Yosemite Valley Plan, A Threat To Indian Culture

Cultural Genocide

Who Are The True Ahwahneechees or Ahwahnees, Yosemite Indians?


Who are the true Ahwahneechees or Ahwahnees, Yosemite Indians?
Where did they go?
The earliest Indians of Yosemite were the Ahwahneechees or Ahwahnees.

Lafayette H. Bunnell was the only person to meet Tenaya to ever write about him. Lafayette H. Bunnell in his book “The Discovery of Yosemite, and the Indian war of 1851, that led to that event” wrote in Chapter XVIII (18), page 297:

“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 colony in Ah-wah-ne.[Ed. Note: Tenaya also spoke a Paiute Jargon] His history and warlike exploits formed a part of the traditionary lore of the Monos.[Ed. Note: Mono Paiutes did not fear Tenaya like the other surrounding tribes did] They were proud of his successes and boasted of his descent from their tribe, although Ten-ie-ya himself claimed that his father was the chief of an independent people, [Ed. Note: Ahwahnees, before the plague, were a independently different tribe from any other surrounding tribe] whose ancestors were of a different race. Ten-ie-ya had, by his cunning and sagacity in managing the deserters from other tribes, who had sought his protection, maintained a reputation as a chief whose leadership was never disputed by his followers, and who was the envy of the leaders of other tribes.”
In other words Tenaya’s band was made up of mainly Mono Paiutes with Ahwahneechee blood in their veins. That the Ahwahnees were from a totally separate INDEPENDENT tribe from any of the surrounding Indians, but the group made up of mainly Mono Paiutes. Chief Tenaya’s group was also made up of a handful of “outlaws” and “outcasts” from some of the western tribes. They never mention which western tribes those are.

For those who don’t know the story of Chief Tenaya here it is below:

“Chief Tenaya (?-1853) was a Native American chief in the Yosemite Valley people in California. Tenaya’s father was the chief of the Ahwahneechee, which means “people of the Ahwahnee” (Yosemite Valley). The Ahwahneechees were a totally different tribe then any other surrounding tribes. Lafayette Bunnell, the doctor of the Mariposa Battalion, wrote that “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 colony in Ah-wah-ne.”The Ahwahneechee occupied Yosemite Valley until a sickness destroyed most of them. The few Ahwahneechee left Yosemite Valley and joined the Mono Lake Paiutes in the eastern Sierra Nevada. Tenaya’s father married a Mono Paiute woman and Tenaya was born from that union. Tenaya grow up amongst his mothers people and married a Mono Paiute woman and had several children. Fifty years later a medicine man advised Tenaya that it was time to return to the beautiful Yosemite Valley because the sickness was gone. Tenaya took about 200 people back into Yosemite Valley. The Ahwahneechee were a powerful tribe feared by the surrounding Miwok tribes. The surrounding tribes called them Yosemite meaning “they are killers.”

By 1851, conflicts between the non-indigenous miners and the Native Americans in the Sierra started to increase. The state of California decided to send the Natives to reservations. The Mariposa Brigade was formed to carry out the relocation. Chief Tenaya agreed to move to the Fresno Reservation, instead of the destruction of his entire band. Many of his band left Yosemite Valley instead of following Tenaya. As they approached the Fresno reservation, they fled back to the Yosemite Valley. The Brigade then re-entered the Valley, captured Tenaya’s sons, and killed his youngest son. Tenaya then agreed to go back to the reservation.

By the summer of 1851, Tenaya grew tired of the reservation. He gave his pledge that he would not disturb any non-indigenous people. However, in 1852, a group of prospectors were killed in the Valley. Tenaya and his band fled to join the Mono Paiutes. He returned to the Valley in 1853. He was stoned to death in a dispute with the Mono Paiutes over stolen horses.”

In another part of Lafayette Bunnell’s book he wrote: “….when Ten-ie-ya left the tribe of his mother and went to live in Ah-wah-ne, he was accompanied by a very old Ah-wah-ne-chee, who had been the great `medicine man’ of his tribe.”

It was through the influence of this old friend of his father that Ten-ie-ya was induced to leave the Mono tribe, and with a few of the descendants from the Ah-wah-nee-chees, who had been living with the Monos and Pai-Utes, to establish himself in the valley of his ancestors as their chief. He was joined by the descendants from the Ah-wah-ne-chees, and by others who had fled from their own tribes to avoid summary Indian justice. The old “medicine man” was the counselor of the young chief. Not long before the death of this patriarch, as if endowed with prophetic wisdom, he assured Ten-ie-ya that while he retained possession of Ah-wah-ne his band would increase in numbers and become powerful. That if he befriended those who sought his protection, no other tribe would come to the valley to make war upon him, or attempt to drive him from it, and if he obeyed his counsels he would put a spell upon it that would hold it sacred for him and his people alone; none other would ever dare to make it their home. He then cautioned the young chief against the horsemen of the lowlands (the Spanish residents), and declared that, should they enter Ah-wah-ne, his tribe would soon be scattered and destroyed, or his people be taken captive, and he himself be the last chief in Ah-wah-ne.
For this reason, Ten-ie-ya declared, had he so rigidly guarded his valley home, and all who sought his protection. No one ventured to enter it, except by his permission; all feared the “witches” there, and his displeasure. He had “made war upon the white gold diggers to drive them from the mountains, and prevent their entrance into Ah-wah-ne.”

