoke to “friendlies” or Miwoks who told him about Yosemite. Powers did not know that in 1852 the Yosemite Indians had been wiped out and that the surviving Yosemite Indians had been taken back toMono
Lake and absorbed into the Mono Lake Paiute population. That the remaining majority of the original blood of the Ahwahneechees was now in the Mono Lake Paiute population.
Powers article was a big hit and from then on EVERY white Indian anthropologist and ethnologist was parroting Stephen Powers’ work. Stephen Powers who did not live in the area and was only there for a short while. Kroeber referred to Stephen Powers, Hizer from Kroeber, who referred from Stephen Powers, Gifford who referred from both Kroeber and Hizer and C. Hart Merriam who referred to all three. All writing about the ‘mythical’ Yosemite Miwoks.

BUT around 1880, one of the only few men to meet Chief Tenaya and the Ahwahnees (Yosemite Indians) was tired of reading a lot of ‘myths’ and made-up history of the discover of Yosemite and the Indians within. His name was Dr. Lafayette H. Bunnell, who had been with the original Mariposa Battalion who entered and “discovered”
Yosemite Valley as the first documented white men to enter the valley. He first wrote an article about the discovery, but then later he wrote a book called “The Discovery of Yosemite an the event that led to that war”.

In his book, Bunnell, DOCUMENTED that the Chief Tenaya was born at Mono
Lake. His father was from a separate tribe from any neighboring tribe, which btw would include the Miwoks. That Tenaya spoke Paiute and not Miwok. That Tenaya’s mother was a Mono Lake Paiute. That Tenaya married a Mono Lake Paiute woman and had children AND this was BEFORE he entered Yosemite Valley. Later a medicine man advised Tenaya it was safe to enter Yosemite Valley and he took about 200 to 300 people back into Yosemite. Now where those Miwoks, highly unlikely since at that same time Paiutes and Miwoks were fighting over resources and territory. Something most people did not know. They even fought over Hetch Hetchy and the Paiutes were victorious in retaining ownership of Hetch Hetchy Valley, which they returned every year to pick acorns and not trade for them.

So all that work done by Powers, Kroeber, Hizer, Merriam and Gifford about the “mythical” Yosemite Miwoks is mostly bunk.

Now “Miwoks” did enter Yosemite, but not 10,000 years ago, but in 1851 when they were scouts and guides for James Savage and the Mariposa Battalion. You see Chief Bautista, the main chief of the Southern Sierra Miwoks, during that time was a great friend of James Savage and his overseer for Savage’s Indian miners who dug gold for him. They followed the army into Yosemite and just like the early Yosemite settlers they stayed.

But Bunnell was not the only person from that early campaign to remember the Yosemite Paiutes; there were newspaper writers of the day and another source. The newspaper writer was a man who was ‘embedded’ with the Battalion who also wrote about the Yosemites as Monahs (Monos) and the son of one of the Mariposa Battalion who stated that the Miwoks were docile and not the warlike Yosemites who he quoted were “Piutes”.

In fact the Miwoks already had a working relationship with whites years before the ‘discovery’ of Yosemite. Which by the way, that same relationship continues to this day in Yosemite.

Now it is OK that the Southern Sierra Miwoks can claim they came into Yosemite Valley after the Ahwahnees were cleared out, but they were not the original Yosemite Indians.

That title would go to those pesky Paiutes up the high Sierra who were the “big problem” and refused to get out of the way of the greedy gold miners…and their Indian workers.

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