Archive for the ‘Yosemite Association’ Category

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.

Read Full Post »

Manipulating Yosemite Indian history in the park for a few. How the Yosemite Interpretive signs mislead public and are not true.

Around a couple of years ago the Yosemite Fund, in association with Yosemite National Park, started to put up new interpretive signs around Yosemite to teach people the history of Yosemite.

Someone sent us a copy of this photo below;

Yosemite Indian history signs misleads public

with the ancestor of one of our Mono Paiute people. They were happy to see it until they noticed this;

Upclose of Tom Hutchings - Mono Paiute

a native Yosemite Miwok, they have known him as a Mono Paiute.

This led to an awakening to the fact that something wrong was going on in Yosemite National Park. We believe there is a deliberate and intentional effort to erase the memory of Paiutes in Yosemite National Park and change them or ‘imply’ that they were Miwuks. Some people working at the park believed no one would notice and that because they worked at the park, they had the blessing to do so.

We understand that would sound ridiculous if we hadn’t seen so many instances in the park. It takes a Yosemite Native American from the area to realize what is really going on because most of the public would never notice the changes.

One stark example was here at the newly remodeled Visitor Center that reopened April 2007. See below:


If you didn’t know it you would believe that the persons in the newly remodeled Yosemite Visitor Center were Miwuks. The Yosemite Indian section starts off with a supposed Miwok legend then 99% of the photos are of Paiutes. This “Implies” to the public the impression that the Indians of Yosemite were Miwoks and that these were photos of Miwok people in Yosemite. This is a big lie.

In fact there are very few, if any early photos of Yosemite Miwoks that is because we have found very few.

So we went to the Lower Yosemite Falls and noticed these signs and once again there was a supposed Miwok Legend done by we believe the biased “Yosemite Indian expert” Craig D. Bates influence;

Yosemite sign by Lower Yosemite Falls

Upclose of sign with this text;

Upclose of legend

The story is a typical Uto-Aztecan tale, like the Llorona. We Paiutes are related to the Aztecs, the Miwoks are not. Here is the story of the Lower Yosemite Falls;

Then the next sign “Living Off the Land”;

Living off the land sign with Paiutes

The sign implies the Ahwahneechees are Miwoks and that they collected acorns. We have verified old accounts and there is no known record of Miwoks ever collecting acorns in Yosemite, only Paiutes. They should also use photos of Miwuks collecting and preparing acorns and not Paiutes and then imply they are Miwuks.

Paiute Taboose with acorns

The photo is of full blooded Yosemite Mono Lake Paiute Tabuce Howard preparing acorns. She is not a Miwok. Use photos of Southern Sierra Miwuks preparing acorns, not Paiutes.

The next photo is a picture of Chief Dick’s house;

Chief Dick's house

Chief Dick and Lancisco Wilson were from the same man, a Paiute named Tupee-na’a or “Rock Chief”, like the famous El Captain. Here is Lancisco Wilson’s grave located in Yosemite National Park with a big “PIUTE” carved on it (we believe that grave marker will disappear soon). Chief Dick’s son, Charlie Dick, stated on a census that he was a “Piute”.


The word Koomine, looks the like the Paiute word “Cloud” which is what Koomine is supposed to be in Yosemite, “Cloud’s Rest”.

The next photo on the sign is of Lena Brown and Mary;

Mary and Lena Brown

Lena Brown’s maiden name was Rube, and she was the daughter of Old Rube, a Washoe man. Lena’s mother was Annie Jim, daughter of Paiute or Washo Captain Jim and Annie Jim’s mother was Heck-ko-pah, a Chukchansi woman.

Here is Mary, from Galen Clark’s book about Yosemite Indians;

Mono Mary - daughter of Mono Capt. John

Mono Mary, daughter of Captain John, chief of Yosemite, after the death of Chief Tenaya, Captain John, the Mono Paiute, was the chief for awhile in Yosemite.

The photos were superimposed on the famous photo of Susie and Sadie McGowan, Yosemite Mono Lake Paiutes.

background - Susie and Sadie McGowan Paiutes

Background Yosemite Mono Lake Paiutes Susie and Sadie McGowan.

But you would never know this looking at the photograph information on the sign;

Acknowledgements - NO Mention of Paiutes

No mention of Paiute, not once. Not even in the small print in the bottom. Yet they are mainly Mono Paiutes. Given you the impression and implying they are Miwoks from the wording on the sign. Not one was a Miwok. This is what is going on in Yosemite and they still continue today.

