Native American Legends
A Miwok Legend
Mr Stephen Powers claims that there is no such word in the Miwok
language as Yosemite. The valley has always been known to them,
and is to this day, when speaking among themselves, as A-wa'-ni.
(Also been noted to be spelt as 'Ah-wah-nees' meaning 'Deep Grass
This, it is true, is only the name of one of the ancient villages
which it contained; but by prominence it gave its name to the valley,
and in accordance with Indian usage almost everywhere, to the inhabitants
of the same.
The word Yosemite is simply a very beautiful and sonorous corruption
of the word for grizzly bear. On the Stanislaus and north of it,
the word is u-zu'-mai- ti; at Little Gap, o-so'-mai-ti; in Yosemite
itself, u-zu'-mai-ti; on the South Fork of the Merced, uh-zu'-mai-tuh.
"In the following list, the signification of the name is given
whenever there is any known to the Indians:
"Wa-kal'-la (the river), Merced River.
"Lung-u-tu-ku'-ya, Ribbon Fall.
"Po'-ho-no, Po-ho'-no" (though the first is probably
the more correct), Bridal- Veil Fall. . . . This word is said to
signify 'evil wind.' The only 'evil wind' that an Indian knows of
is a whirlwind, which is poi-i'-cha or Kan'-u-ma.
"Tu-tok-a-nu'-la, El Capitan. 'Measuring-worm stone.'
"Ko-su'-ko, Cathedral Rock.
"Pu-si'-na, and Chuk'-ka (the squirrel and the acorn-cache),
a tall, sharp needle, with a smaller one at its base, just east
of Cathedral Rock.
"Loi'-a, Sentinel Rock.
"Sak'-ka-du-eh, Sentinel Dome.
"Cho'-lok (the fall), Yosemite Fall. This is the generic word
"Ma'-ta (the canon), Indian canon. A generic word, in explaining
which the Indians hold up both hands to denote perpendicular walls.
"Ham'-mo-ko (usually contracted to Ham'-moak), . . . broken
debris lying at the foot of the walls.
"U-zu'-mai-ti La'-wa-tuh (grizzly bear skin), Glacier Rock
. . . from the grayish, grizzled appearance of the wall.
"Cho-ko-nip'-o-deh (baby-basket), Royal Arches. This . . .
canopy-rock bears no little resemblance to an Indian baby-basket.
Another form is cho-ko'-ni, . . . literally . . . 'dog-house.'
"Pai-wai'-ak (white water?), Vernal Fall.
"Yo-wai-yi, Nevada Fall. In this word is detected the root
of Awaia, 'a lake' or body of water.
"Tis-se'-yak, South Dome.
"To-ko'-ye, North Dome, husband of Tisseyak.
"Shun'-ta, Hun'-ta (the eye), Watching Eye.
"A-wai'-a (a lake), Mirror Lake.
"Sa-wah' (a gap), a name occurring frequently.
"Wa-ha'-ka, a village which stood at the base of Three Brothers;
also the rock itself. This was the westernmost village in the valley.
"There were nine villages in Yosemite Valley and . . . formerly
others extending as far down as the Bridal Veil Fall, which were
destroyed in wars that occurred before the whites came."
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