Yosemite’s early history and inhabitants

This magnificent valley we call Yosemite has been a work in progress with its sheer granite walls and polished dome mountains.  The geology of Yosemite is formed mostly with granite rocks that were formed 80 to over 200 million years ago, and just 10 million years ago during the tertiary period, the entire Sierra Nevada mountain range including Yosemite were uplifted. The added process of erosion involving large glaciers moving through the valley and carving the walls of the valley also created large scale landslides, river erosion within the valley and mass wasting.  A natural process of exfoliation caused large chunks of granite to peel off the sheer cliffs and this process continues in shaping the sheer walls of the valley that we see today.


Early Indian inhabitants of Yosemite

Yosemite, named by the Miwok people “Yos s e meti” translates to “those who kill” due to a renegade grouping of multiple tribes lead by their Chief Tenaya. These Yosemite people named their own valley Owwoni (large mouth) referring to the village of Ahwahnee with the sheer valley walls. The people called themselves Ahwahnechee or dwellers of the Ahwahnee. The name Yosemite coined by L.H. Bunnel from the Mariposa battalion in honor of the people that they were about to capture and drive away from the Valley. Part of the discovery of Yosemite Valley and things to do in Yosemite with kids is experiencing the magnificent history, culture and of course the gorgeous landscape in this national park.



 An indian settlement at Ahwahnee

Yosemite history and Indian culture, Travel Photo Mondays #8

Indian log home at Curry Village


A visit to the Yosemite Museum

The Yosemite Museum features exhibits of the valley, its geological history, wildlife and flora, American Indians and the early settlers to the area.  At the entrance of the museum are wonderful oil paintings including the painting above of the entire valley from Inspiration point. There are extensive displays explaining the cultural history and lifestyle of the Miwok and Paiute people along with the Yosemite people who were a mixed tribe living in the valley.

Directly outside the museum is a reconstructed indian village with typical dwellings made during those time frames, food storage and cooking facilities, and gathering places for ceremonies. It’s an easy walking tour with several displays and reconstructed wood tepees made from local timber and the wood bark gathered from the larger trees in the park. Even the sweat lodge is still used now with the local indian tribes that perform and gather for special tributes in the park.

Check out the details on visiting the Yosemite museum here for current exhibits and visiting hours.


Yosemite history and Indian culture, Travel Photo Mondays #8

Ceremonial costume with features



These images show ceremonial costumes and adornments made from natural materials and traded objects from foreigners. The colorful patterns and beautiful hand-made craftsmanship of the decorations show pride of ownership and affiliation to the Yosemite people, and the surrounding Miwok and Paiute tribes that lived in and around the valley.



Yosemite history and Indian culture, Travel Photo Mondays #8

Head piece detail work





Yosemite history and Indian culture, Travel Photo Mondays #8

Ceremonial costume with beading




This diorama below shows a rough but finished interior in a western style wooden home, the native Indians eventually started to use western materials and incorporated western buildings and clothing into their lifestyle while still retaining their crafts and  use of local raw materials for utility purposes and costume.


Yosemite history and Indian culture, Travel Photo Mondays #8

Log tent interior diorama







Yosemite history and Indian culture, Travel Photo Mondays #8

Early painting of the three brother

Thanks so much for coming to visit Travel Photo Mondays and visiting Yosemite and learning about its early settlers and history. I’m writing a series of posts about Yosemite, here’s my previous photo essay of the key sites and landmarks in Yosemite, and this is my post about Yosemite’s sister valley, Hetch Hetchy reservoir and dam. Last, come and enjoy some of these other bloggers from around that world showing you some beautiful imagery.


Check out these other posts on Visiting Yosemite


A scenic hike to Glacier Point

Yosemite captured in Black and White

Yosemite attractions and landscapes

Awhanee Hotel visit and brunch

Hetch Hetchy reservoir and dam


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