Then we went to the next sign, the one that had Tom Hutchings called “Adapting To A New Life”;

Adapting to a new life sign

Yosemite Indian interpretive sign by Lower Yosemite Falls, which is wrong.

The top part of the sign;

Sally Ann and John Dick

The sign has Sally Ann and John Dick, children of Chief Dick, an early Paiute chief of Yosemite, who was related to Lancisco Wilson.

Then you move your eyes to the center of the sign and the text reads;

Yosemite house

“They burned the Village of Koomine and forced resident Ahwahneechee people from Yosemite Valley. Later they were permitted to return. Those survivors rebuilt Koomine and adjusted to the new Euro-American presence here.”

They left out that the in 1853 the surviving Ahwahneechees were taken back to Mono Lake and absorbed into the Mono Lake population and became Paiutes. The original Village of Koomine was Paiute and not Miwok.

Then there is a photo;

Calapina and Lena

The photo appears to be Calapina, who was more likely Yokut, since Bates wrote she was the sister of Frank “Hooky” Wilson, a Chukchansi Yokut, but then Craig D. Bates’ writings are suspect in many Paiutes opinions. Calapina also means “half-breed” in Spanish.

The next photo;

Tom Hutchings - first mailman in Yosemite - Mono Indian

“Tom Hutchings, a native Miwok”. No, a Yosemite – Mono Paiute. Even in the small Yosemite Research Library, the park shows that they have Tom Hutchings in their card catalog as a “Mono” Indian. Mono is not Miwok. One is a Numic Uto-Aztecan group and the other is a Penutian group, with different languages, customs, dances and religious practices.

The text and photos were superimposed on this photograph;

Paiute Laundress

The photo is of a Paiute Laundress in Yosemite Valley by J. S. Soule.

Not one Miwok in the group of Indians on this sign, but mainly Yosemite Paiutes, but NOT ONE MENTION OF PAIUTE or Chukchansi.

In fact NOT ONE mention of Paiutes on any of the signs, with the majority of the photos being of Paiute people, but only mention of Miwuks.

Now what would you think if you were Paiute? A Paiute whose ancestors were also part of the story of Yosemite.

So the next time you are in Yosemite, remember this…remember the manipulation and deceit. The purposeful deceit to fool you, the public, for a handful of people working in Yosemite…and the destruction of the Paiute people of Yosemite and our history.  

This is the disgrace of the modern day Yosemite National Park Service to knowingly leave off the tribal identification of Paiute and Yokut from the interpretive signs in Yosemite. To make it appear that they were ALL Yosemite Miwuks. Why not just use photographs of Yosemite Miwuks instead of the park service trying to steal OUR Paiute history and not give us, the Paiutes, our respectful rightful due.

Yosemite National Park even had an official Yosemite Indian ethnologist who should have caught this…oh, wait that was Craig D. Bates, the white man married to a Miwuk woman, who didn’t have a college degree.

Read Full Post »

Hetch Hetchy side canyon

William Keith’s Hetch Hetchy Side Canyon, home of Native American Paiute Indians.

Ralph Kuykendall wrote that few people ventured into Hetch Hetchy Valley because of the difficult inaccessibility into the valley from the western side. He also writes that John Muir knew of Mr. Smith, a sheepherder, who owned parts of Hetch Hetchy Valley before it was flooded.

History of the Yosemite Region

Handbook of Yosemite National Park (1921)

by Ralph S. Kuykendall


“This interesting counterpart of Yosemite was discovered in 1850 by a mountaineer named Joseph Screech. Not long before that the Valley was a disputed ground between the east and west slope Indians, but the Piutes [Paiutes] from across the range had gotten the upper hand and for years were accustomed to spend some time in Hetch Hetchy in the fall of the year gathering acorns. Screech blazed a trail into the Valley and the rich meadow land became a grazing ground for sheep and cattle. Subsequently the discoverer and two or three other parties took up preemption claims covering most of the Valley floor. The State Geological Survey visited Hetch Hetchy in 1867, and a description of it was published in the San Francisco Bulletin in October of that year. When John Muir first visited the Valley in 1871 he found a sheep owner named Smith in possession. This was doubtless the Smith who later obtained the ownership of a large part of the Valley and of several desirable tracts in the vicinity, and for whom Smith’s Peak and Smith’s Meadow were named. Muir records the fact that in the seventies Hetch Hetchy was frequently called Smith’s Valley.

