The Ahwahnechee are a Native American people who traditionally lived in the Yosemite Valley. They are Miwok or Mono Lake people. The Ahwahnechee people’s heritage can be found all over Yosemite National Park.
With housing more difficult to obtain, fewer Indian people came to Yosemite for employment. The National Park Service gradually dismantled the new village, and the last homes there were razed in 1969. Today, descendants of Yosemite’s native people live both nearby and scattered throughout the world.
The area we now refer to as Yosemite National Park is the traditional homelands of the Ahwahnechee people, a Southern Sierra Miwok Indigenous Nation who lived in the Ahwahnee (Yosemite) Valley.
Yosemite means literally “ those who kill” (Yos, “to kill,” the modifier e, “one who,” and the plural suffix -meti). It was used by the surrounding Miwok tribes. The Yosemite people were referred to as killers by these surrounding tribes, who feared them.
Many years ago the old chief said, “The Ahwahneechees had been a large and powerful tribe, but by means of wars, and fatal black sickness, nearly all had been destroyed, and the survivors of the band fled from the valley, and joined other tribes.”
The name Yosemite itself is from the Indian word “uzumate,” which meant grizzly bear. The Indian tribe that lived in the Valley were called Yosemites by Caucasians and by other Indian tribes because they lived in a place where grizzly bears were common and they were reportedly skilled at killing the bears.
The Southern Sierra Miwuk Nation: Yosemite Mariposa’s First People. Native Americans living in Yosemite Valley for 5,500 years, sustained by the natural resources provided by this unique environment.
But as the majority of Native residents stopped working for the park or its concessionaires, Yosemite staff decided to raze the village in 1969, forcing people out of their ancestral homes. “During that time, we had no voice.
The name “Yosemite” (meaning “killer” in Miwok) originally referred to the name of a tribe which was driven out of the area (and possibly annihilated) by the Mariposa Battalion. Previously, the area had been called “Ahwahnee” (“big mouth”) by indigenous people.
The US federal government has evicted Yosemite Native people from the park in 1851, 1906, 1929, and 1969. Jay Johnson, an alleged Ahwahnechee leader in the Mariposa Indian Council, hopes to get federal recognition for Miwok Indians.
Brown bears, including grizzlies, can be found in North America, but not in Yosemite National Park.
Yohhe’meti (Southern Miwok) or Yos.s.e’meti (Central Miwok) originally referred to the Indian tribe that lived in Yosemite Valley. Yosemite means literally “those who kill” (Yos, “to kill,” the modifier e, “one who,” and the plural suffix -meti). It was used by the surrounding Miwok tribes.
For Native Americans, It’s Sacred. Lucy Parker looks out over Ahwahnee Meadow, where here family has gathered willow reeds for basket making for decades.
Located in the southern portion of Yosemite, the Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias is the largest sequoia grove in Yosemite and is home to over 500 mature giant sequoias.
Muir has inspired us to protect natural areas not for their beauty alone but also for their ecological importance. In The Yosemite, published in 1912, he wrote: “ But no temple made with hands can compare with Yosemite. Every rock in its wall seems to glow with life.”