Yosemite Finally Reckons with Its Discriminatory Past
August 27, 2018 8:43 AM   Subscribe

Pioneers, the government, even John Muir helped kick out Native Americans from their homes on national parks. But in Yosemite, the Miwuk Tribe is getting its village back.

"We always felt that what was available to our ancestors should've been available to us."
posted by poffin boffin (9 comments total) 33 users marked this as a favorite
Related previously

A very small step, but an important one.
posted by inflatablekiwi at 9:52 AM on August 27, 2018 [2 favorites]

But in Yosemite, the Miwuk Tribe is getting its village back.

Let's not overstate this: the Miwuks are being allowed to construct a building inside the park, but not to occupy it.

That the tribal group in question doesn't have federal recognition makes the relationship with the Park Service even more complicated; federal agencies are limited in how they can interact with unrecognized tribal groups.
posted by suelac at 9:57 AM on August 27, 2018 [8 favorites]

More details in this article in the Fresno Bee (a little more recent than the article from the same newspaper in the previous post).
posted by exogenous at 10:01 AM on August 27, 2018 [1 favorite]

@poffin boffin, apologies for the derail, but I want to thank you for an amazing run of posts on the many important issues that native americans/first nations/indigenous peoples deal with and experience, I'm learning so much. Thanks for making these wonderful posts. You make this place better.
posted by Fizz at 10:29 AM on August 27, 2018 [23 favorites]

I was in Yosemite a couple years ago, and made a point of visiting the "recreated village" they had on display in Yosemite valley. It was very much a "for display only" kind of thing; I'm trying to remember if the documentation on the site acknowledged anything about the Miwoks being forced off their land. I do remember knowing about it while I was there, but I'm trying to remember whether it was in the onsite literature or it was something I read about in here, maybe.

Good news, though, this. Especially since, as I understand it, it was the Miwok's centuries of stewardship of the land that lead to Yosemite valley being the paradise that John Muir saw in the first place (and it looks like the parks department eventually realized the wisdom in the way the Miwoks had been tending to the land all along).
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:34 AM on August 27, 2018 [1 favorite]

related: previously
posted by MovableBookLady at 12:03 PM on August 27, 2018

Yosemite is in my backyard, but I've only been here a year, so this article helped fill a self-conscious gap in my awareness of what the indigenous people here had been through historically. I took a friend visiting last week for a hike in the Valley (newly opened, post-wildfire closure) and she made a comment at the top wondering what it felt like to be the first people to walk across the valley floor with a view of the falls and Half Dome. After a pause, I said, "they were undoubtedly indigenous, and they probably lived here for a long time," but I had no idea beyond that.

I've felt it was so weird that there wasn't a bigger indigenous presence (or really any at all) in Yosemite, even though there are plenty of indigenous/native people in the area. Very excited to hear about the construction of a wahhoga and really hope it's something I can go see for myself next year.

The locals who have lived here way longer than me foster either extreme reverence or eye-rolling dismissal of the John Muir mythos. It's a significant part of the outdoorsy tourism here, but I hardly knew anything about him before moving, still don't know much, and feel like I've lost nothing if I skip right over him and go back further in history. I'm figuring out how to enjoy nature and where to draw inspiration from while I live here, and that very much includes learning about whose ancestral land this is.

Timely article, thanks poffin!
posted by Snacks at 1:24 PM on August 27, 2018

I've felt it was so weird that there wasn't a bigger indigenous presence (or really any at all) in Yosemite

There's an interpretive center describing the Indigenous people (somewhat) and some of the local relevant flora just behind the Yosemite Theater in Yosemite Village. It even has some recreated dwellings. I was there this summer and it had that oddly matter-of-fact description about settlers simply relocating the native people without any mention of any conflict or exactly why it was done.

That said, per Thomas King's The Inconvenient Indian, "the only good Indians is a dead Indian". The information given all portrays the Indigenous population in the same sort of language you'd use to describe dinosaurs, not a group of people that has living descendants.
posted by GuyZero at 2:27 PM on August 27, 2018

As the article mentions, his efforts to move Native Americans out of Yosemite caused suffering throughout the country because it became the standard for Federal policy.

Nevertheless, and not to lessen the damage he did, this Native American website mentions that his views changed later in life, as he traveled with lived with them, and he later praised their low impact on the wilderness.

Still, the damage was done and over a hundred years later this is only a tiny step toward reversing the policy.
posted by eye of newt at 7:46 PM on August 27, 2018

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