The number of tourists who visited Hetch Hetchy in the early days was very small, due to its inaccessibility and the superior attractions of Yosemite Valley. John Muir and other enthusiasts did much to acquaint the public with its beauties, but it was only after San Francisco started her fight to secure Hetch Hetchy as a reservoir site that it became widely known. Even then it was better known by report than by actual visitation. The Sierra Club included it in several of its annual outings. In 1905 some Stanford University students conducted a hotel camp there, under the auspices of the Santa Fé railroad, and that served to bring in a number of tourists.”

Hetch Hetchy Valley, before it was flooded, had few visitors except Paiutes and Sheepherders. The Paiute natives to gather acorns and camp and the Sheepherders for grazing. It was a valley that was pristine and picturesque and few footprints had soiled.

Hetch Hetchy Valley side canyon II

William Keith Hetch Hetchy Side Canyon II. The place the Paiute Native people used to camp and live.

Part 10 of the American Indian indigenous history of Hetch Hetchy Valley before the dam.

Read Full Post »

Tuolumne County




1849 – 1881


July 7. Simson B. Merril, from Maine, killed by Indians, in the mountains, 20 miles east of Sonora.


Sept. 22. Chilefio killed by an Indian at Springfield, in a gambling quarrel.


Feb. —. Perley killed by Indians in the mountains east of Sonora.


July 6.  Jacob R. Giddis, Agent of the Tuolumne County Water Company, found murdered at reservoir near Strawberry. [Said to be Piute Indians].

Oct. 2.  Mexican teamsters murdered in the mountains 45 miles east of Sonora.


Apr. —. Numerous outrages on Chinamen by Indians and Mexicans were reported at this time.


Sept. 18. Ali Kew murdered and robbed at Soldiers’ Gulch, probably by Indians.


Aug. 1. William Morgan, formerly of Columbia, killed by Indians.


Aug. 22. J. Barbetas murdered an Indian woman at Montezuma.


Feb. 1.  Michael Brown, of Brown’s Flat, a miner of Scotch descent, aged 71 years, committed suicide by shooting. [Regarding Brown’s Flat, John Muir in “My First Summer in the Sierra, 1869” page 40-41 wrote about a Mr. Brown at Brown’s Flat];

“Brown had left his mountain home ere we arrived, but a considerable number of Digger Indians still linger in their cedar-bark huts on the edge of the flat. They were attracted in the first place by the hunter whom they had learned to respect, and to whom they looked for guidance and protection against their enemies the Pah Utes [Paiutes], who sometimes made raids across from the east side of the Range to plunder the stores of the comparatively feeble Diggers and steal their wives.”

That the “Diggers” were “attracted” to move to the Brown’s Flat area because they felt they would be protected from their enemies the Paiutes by the white man. So the Paiutes and “Diggers” did not have such a friendly trade as was written later to explain why they found Mono Paiute obsidian arrowheads in the area. They were not traded but used by the Paiutes in the high Sierras and western side.

Tuolumne County 1895

Tuolumne County


A History of Tuolumne County, California – San Francisco, B.F. Alley, 1882.

“Big Oak Flat, situated on the south side of the Tuolumne River, was first located and the diggings opened by James Savage, a white man, who had acquired influence over a large number of Digger Indians, whose labor he utilized in his mines, paying them with provisions, blankets, etc., and also protecting them—or pretending to protect them—from the encroachments of other whites.”

Above Big Oak Flat was the wild wilderness of Hetch Hetchy. Where many of the whites would not enter. The few who did, did so on their own peril. You can see that many of the early miners were killed by Indians (Paiutes) who did not care for trespassers. Meanwhile James Savage had made an agreement with lower foothill tribes to dig gold for him.

James Savage had made friends with Miwok Chief Bautista and he had his people work for him. This was years before Savage and the Mariposa Battalion had entered Yosemite and encountered Chief Tenaya and the Paiute Colony of Ahwahni.

Somehow Yosemite National Park Service never read that the Miwoks were already working for James Savage years before he entered Yosemite on March of 1851. The Miwoks had actually helped scout for Savage and the Mariposa Battalion.

Part 9 of the early American Indian indigenous history of Hetch Hetchy Valley before the dam.

Read Full Post »

S.F. Viligantes during the 1850s in California

San Francisco Vigilantes ca. 1850s.

