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How Tenaya became Yosemite the Grizzly bear killer

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avatar How Tenaya became Yosemite the Grizzly bear killer
April 15, 2012 03:32AM

This Indian legend goes back through time. When Tenaya was a young man one day he was wandering in the Yosemite Valley gazing upon the grandour of Half Dome, distracted by its encompassing beauty he didn’t see a large grizzly bear approaching him. Tenaya suddenly found himself in a life and death struggle with the large grizzly bear as the bear was tearing at him. In a last desperate attempt to save his life Tenaya was able to grasp a tree limb and bravely defeated the grizzly bear. In the battle Tenaya had lost conscious and when he awoke he found himself in the embrace of the dead grizzly bears arms. Terribly injured by the grizzly bear, Tenaya returned to his village a hero to his people and after that battle Chief Tenaya was called the Oso’mate = the Bear Killer.

While reading some old Stockton Republic newspapers we came upon an early reporter’s account of James Savage and the Mariposa Battalion’s encounter with Chief Tenaya and his band, interestingly the newspaper called the Indians of Yosemite back then; Oso’mate’s band, named after their chief. If you ask a Spanish speaking friend what that means they will tell you; Oso means bear, and mate means kill, just like the legend of Chief Tenaya.

Chief Tenaya was the founder of the Paiute colony of Ahwanhee - Dr. Lafayette H. Bunnell.
avatar Re: How Tenaya became Yosemite the Grizzly bear killer
April 15, 2012 08:41AM
Wouldn't Tenaya's band use their own language, instead of Spanish, to name him?
avatar Re: How Tenaya became Yosemite the Grizzly bear killer
April 15, 2012 03:58PM
We Paiutes, the original Ahwahneechees don't have the word Oso'mates. This is the name given to him by the Miwok Chief when describing Tenaya and his band. We just put it in the story to show where the name came from, and the name came from the neighboring tribe. Remember who told the white battalion the name Yosemite? It was not Chief Tenaya or his people the Ahwahneechees. It was Chief Bautista leader of the Miwok Poyotnees. Those are people now claming to be the Yosemite Ahwahneechees. Chief Bautista was a neophyte Indian who was taken as a child to the Spanish Missions and raised until he was older. Then he left the Missions and headed to the foothills around Mariposa. So when asked by the Mariposa Battalion who lived in Yosemite, he gave that answer...since he spoke broken Spanish.

So that name was the name offered to the white Mariposa Battalion by Spanish speaking Chief Bautista of the Southern Sierra Miwuks, not the Ahwahneechees themselves.

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 04/15/2012 04:21PM by Yosemite_Indian.
Re: How Tenaya became Yosemite the Grizzly bear killer
April 15, 2012 08:51AM
Yes. And the traditional linguistic form in Spanish is Mataosos, not Osomate. You can see this in various place names like matamoros, which literally means Moor killer, a reference to the Spanish Reconquest, or matahambre---which is a big sandwich designed to "kill" hunger.

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avatar Re: How Tenaya became Yosemite the Grizzly bear killer
April 15, 2012 04:03PM
Not if they were speaking broken Spanish, and Spanish was Bautista's 2nd language. The Paiutes had heard this myth along time ago and goes with the story of Tenaya, plus as I posted above it was the Miwok Chief, Chief Bautista who gave the name "Yosemite" to the whites, not the Ahwahneechees themselves. In another reported newspaper article Bautista called the Ahwahneechees the name "Monahs, which some have claimed is another Spanish word/name, and also describes Paiutes and their cousins on the western side of the Sierra. So if one was speaking broken Spanish you would have "Oso'mates".

Spanish speaking Bautista said about the Ahwahneechees that they were "The Killers", which is part of the name.

Edited 3 time(s). Last edit at 04/15/2012 04:13PM by Yosemite_Indian.
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