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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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