John Jolly was a native Englishman born June 13, 1823.  He emigrated to the United States, sailing from Liverpool April, 1849, in the ship “Ajax,” Captain Adams, com­mander, as the second ship to leave England for the California gold fields.  On arriving in California, he mined on Woods’ creek, and in April, 1850, moved to his present place of residence at Gold Springs. Mr. Jolly was one of a company of ten who went to dam and mine the Stanislaus river, at the junction of the South Fork and main river, but the high water swept away the dam, and, nearly penniless, he, in company with a friend, went to mining at Gold Springs. A company commenced to mine on the ranch where Mr Jolly now lives, and by dint of persuasion, induced him and his partner to join them and assist to build a ditch, and to appropriate the water from Gold Springs to their mines in Sandy Gulch. A large cabin was erected where Mr. Jolly’s house now stands, and it was known in the early days as the “Fort.” Mr. Jolly has bought out all other interests in the land and water rights, and is now the sole owner. He married on the 4th of April, 1857, Amelia Moore, who was born in New York City, Feb. 20, 1835. Their children are Amelia, Hattie, Emma, Laura, John, Elenor and Carrie.

“A History of Tuolumne County, California” Published by B.F. Alley, 1882. Pg. 352.

John Jolly chronicled the early history of Tuolumne County. He authored “The Gold Spring Diary; The Journal of John Jolly”. His diary was transcribed and was in the first edition of the Tuolumne Historical Society. This is from the notes on the book.

Here are the notes about the earliest known encounters between early white gold rush miners and the Indians of the Sierra Nevada. 

   “83. Indians were more of a problem than has been generally recognized in the history of Tuolumne County. It was not safe for unarmed men to traveling isolated areas of the mountains for well over a decade following the discovery of gold. Only a year previously, Indians, a teamster employed in hauling ice, near Long Barn. Just two months previous to this entry, John David had been found murdered on the Emigrant Trail east of Lyons’ Dam, and the coroner’s jury found that the act had been committed by Indians.

   About June 28, 1861, Jacob R. Giddes, a dam tender for the Tuolumne County Water Company, was allegedly killed by Indians while at work near present day Pinecrest.

   In an entry of February 11, 1858, Jolly notes: “Lent my double gun to Frank Birk to take in the mountains with a lot of the boys who are going to clear out the Indians above Donnal’s Flat who it is reported have killed and wounded some of our men on the ditch.”

   In fairness to the local Indians, most of these attacks were probably the work of Paiute Indians from the Mono County area.”

Indicating that Paiutes were in the high Sierra Nevada and that the lower foothill Indians were docile and working with white miners. This indicates that the Paiutes were warriors and were the Yosemite Indians, while the foothill tribes had a working relationship with whites. The latter were not those fighting or resisting the invasion of miners. The area in question is Upper Tuolumne and Calaveras Counties. Indicating that included the area of Hetch Hetchy and Yosemite that the war like Mono Paiutes held and attacked white interlopers and trespassers. Charles Weber had brought up around 100 San Joaquin Valley Indians to work in the foothill areas around 1848-1849.

John Bond Francisco's High Sierras

John Bond Francisco’s High Sierras. Land of the Paiute Natives.

Part 8 of the early American Indian indigenous history of Hetch Hetchy Valley before the dam.

Read Full Post »

Referrences of antique books of the Native people of Hetch Hetchy Valley.

The New West: or, California in 1867-1868By Charles Loring Brace

Printed ca. 1869

page 116

New West page 116

page 117, Pah Utahs or Paiute Indians in Hetch Hetchy Valley

New West page 117

Text from The New West;

“It has been seldom visited, the Pah Utahs (Paiutes), and the Big Creek tribes, disputing and fighting over its possession.”

“It had been noticed for some time that the Indians possessed a place of hiding which was unknown to the whites.”


Californian Pictures in Prose and Verse By Benjamin Parke Avery

Printed ca. 1878

page 294

hetch hetchy indian page 294

page 295, Pah-Utahs or Paiute Native American Indians In Hetch Hetchy.

hetch hetchy indians page 295

Text from Californian Pictures in Prose and Verse;

“The Hetch-Hetchy Valley, or “the Little Yosemite,” for instance, was, up to a very recent date, disputed ground between the Pah-Utahs (Paiutes), from the eastern slope, and the Big Creek Indians, from the western slope, who had several fights, in which the Pah-Utahs (commonly called Piutes) were victorious.”

