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Adventure of Towa by Yosemite Paiute Indian Bridgeport Tom

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avatar Adventure of Towa by Yosemite Paiute Indian Bridgeport Tom
April 22, 2012 06:18AM

Photo of Paiute Bridgeport Tom taken in Yosemite and testimony of Tom about Chief Towa


Bridgeport Tom was one of the major patriarchal Indian leaders of Yosemite, Mono Lake, Bridgeport, Coleville and Bishop. He was also the patriarch of many of the descendents of the Kutzadika’a Mono Lake Paiutes AND the Southern Sierra Miwuk.

Bridgeport Tom relates a story of Chief Towa and leader of Paiutes who lived around Dobie Meadows, Mono Lake and Upper Tuolumne. This story is from the Yosemite National Park’s research library.


Photo of Bridgeport Tom as a young man in Yosemite wearing traditional woven sash and tall moccasin boots


Adventure of Towa; by Bridgeport Tom, Coleville, formerly Round Valley, Paiute aged 80-85

Chief Towa, a young Paiute Indian lived with his wife in Dobie Meadows, Mono County. He made his home there and had come to Mono Lake for his friend (Teseauk), a young Indian brave. From Mono Lake they continued on their journey to Yosemite Valley (Pame) on what they considered a very important business.

Every year (Towa) had been a guest of Chief (Tenaya’s) at the annual deer festivity held in the Yosemite Valley (Pame). He was not only a chief but, also, a great Indian orator. For this reason he was an important person at gatherings.

With enough provisions they were quite sure of a safe trip over the mountains. They were quite sure of a safe trip over the mountains. They made a short stop at Soda Springs where the ground hogs (keta) were plentiful.

Chief (Towa) directed (Teseauk) and the rest of the expedition to make camp at Lake Tenaya where he would meet them at night fall. His plans were to cross over the mountains through the old trail and hunt as he traveled.

It was nearing the time for him to arrive at the camp, but Chief (Towa) did not arrive. (Teseauk) was quite worried and he started out on the trail to meet (Towa). He walked several miles through the dense, thick forest with his bow and arrow as his only protection. As he came to a hill at the mouth of the valley, he heard a human cry, a cry which Teseauk knew came from the Chief’s own mouth. He knew that he was in distress. He immediately hurried to the most awful scene. (Towa) had been in the vicinity of a grizzly bear. He was physically distorted, his clothes torn into shreds. However, he was able to relate his tragic experience to (Teseauk).

(Teseauk) tried to help him in everyway, but he was beyond repair. He died in the arms of (Teseauk) shortly after he had found him. His final message to his people was to be delivered by (Teseauk) at (Pame).

In the meantime (Teseauk) notified his friends and relatives and the funeral was held by the shores of the Tenaya Lake. (Teseauk) delivered the following message at the deer feast before many of his people. As they burned his belongings, this is usual Paiute custom in the early days, (Teseauk) said, “Bears are very dangerous creatures, whenever, in the wilds always be prepared to go into the mountains with at least half a dozen arrows because in this experience he learned that one or two arrows was not enough to kill a bear. His message to his people has always been remembered. An Indian would say to his fellow tribesman, “Let Chief (Towa’s) experience be your guide.”


Pame is Paiute for Meadow

Towa had his own band.

Numa is the name for the Paiute people.

Nume is the Mono Paiute name for band or group of people.

Put Towa and Nume together = Towa’nume.

What is the river that runs through Hetch Hetchy called? Tuolumne.



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



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 04/22/2012 06:23AM by Yosemite_Indian.
Re: Adventure of Towa by Yosemite Paiute Indian Bridgeport Tom
June 20, 2012 08:16AM
Thanks for the story as given by Bridgeport Tom. I have seen the article written about him and his Yellow Pine Tree. Have you any more information or sources about him?
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