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Posts Tagged ‘Tuolumne County’

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;

http://www.indiancountrytoday.com/yourict/52313777.html

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.

http://www.yosemite.ca.us/library/yosemite_nature_notes/16/16-1.pdf

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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