Main informant being Charles F. Hoffmann and the Screech brothers. Hoffamann had the largest mountain in Yosemite named after him.

C. F. Hoffmann and Nate Screech

 Left; Charles F. Hoffmann, early California State Surveyor, Right; Nate Screech, early Hetch Hetchy Valley pioneer.

website with information on Charles F. Hoffmann;


Part 7 of the early American Indian indigenous history of Hetch Hetchy Valley before the dam was built.

Read Full Post »

John Bingaman was a well known Yosemite National Park ranger who worked almost all his adult life in the Valley. He knew most of Indian people of Yosemite and the surrounding area. Ranger John Bingaman wrote several books about the lives of Yosemite Indians who worked in the park.

Ranger John Bingaman on horse ca. 1921

Yosemite National Park Ranger John Bingaman on horseback, ca. 1921

John W. Bingaman wrote in his book

Guardians of the Yosemite (1961), Chapter V, about his ranger patrols;

“We followed an old dim trail I knew from Huckleberry Lake to Kibbie Lake. It wasn’t a regular trail. An old cattleman who ran cattle in this country many years had showed me the trail which was a much shorter We camped at Kibbie Lake that night. The lake is a fisherman’s paradise. The next day we returned to Hetch Hetchy and all agreed it was a fine trip.  Hetch Hetchy Pate Numic pictographs

Pate Valley Indian Pictographs in the Tuolumne Canyon,
Yosemite National Park. Numic Great Basin [Paiute] style Pictographs – Petroglyphs are located around the Hetch Hetchy Valley. The same type are located all throughout Paiute and Mono Great Basin areas.

On a Patrol with Ranger Walquist to Pate Valley, we spent some time investigating the Indian Pictographs on the Canyon wall, one-fourth mile north of the Trail Camp. Ranger Walquist and I searched over the Canyon Cliff looking for other places where the markings and pictures have been reported for many years. We found one location near the House Pits averaging twelve feet in diameter. It appeared that the Indians occupied these places the year around. The age of the Pictographs could be anywhere from two hundred to one thousand years or even more. Pictographs are found in some fifty places throughout California. Nothing can be told of the significance of the characters contained in the markings. In no case do the present Indians know their origin or meaning. The Indians of this region do not make representations of natural objects as did the Indians of the Plains. The characters may be connected with some important enumeration of calendar keeping. These Pictographs were first discovered and reported by Mr. McKibben and E. W. Hamden, which they discovered while on an outing of the Sierra Club in 1907.”

 We Paiutes would enter Hetch Hetchy Valley from the eastern side which leads to Piute Mountain and along Piute Creek [Paiute]. These natural landmarks with the “Piute” titles are located inside Yosemite National Parks northern area next to Hetch Hetchy. These are the places my people used to camp as we collected acorns and other things.

What we Paiutes find interesting and some what amusing is that Archealogists and Anthropologists cannot figure out how these pictrographs and petroglyphs got there. They are located around the high western Sierra Nevada.

Here one well known archealogists states;

High Sierra western pictographs

 “Although found within the ethnographic territory of the Central Sierra Miwok, these petroglyphs stylistically resemble those of the western Great Basin. It is believed that the art at Cal-5 was left by pre-Miwok people of the Great Basin cultural affiliation.”

That is because they were done by and left by Great Basin Paiute people. The Paiutes were there up till recent times until they were pushed out or flooded out of Hetch Hetchy Valley.

Here is a well known Curtis photo of a Walker River Paiute creating pictographs – petroglyphs;

Walker River Paiute making pictograph - petroglyph

Here is a close up of a fimiliar looking section of the pictograph – petroglyph photographed by the archealogists above;

Upclose section of pictograph - petroglyph

Notice the similiarity of both pictograph – petroglyph designs.

Pictograph – Petroglyph, the Numic Great Basin Indian tradition found around Hetch Hetchy Valley.

Part 6 of the early American Indian indigenous history of Hetch Hetchy Valley before the dam was bulit.

Read Full Post »

John Muir

John Muir, the father of the modern day environmental movement.

John Muir writes about his first visit into Hetch Hetchy that he took in 1872. He mentions Joe Screech one of the first men to enter the valley;

The Hetch Hetchy Valley

by John Muir

Boston Weekly Transcript, March 25, 1873

“Mr. Screech first visited this valley in the year 1850, one year before Yosemite was entered by Captain Boling and his party. At present there are a couple of shepherds’ cabins and a group of Indian huts in the valley, which I believe is all that will come under the head of improvements.”

