Sunday 18th July
Yosemite is breathtaking, its history less so. The valley was named by L H Bunnell of the Mariposa Battalion in 1851. He named it in honor of the tribe they were about to dispossess and remove.
“I could not see any necessity for going to a foreign country for a name for
American scenery—the grandest that had ever yet been looked upon. That it would be better to give it an Indian name than to import a strange and inexpressive one; that the name of the tribe who had occupied it, would be more appropriate than any I had heard suggested.” I then proposed “that we give the valley the name of Yo-sem-i-ty, as it was suggestive, euphonious, and certainly American; that by so doing, the name of the tribe of Indians which we met leaving their homes in this valley, perhaps never to return, would be perpetuated.” . . . .
I love the distancing in that last sentence, as if somehow this tribe was leaving paradise from their own free will.
Officialdom says that the Ahwahneechee of Yosemite became extinct in the C19th. The awkward fact remains that since 1851 the Federal Government has evicted Yosemite tribes from the park in 1906, 1929, and 1969. Never mind. There is a reconstructed ‘Indian Village’ now located behind the Yosemite Museum, inhabited by tourists.
Yosemite is full of irony, even its name. When L H Bunnell named it, he got it wrong. Bunnell thought Yosemite meant ‘Grizzly Bear’ which it doesn’t. The confusion arose from the Miwok word ïsümat.i, which does mean “grizzly bear.” However the tribe that lived in the valley of Yosemite were the Ahwahneechee. Their neighbours though, had a different name for them. The Southern Miwok referred to them as the ‘yohhemeti’ and the Central Miwok called them the Yossemeti. Both words mean the same – ‘They are killers’. Nice.
Now it is just a very clean park with a free bus service taking you wherever you wanted to go in a designated ‘wilderness’. It is a small fragment of paradise and as such, private cars are discouraged as indeed are ‘down-and-outs’ from San Francisco. I was told that they were a bigger menace than adventurous bears, lured by the promise of the 5 cent deposits on any cans and bottles they collect. I didn’t get the logic of the criticism implied.
Note bottom left hand corner, a bare-bottom, nose or thumb
That afternoon we swam and cavorted in Mirror Lake, which, we were told, would end up as a water-meadow in twenty years time through a build up of silt. (I wonder if it ever did). Then however it was crystal clear and reflected a Disney blue sky.
We saw the designated Sequoia and duly posed. These are truly wonderful time-machines standing patiently for over 3,500 years just so Keyton could one day bounce in a cavity, his arms extended in triumph. In line with the triviality of the moment, we had Chicken Italienne for dinner, followed by Schnapps in the adjoining bar and later a disco.
Keyton in a tree, stern
Keyton in a tree bouncing.
In this valley of ‘They who kill’ we spent the night drenching a blindfolded Gary, Greg, and Barbara in spaghetti, shaving foam, and buckets of water. It was one way of thanking them. Then again we may have simply been possessed by the spirit of the Ahwahneechee, in which case things could have been worse.
And now a bed time story. The Ahwahneechee people of Yosemite Valley called the waterfall "Cholock" and believed that the plunge pool at its base was inhabited by the spirits of several witches, called the Poloti. An Ahwaneechee folktale describes a woman going to fetch a pail of water from the pool, and drawing it out full of snakes. Later that night, after the woman had trespassed into their territory, the spirits caused the woman's house to be sucked into the pool by a powerful wind, taking the woman and her newborn baby with her.