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Re: News article emphasizes the problem with Yosemite Native American History

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avatar News article emphasizes the problem with Yosemite Native American History
April 17, 2012 06:22AM
News article emphasizes the problem with Yosemite Native American History

Lucy Telles, Yosemite-Mono Lake Paiute basket in the Yosemite Indian Museum

This is a recent article that appeared in an Oregon news site about travel and Yosemite National Park. See below;

Yosemite National Park Travel - vacation article

This is what caught our attention in this article;

“The hub of human activity is Yosemite Village. Facilities include a visitor center with excellent interpretive displays; a small museum that interprets the culture of the native Miwok tribe”

This has always irked us Paiutes when we would read things regarding our ancient homeland Yosemite. This is what we have been addressing to Yosemite for years now, where is the story of the original Indian people of Yosemite, the Paiutes? Why do tourists get the impression that Miwoks were the original Native people of Yosemite? Why does Yosemite National Park continue to push this misinformation? This reminds me of a story that was told by one of our elders as they made their annual visit to Yosemite.

This is what he told us what happened. While on their annual visit to Yosemite National Park one of our elders and his family were riding on the Yosemite tram when an elderly woman got on with her young grand daughter. They sat next to the Paiutes and our Paiute elder asked if the couple were enjoying themselves. The elderly woman turned to them and said “Oh yes, I have been coming here for years”. Pointing to her young grand daughter she proceeded to say “I brought my grand daughter here so she could experience the same joy I always have visiting Yosemite”. Our elder said “What is your favorite part?” With a broad smile the elderly woman said “Oh, the Indian museum. Seeing all the Native culture and the beautiful baskets, I wanted to show my grand daughter the Indian culture, especially the Indian baskets”. The Paiutes looked at each other with great pride and smiling asked the elderly woman what she thought about the Indian baskets. She replied “I wanted to show my grand daughter the MIWOK baskets in museum. They are the most beautiful baskets ever made and the craft work done by the MIWOK women is so wonderful”. The Paiute elder had to put his hand on his wife’s lap as she wanted to quickly interject a comment. So he asked the nice elderly lady if she had noticed that if there were other tribes who made the baskets in the Yosemite Indian Museum. The lady thought for awhile and said “I think there was another tribe?” The Paiute elders said “Paiute?” and the elderly lady said “No, no, not Paiute, but the tribe’s name starts with the letter ‘M’”. He asked her “Mono Lake?” and she said with a smile “No, not Mono Lake. MAIDU, yes, Maidu Indians, that’s it”. The Paiutes, shocked, looked at each other, recognizing the big problem with Yosemite Indian history. The elderly woman said “Oh, yes, I just love showing my grand daughter the beautiful handiwork and artistry of the MIWOK Indian women, well here is our stop” With a smile and a wave the woman and her grand daughter got off the tram and left the disheartened Paiutes. The Paiute elder turned to his family and said “And this is why we do what we do. Many people might not like it, but the truth must be told”.

That small encounter on the Yosemite tram stayed seared into his memory. If a woman who had been constantly visiting Yosemite National Park for decades didn’t know that 99 percent of the baskets in the Yosemite Indian museum were made by Mono Lake Paiutes it was a damn shame and an injustice.

Carrie Bethel, Yosemite-Mono Lake Paiute Indian basket in the Yosemite Indian Musuem.

Not ONE basket in Yosemite’s Indian museum was created by a Miwok, not one. Ninety-nine percent of the baskets, some of them as large as truck tires that took years to make, were made by Mono Lake Paiutes, with the exception of one Chukchansi Yokut woman named Jennie Washington. Not only the baskets, but the snow shoes in the museum were made by Paiutes, the dresses on display were made by Paiutes. Almost every thing in the Yosemite Indian museum is Yosemite-Mono Lake Paiute, yet the Miwok and the myth is promoted by the Park.

Yosemite Indian Musuem, with Yosemite-Mono Lake Paiute baskets, Paiute buckskin dresses, and Paiute cradleboards in background.

So every time we Yosemite-Mono Lake Paiutes see references like what was written on the Oregon news site falsely claiming Yosemite’s Miwok culture, we know that our work is not yet done.

Photo of full blooded Yosemite-Mono Lake Paiute Bridgeport Tom and his Paiute Indian snowshoes. Yosemite Indian Musuem.
avatar Re: News article emphasizes the problem with Yosemite Native American History
April 17, 2012 04:19PM
So every time we Yosemite-Mono Lake Paiutes see references like what was written on the Oregon news site falsely claiming Yosemite’s Miwok culture, we know that our work is not yet done.

Do the Miwoks agree with the Paiutes?
The "Southern Sierra Miwuks" have been extremely quiet about all this.

What some of their elders have said is this "Well we were born here in Yosemite (Yosemite National Park)". But just beause someone was born in the Park doesn't mean their people were originaly from there. Their parents were working for the Park. Decades ago Superintendent Thomson hand picked the Indians that lived in the Park in the 1920s. He picked them based on how responsible and hard working they were, not based on who were the original Indians. So many of them are descendents of those early Yosemite National Park Indian workers.

One elder was quite proud of her ancestor, Chief Bautista, and said "Well what happened to the Paiutes?", and one of our elders replied "they were chased out of the Park, and the Park kept their compliant 'Digger' Indian workers, like they have done for decades".

But in most cases the Miwoks have been really silent...waiting for the end of this month. This month the Department of Federal Recognition will determine if they are really a tribe, right now they are just a non-profit. Once they become a tribe they will go straight for a Indian casino and big $$$. So they are laying low, but we believe they are talking to higher ups in Yosemite National Park.

We know by looking at their documentation the "Miwoks" are going for federal recognition using our Yosemite-Mono Lake Paiute history, and the Park has helped them and even pays them. This is why you would see the signage in the Park with historical Paiutes denoted wrongly as Miwoks. This is morally and ethically wrong.

Some of their younger members of the Southern Sierra Miwuk are more inclined to believe our side and have asked us many questions...that they could not get from their own leaders.

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