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Re: Yosemite Indian Cemetery; May Tom, and her death

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avatar Yosemite Indian Cemetery; May Tom, and her death
July 05, 2011 06:58AM

May Tom's wooden grave marker in Yosemite National Park's cemetery. She was Piute [Paiute] and died when she was 14.

A couple of years ago, during a cool Autumn day, as I was strolling through the Yosemite National Park cemetery, I came across a grave with a wooden marker. The grave was nestled around 10 other graves with Paiute Indian names I recognized. On one grave was the name May Tom, age 14, Piute.

Years later, while doing some research of the Indian people of Yosemite and Mono Lake, I came across a story in the Mountain Democrat, a Placerville, California newspaper. The date of the story was August 16th 1902, and I recognized the incident. Here is the story transcribed;


The Yosemite is now lighted by electricity.

"A fatal accident happened to a party of Piute Indians near Yosemite point. They had been in that place some time and were returning to Mono Lake. They had camped for the night under a tree. During the night a stiff wind blew up, toppling the tree down and upon them. Two of the party, both squaws, were badly injured, and the younger of the two, a mere girl died, of their injuries. The other one is in serious condition."

Once I read this article, printed almost a hundred years ago, I knew who the girl was, and who the other person was injured.

1902 article in the Placerville Mountain Democrat with the account of a young Paiute girl who died at Yosemite. The girl was May Tom, and you can see her wooden grave marker on the right, which is located in Yosemite National Park's cemetery.

The young girl in the story was May Tom, from the Tom-Sam family, a prominent Yosemite and Mono Lake Paiute Native American family, and the account of her death was also documented in John W. Bingaman's book The Ahwahneechee and is described below;

"After Maggie [Tabuce Howard] was married, she and her oldest son William, her sister’s daughter May Tom, age 14, and some others went up the Yosemite Falls trail, and camped somewhere in the upper Indian Canyon. This was after an Indian Festival. Maggie, after much dancing, was tired and went to sleep early. A high wind storm came up and blew down a large pine tree. Her niece May Tom was killed by this fallen tree. Maggie had her collar bone broken, her ankles and feet badly injured, and the bones in her right leg fractured. Her sister took her daughter to the Valley, and left Maggie for dead beneath the tree all night. The next day Charlie Dick [Paiute] and other Indians came for her. She doesn’t remember what happened during that long night. A doctor in the Valley set the bones. All summer she lay in a cast, barely able to move her right hand to shoo away the flies. In the fall she was able to walk a little. She never fully recovered from this, always walking with a decided limp."

Link to John Bingaman's The Ahwahneechees

The other person involved in the accident and who was severely injured was Maggie "Tabuce" [also known as Taboose] Howard and after that incident she always walked with a slight limp. Maggie was the first Yosemite Indian demonstrator for the Park and extremely well known. Her father, Kosano, was one of the earliest headmen of Yosemite and when he died he was buried by the site of the Yosemite Indian Museum. When Maggie "Tabuce" died she was buried in Bishop California.

The next time you visit Yosemite National Park take a stroll next to the Yosemite Indian Museum. There across a small road is the Yosemite cemetery. You will see graves of the early Yosemite pioneers and in the same cemetery you will see wooden grave markers of some of the early Yosemite Indians, mostly Paiutes, who are buried there. Before that time many of the Indians of Yosemite were either cremated or buried in unmarked graves. Louisa Tom, relative of Maggie, was the last Indian person buried in the Yosemite cemetery. She said she wanted to be buried along side with her family, which included the young girl, May Tom, who died so young and is buried in the Yosemite National Park cemetery.

Maggie "Tabuce" Howard, who was the person injured in the story is a famous Native American icon in Yosemite. She was the aunt of May Tom.

Chief Tenaya was the founder of the Paiute colony of Ahwanhee - Dr. Lafayette H. Bunnell.

Edited 2 time(s). Last edit at 07/05/2011 07:02AM by Yosemite_Indian.
avatar Re: Yosemite Indian Cemetery; May Tom, and her death
July 05, 2011 09:04AM
I enjoyed your article. Thank you for sharing it.
avatar Re: Yosemite Indian Cemetery; May Tom, and her death
July 06, 2011 07:40PM
Thank you for reading it.
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