From a few handful of Ahwahnees to a bigger group? Years after Tenaya’s father left Yosemite? Like Tenaya, who was now ½ Mono Paiute and his children were now 3/4s Paiutes the Ahwahnees could not have been full blooded Ahwahnees, but by then, like Tenaya a mixture of Ahwahnee and Mono Paiute.

Remember Tenaya was not even born when his father took a handful of Ahwhanees with him to Mono Lake. So for Tenaya’s father to find a Mono Lake Paiute bride and then have a family. Then for Tenaya to have grown up and then marry a Mono Lake Paiute woman and have children at Mono Lake would have to have taken years if not decades.

By then the Ahwahnees would have been assimilated into the majority Mono Lake Paiute community.

When Tenaya came in to meet with his terms of surrender with Major James Savage and the Mariposa Battalion who had gone up to capture him, Bunnell writes that Tenaya stated:

….”I will go with my people; my young man shall go with you to my village. You will not find any people there. I do not know where they are. My tribe is small–not large, as the white chief has said. The Pai-utes and Mono’s are all gone. Many of the people with my tribe are from western tribes [Ed. Note: the outcast are from western tribes and not aligned with the western tribes] that have come to me and do not wish to return. If they go to the plains and are seen, they will be killed by the friends of those with whom they had quarreled. I have talked with my people and told them I was going to see the white chiefs sent to make peace. I was told that I was growing old, and it was well that I should go, but that young and strong men can find plenty in the mountains; therefore why should they go, to be yarded like horses and cattle. My heart has been sore since that talk, but I am now willing to go, for it is best for my people that I do so.”

Tenaya, who Bunnell writes was a very smart person, I believe tried to persuade Savage to protect his people, to Savage give up chasing the rest of his people. I believe Tenaya thought if he told Savage this that he and the Mariposa Battalion would not go another further. I believe Tenaya did this to protect his people.

Notice that Tenaya states that many of the people with his tribe are from “unspecified” western tribes and did not wish to return to the western side because they would be killed. That would indicate that those “outlaws” and “outcasts” with Tenaya from the western tribes were not aligned with those Yokuts and Miwoks west of Yosemite.

Major Savages does not believe Tenaya and pushes ahead anyway. They go further east and capture of more of Tenaya’s people.

Lt. Moore goes close to Mono Lake to try to capture some of Tenaya’s people there. He always states that the place looked good for gold mining.

In Bunnell’s book The Discovery of the Yosemite, he writes about Tenaya’s death. Chapter XVIII (18), page 300:

“After his subjugation by the whites, he was deserted by his followers, and his supremacy was no longer acknowledged by the neighboring tribes, who had feared [Ed. note that would be Chief Bautista and the other groups] rather than respected him or the people of his band. Ten-ie-ya and his refugee band were so hospitably received and entertained by the Monos that they seemed in no hurry to return to their valley. [Ed. Note: Tenaya, instead of going to nearby Miwok areas in the lower Tuolumne crossed the Sierra Nevadas to go to Mono Lake?]

According to custom with these mountaineers, a portion of territory was given to them [Ed. Note: the Paiutes gave Tenaya and his band an allotment of land at Mono Lake] for their occupancy by consent of the tribe; for individual right to territory is not claimed, nor would it be tolerated. Ten-ie-ya staid with the Monos until late in the summer or early autumn of 1853, when he and his people suddenly left the locality that had been assigned to them, and returned to their haunts in the Yosemite valley, with the intention of remaining there unless again driven out by the whites. Permanent wig-wams were constructed by the squaws, near the head of the valley, among the rocks, not readily discernable to visitors. Not long after Ten-ie-ya had re-established himself in his old home, a party of his young men left on a secret foraging expedition for the camp of the Monos, which was then established at or near Mono Lake. According to the statement made to me, there had just been a successful raid and capture of horses by the Monos and Pai-Utes from some of the Southern California ranchos, and Ten-ie-ya’s men concluded, rather than risk a raid on the white men, to steal from the Mono’s, trusting to their cunning to escape detection.

Ten-ie-ya’s party succeeded in recapturing a few of the stolen horses, and after a circuitous and baffling route through the pass at the head of the San Joaquin, finally reached the valley with their spoils.

After a few days’ delay, and thinking themselves secure, they killed one or more of the horses, and were in the enjoyment of a grand feast in honor of their return, when the Mono’s pounced down upon them. Their gluttony seemed to have rendered them oblivious of all danger to themselves, and of the ingratitude by which the feast had been supplied. Like sloths, they appear to have been asleep after having surfeited their appetites. They were surprised in their wig-wams by the wronged and vengeful Monos and before they could rally for the fight, the treacherous old chief was struck down by the hand of a powerful young Mono chief.

