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Native American Legends

How El Capitan Grew

A Miwok Legend

In a valley of California called Ahwahanee, which the white people call Yosemite, is a big rock called Too-Tock-Awn-oo-Lah. The white people call this rock, El Capitan. In the olden days, when Awahnee was young, Too-Tock-Awn-oo-Lah was a tiny rock no taller than your own head. The people, Yo-Ho-Me-Tik Indians, told a little tale of how this tiny rock grew into a big mountain in one night. I will tell you this tale.

One day Grizzly Bear and her two baby cubs were taking a walk by the Merced River. They had been digging up roots, searching for bugs and worms. So, they were very tired. They approached a large flat rock along the Merced River and laid down to rest for awhile. The following morning, Grizzly Bear and her two baby cubs awoke. They looked around curiously. Overnight, that flat rock had grown into a large mountain and was high enough to touch the moon. Because of this, they could not find their way to Ahwahanee. So, they waited.

The old bird and animal people of Ahwahanee were stunned to see that the mother bear and her cubs were on top of the rock. They wanted to help the mother bear and her cubs, but no one could reach them. They all tried to climb it, but could not reach the top. Mouse tried first, but he could not climb even half of the way. Rat was next. He climbed a little higher. Then Mountain Lion, Fox, Crow and many others tried. But not one could climb to the! top of the rock. All of the animal people were discouraged! How could they help the bears down from the rock?

At last, after all the rest had failed, here came Too-Tock, the green measuring worm. "I can climb the rock to save the bears!", Worm said. They all laughed at the little worm, but the little worm tried anyway to prove himself right. As he climbed he sang a little song. He had been climbing for days until at last he had reached the top of the rock. But it was too late. He had not been able to save the bears, because they had starved to death.

Too-Tock brought a rib bone down from the top to prove he had made it. They were all stunned to see him with the rib bone. They danced around and held a memorial. Since then, the great rock has been called Too-Tock-Awn-oo-Lah in honor of the little worm.

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