I had heard that the shepherd in Hetch Hetchy was a man named Smith. Even though the shepherd might not have been Basque. Basques and Paiutes had interwoven lives. Sheep herding in the Great Basin was what the Basques in the area were known for. Paiutes along with Spanish and French Basque sheepherders lived together in many areas along the Sierra Nevada. You can still see many Basque sheep herders in Mono County along Lundy Lake, Mono Village and other areas they both shared. Many Paiutes worked for the Basques as sheepherders from the foothills of eastern Sierra Nevada into the western side, even into Yosemite. Later on Yosemite Rangers told many sheep herders they could not use Yosemite National Park as a sheeping range anymore. John Muir notes the range of the early shepherds and Paiutes in Hetch Hetchy as they shared the valley in the earliest times in this writing with his conversation with Joe Screech.

Basque Shepherd

Some of our modern day Mono Paiute families have Basque last names. They are the descendents of these Basque sheepherders and Mono Paiute unions.

Here is another reference by John Muir concerning Paiutes and shepherds;

“The other pass of the five we have been considering is somewhat lower, and crosses the axis of the range a few miles to the north of the Mono Pass, at the head of the southernmost tributary of Walker’s River. It is used chiefly by roaming bands of the Pah Ute [Paiute] Indians and “sheepmen.” [Basque Shepards] “

The area John Muir is describing is in Northern Yosemite around the eastern entrance that we Paiutes took into Hetch Hetchy Valley.

Basque Carving

French and Spanish Basques carved messages into trees along the Great Basin and the Sierra Nevada. This technique is called Arborglyph.
You can find many trees along the eastern Sierra Nevadas with many different markings. They are similiar to Paiute Great Basin pictogprahs found along the rock walls in Hetch Hetchy Valley and throughout the area.

Part 5 of the early American Indian indigenous history of Hetch Hetchy Valley before the dam.

Read Full Post »

Josiah D. Whitney

Josiah D. Whitney was appointed state geologist of California in 1860. Whitney, along with William H. Brewer, Clarence King, Lorenzo Yates, and others, made an extensive survey of California, including the Sierra Nevada and Yosemite region. Excerpts on the Indians of Hetch Hetchy and Yosemite;

THE YOSEMITE BOOK by Josiah D. Whitney (1869)“This led to another expedition into the Valley by the Mariposa battalion, who killed some and drove out the rest of the Indians; these took refuge with the Monos, on the eastern side of the Sierra, but got into difficulty there, and, escaping with a lot of stolen horses, were followed back to the Yosemite by the Monos, where a battle was fought resulting in the almost entire extermination of the Yosemite tribe. Since that time the Valley has been annually visited by the Monos at the time of the ripening of the acorns, for the purpose of laying in a stock of this staple article of food; but the number of Indians actually and permanently resident in and about the Yosemite or the Mariposa Grove is very small. Like the rest of the so-called “diggers” in California,…”


“The Hetch-Hetchy may be reached easily from Big Oak Flat, by taking the regular Yosemite trail, by Sprague’s ranch and Big Flume, as far as Mr. Hardin’s fence, between the South and Middle Forks of the Tuolumne river. Here, at a distance of about eighteen miles from Big Oak Flat, the trail turns off to the left, going to Wade’s meadows, or Big Meadows as they are also called, the distance being about seven miles. From Wade’s ranch the trail crosses the middle fork of the Tuolumne, and goes to the “Hog ranch,” a distance of five miles, then up the divide between the middle fork and the main river, to another little ranch, called “the Cañon.” From here, it winds down among the rocks, for six miles, to the Hetch-Hetchy, or the Tuolumne Cañon. This trail was made by Mr. Joseph Screech, and is well blazed and has been used for driving sheep and cattle into the Valley. The whole distance from Big Oak Flat is called thirty-eight miles. Mr. Screech first visited this place in 1850, at which time the Indians had possession. The Pah Utes still visit it every year for the purpose of getting the acorns, having driven out the western slope Indians, just as they did from the Yosemite.”