Ten-ie-ya had been the principal object of attack at the commencement of the assault, but he had held the others at bay until discovered by the young chief, who having exhausted his supply of arrows, seized a fragment of rock and hurled it with such force as to crush the skull of “the old grizzly.” [Ed. Note: Tenaya bragged that he liked that his enemies feared him and gave him and his band the name “Yosemites” or “the Grizzlies”. It was the Miwoks who gave him that name] As Ten-ie-ya fell, other stones were cast upon him by the attacking party, after the Pai-ute custom, until he was literally stoned to death. All but eight of Ten-ie-ya’s young braves were killed; these escaped down the valley, and through the cañon below.

The old men and women, who survived the first assault, were permitted to escape from the valley. The young women and children were made captives and taken across the mountains to be held as slaves or drudges to their captors. [Ed. Note: The remaining childbearing members Tenaya’s band were taken and assimilated into the Mono Lake Paiutes] I frequently entertained the visitors at our store on the Merced with descriptions of the valley. The curiosity of some of the miners was excited, and they proposed to make a visit as soon as it could be made with safety. I expressed the opinion that there would be but little danger from Indians, as the Mono’s and Pai-utes only came for acorns, and that the Yo-sem-i-ties were so nearly destroyed, that at least, while they were mourning the loss of their chief, and their people, no fear need be entertained of them.”

That means the remaining Ahwahneechee blood line is in the Mono Lake Paiutes who assimilated them into their population.

In Bunnell’s book The Discovery of the Yosemite, he writes about those who escaped the retribution of the Monos. Chapter XVIII (18), page 300:  “…that the murderers had gone to the Upper Tuolumne river and were banded with the renegades of the Tuolumne tribe that had once been under Ten-ie-ya.”

The Miwoks, who were never mentioned in the earliest account, were at the Big Creek area in the Lower Tuolumne while The Paiutes were in the Upper Tuolumne above Big Oak Flats.
Miwoks were not friendly with Paiutes as written, but had several wars with Paiutes. They had wars over Hetch Hetchy, Stoddard Springs and other areas. Brian Biddy even documents this in his book “Deeper Then Gold” when he writes a Miwok elders testimony about the animosity that the two groups had in the past.

In 1850 the first Europeans to enter Hetch Hetchy were the Screech brothers. They documented to C. F Hoffman, the first California state surveyor to survey Tuolumne and Yosemite, that the Big Creek Indians from the lower Tuolumne had a battle over Hetch Hetchy with the Upper Tuolumne Paiutes and that the Paiutes had won. The Paiutes still had returned to gather plants, roots and acorns even in the 1900s.

The Upper Tuolumne Indians during that time were the Paiutes and not Miwoks.

Then a year later after Tenaya’s death Bunnell writes in Discovery of the Yosemite. Chapter XVIII, (18) page 300:

“I expressed the opinion that there would be but little danger from Indians, as the Mono’s and Pai-utes only came for acorns, and that the Yo-sem-i-ties were so nearly destroyed,…”

Chapter XVIII, (18) page 304 of the Discovery of the Yosemite:

“The nervous ones were still further alarmed by a general stampede of the miners on the South Fork of the Merced, which occurred in the summer of that year (1854). This was caused by a visit to their neighborhood of some Pai-Utes and Monos, from the east side of the Sierras, who came to examine the prospects for the acorn harvest, and probably take back with them some they had cached.” [Ed. Note: That means that the only Indians in Yosemite Valley in 1854, a year after Tenaya’s death were Paiutes.]

In other words Tenaya’s band were mainly Mono Paiutes before Savage went into Yosemite, the only Indians in Yosemite Valley in 1854, were Mono Lake Paiutes. The Screeches encounter Paiutes in Hetch Hetchy in 1850, a year before the Mariposa Battalion went after Chief Tenaya. There is no mention of Miwoks, Mewus in any of the first accounts until after 1900.

The old time Yosemite Indians were Chief Dick, his children Charlie and Sally Ann, The Charlies, The Ruebens, Captain Pete Jim, Big Jim, Billy Williams, Tom Hutchings, the first mailman of Yosemite, Bridgeport Tom, Captain and Susie Sam, Bill “Mono” Brown and his wife Lucy Sam-Brown, Pete Hilliard (the grandson of Lucy Brown), Lancisco Wilson, Old Rube, Captain John, and others are Paiutes or Paiute/Washoes.

So why is the Yosemite National Park Service going along with the story that the Ahwahneechees, Ahwahnees, Ahwahnis are Miwoks?

One thing that the Yosemite National Park Service does not know is that Major Savage had a confidant who a couple of years ago was in his enemy, but after had become great friends with Savage.

That was a chief called Chief Bautista.

In a Stockton newspaper done around 1851 the paper writes something that was left out of Bunnell’s book.
Besides the Mariposa Battalion, Major Savage had taken, of what the newspaper reported, a 100 of “his” Indians. That without them they could not have found Chief Tenaya. Those Indians got a shirt, a scarf and a pair of ‘pantaloons’ for their service.

cc: National Park Service


May 9, 2015 - Posted by | Uncategorized

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