Whether you go to Yosemite National Park for the sightseeing attractions and poke around for yourself or take the myriad of Yosemite tours offered, you will find that all of the information which is offered about the park, and more specifically about the Native American Indians’ involvement in the area, promotes their history in the area from 1870 onward and begins the Yosemite Valley area’s story at that date when white men first encountered the Miwok Indians. This was highlighted in recently added signs in the park and that’s when some Native American ancestors of the Paiutes tribe began questioning Yosemite officials on their story.
The Paiutes ancestors are up-in-arms over Yosemite’s choice to rewrite history and promote falsehoods for the convenience of doing so. It turns out that Yosemite officials had met with the Mariposa County’s American Indian Council regarding the American Indian history in the Yosemite area. The problem was that some of the member on that council were descendants of the Miwoks and had incentive to promote their own claim to the Yosemite Valley and reinterpret events and dates to accommodate their interests.
Yosemite National Park officials had originally considered beginning the American Indian cultural interpretation program for the park in advance of 1851, before that first encounter with white men and Indians. But the Miwok Indian ancestors on the council succeeded in convincing Yosemite officials to reinterpret events and dates to begin the history of the Yosemite Valley at 1870 which would highlight their own ancestry. This then omits from history the first actual meeting nineteen years earlier between the white man and the Yosemite Indians, the Paiutes.
The Paiutes have a legitimate claim to predating the Miwoks in the area and the rock art in the Great Basin confirms this suggestion. Possibly the best evidence of there being an earlier Indian tribe than the Miwok would be the fact that the very name “Yosemite” is the Miwok word for “they are killers”, which referred to the Indians in the Yosemite Valley which they feared. It is suggested by the Paiutes that the Yosemite officials and the Miwoks don’t wish to acknowledge history prior to 1870 because there were bloody battles waged between the Indian tribes, as well as with white men who had come into the area to mine for gold. But the reality is that the truth about Yosemite’s history is much more complex, goes much further back in time, and the details are far different than what is being offered by Yosemite National Park on its origins than what they’re choosing to acknowledge on signs there or what you might hear being perpetuated on all Yosemite tours.