Whitney even calls the Paiutes “Diggers”, which was done quite often. Like most whites during that time Whitney could not tell the difference. They did not know that Chief Tenaya’s band was primiarly made up of Mono Paiutes. That is why the Paiutes took Tenaya in. They would have never taken in a group of Miwoks because Mono Paiutes and Miwoks were enemies during that time. It was Dr. Lafayette H. Bunnell, one of the only men to author a book that met Chief Tenaya and his band. Bunnell wrote “The Discovery of the Yosemites, 1851…” In his book he wrote;

“The Pai-Ute [Paiute] 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 valley [Yosemite] as a home”.and;

“Ten-ie-ya was recognized, by the Mono tribe, as one of their number, as he was born and lived among them until his ambition made him a leader and founder of the Pai-Ute [Paiute] colony in Ah-wah-ne. “and;

 “Tenaya was the founder of the Pai-Ute [Paiute] Colony of Ahwahni”Bunnell also wrote that Tenaya spoke Paiute and not Miwok.Chief Tenaya’s band was made up mostly of Mono Paiutes and Monos. You can download the book on this website and by following the instructions on this website the truth will appear;


This explains the last two paragraphs in Whitney’s writings. The Ahwahneechees were absorbed into the Mono Lake Paiutes when Tenaya’s father took a handful of Ahwahneechee survivors to Mono Lake. That is were Tenaya was born from a Mono Lake Paiute woman. No Miwok man during that time could’ve entered Mono Lake and lived amongst war like Paiute in peace. Especially during a time when Paiutes and Miwoks were fighting…like over Hetch Hetchy.

Than after Tenaya and his band were wiped out, the remaining members of his band were taken back to Mono Lake and than absorbed again. So not only were they absorbed once by disease, they were re-absorbed again into the Mono Paiutes after Tenaya’s death.

That is why they only found Mono Lake Paiutes living in both Yosemite and Hetch Hetchy during the early days of Yosemite National Park. Even the few who espaced the Yosemite massacre were Paiutes. So notice that during his time in both Hetch Hetchy and Yosemite, Whitney writes that he only knew of Paiutes in the area.

Miwok workers were brought up to Sonora, Tuolumne County, from Knight’s Ferry and other towns along the San Joaquin Valleys Stanislaus River. Charles Webber made an agreement with Jose Jesus to have some of his people move up to Sonora to work in the Tuolumne area mines in exchange for provisions. Webber already had a good working relationship with Miwoks when he was employed as Sutter’s overseer. Webber knew the Miwok chiefs like Moximo and Jose Jesus. James Savage took it a step further and married many daughters of the valley and foothill tribes.

What most people don’t know is that the tribe above Big Oak Flat was Paiute from the earliest time of first contact. Most assume that only ONE tribe was along the Tuolumne. Dr. Bunnell writes;

Page 223Major Savage sent Cow-chitty, a brother of Pon-watch-ee, the chief of the
Noot-choo band, whose village we surprised before we discovered the
valley [ed. note – outside of Yosemite along the southern fork of the Merced River], as chief of scouts.
He was accompanied by several young warriors,
selected because they were all familiar with the Sierra Nevada trails and
the territory of the Pai-utes [Paiutes], where it was thought probable the
expedition would penetrate.Captain Boling had in his report to Major Savage, complained of the
incapacity of Sandino as guide, and expressed the opinion that he stood in
awe of Ten-ie-ya. By letter, the Major replied, and particularly advised
Captain Boling that implicit confidence could be placed in Cow-chitty and
his scouts, as the sub-chief was an old enemy of Ten-ie-ya
, and was
esteemed for his sagacity and wood-craft, which was superior to that of
any Indian in his tribe. Captain Bo ling had improved in health and
strength, and concluded to venture on his contemplated expedition over the
mountains. He at once ordered preparations to be made. A camp-guard was
detailed, and a special supply train fitted out. All was ready for a start
in the morning. During the evening Captain Boling consulted our new guide
as to what trail would be best to follow to the
Mono [Paiute] pass and over the
mountains. Cow-chitty had already learned from our Po-ho-no [ed. note- supposed Miwoks] scouts and
those of his own tribe, the extent of our explorations, and had had a long
talk with Sandino as well as with Ten-ie-ya. The mission Indian and the
old chief tried to make the new guide believe that the Yosemites had gone
over the mountains to the Monos [Paiutes]. Indian-like, he had remained very grave
and taciturn, while the preparations were going on for the expedition.
Now, however, that he was consulted by Captain Boling, he w as willing
enough to give his advice, and in a very emphatic manner declared his
belief to the Captain that Ten-ie-ya’s people were not far off; that they
were either
hiding in some ofPage 224the rocky canyons in the vicinity of the valley, or in those of the
page 231 They had been anxious to embroil us in trouble by 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].
So the Myth that the Tuolumne River was Miwuk is incorrect also…see above.  Upper Tuolumne River was Paiute and NOT Miwok.  The last paragraph talks about the Paiutes wintering in a Tuolumne Valley like Ahwahnee. That is no doubt Hetch Hetchy Valley which was a twin of Yosemite Valley.Hetch Hetchy Valley BierstadtAlbert Bierstadt’s “Hetch Hetchy Canyon”. The hiding place for the Paiute Indians along the Tuolumne Canyon during the search by Mariposa Battalion with Tenaya as captive.also in Bunnell’s book

Page 227“They are watching for you from the ridges nearer the
valley. We will not have to go far to find their camps. This trail will
lead us to the head of the Py-we-ack, where the Pai-ute [Paiute] or Mono trail
crosses into the upper valley of the Tuolumne; and if we don’t find them
at the lake, we will soon know if they have crossed the mountains.”
page 226A cord had again been placed around his
waist to secure his allegiance, and as we were about to move ahead once
more, he very gravely said that if we followed the signs, they would take
us over to the Tuolumne.
The Indians in the high sierras during Tenaya’s time were Tuolumnes, but Tuolumne Paiutes. They were aligned with Tenaya’s band. They could not have been the Miwoks, because the Miwoks were already working for James Savage and Charles Webber before Savage went into Yosemite to capture Tenaya. In fact the Mariposa Battalion had Miwok scouts when they entered Yosemite as you can see above.Lafayette H. Bunnell

*Remember Lafayette H. Bunnell was one of the only men to meet Tenaya and his band.

Part 4 of the American Indian indigenous history of Hetch Hetchy Valley before the dam.

Read Full Post »

Lady Constance Gordon-Cumming

Lady Constance Frederica Gordon-Cumming wrote about her travels. She wrote this about her trip to Yosemite and about the indigenous Native Americans in Hetch Hetchy valley in her book “Granite Crags of California” dated 1888;

THE TUOLUMNE CANYON. pg 269“farther on the same mighty ridge, a series of majestic pinnacles of glittering white granite. They are known as the Minarets. All these peaks and minarets are considered inaccessible, which, I should think, was the sole reason which could possibly inspire any one with a wish to climb them.

The travellers did not seek a nearer acquaintance with the Lyell and Merced groups, though somewhat tempted by hearing that that region is accounted one of the wildest and grandest in the Sierras; 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.

This valley is quite easy of access from the lower end, a trail having been made the whole way from Big Oak Flat. From the upper end, it is a difficult but very beautiful expedition; and this was the route naturally preferred by these young men, to whom a little extra climbing was no objection.

So from Mount Dana they returned to their former camping-ground at Soda Springs, and thence started on a twenty-miles march down the Tuolumne canyon, a deep and narrow gorge, through which the river rushes between precipitous granite cliffs, over a bed of glacier-polished rocks, making a rapid descent without any great falls, but forming, a succession of most beautiful shelving rapids and foaming cascades. There are two perpendicular falls,…”

Lady Gordon-Cumming also did several paintings and drawings of Yosemite, Including this upclose section of her “Indians at Mirror Lake” showing Paiutes in Yosemite;

Upclose cropped section of Indians at Mirror Lake.

Lady Gordon-Cumming’s drawing is of a camp of Paiutes. Which can be easily identified by the Paiute style Indian cradleboards and Paiute basket hat worn the woman seated front-left. Paiutes were the only tribe in the area to wear this style of hat. Also Paiutes were know to camp at Mirror Lake.

Grizzly bear pelts can be seen hunging in the trees in Cummings painting above.

John Muir wrote in his “Yosemite in the Winter (1872)”;

“…As soon as bipeds left Yosemite, bears came in; not to grunt flattery to the falls, but to dine upon ridden-to-death horses. One burly old chief was killed at Nevada Falls by a party of Mono Indians. He was a brown or cinnamon bear, the prevailing species of the region.”

Guns brought the rapid end to California Grizzly Bears and quickly endangered the smaller bears around Yosemite. Where once the Mono Indians hunted bears with obisidian brought in from the Mono Lake area, the guns gave the Indians more of an advantage.

The woman in the front right is pounding acorns which we Paiutes called that action “Pota”.

 Part 3 of the history of the American Indian indigenous to Hetch Hetchy Valley.

Read Full Post »

« Newer Posts - Older Posts »