A Window Into The Cultural History of Yosemite's Native Miwok and Paiute People

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On a rainy winter’s day, you could do far worse than stepping inside one of Yosemite’s interpretive centers and linking some cultural history to what you've been enjoying on the park’s roads and trails. The Yosemite Museum adjacent to the Yosemite Valley Visitor Center—just a half-hour’s drive from your Scenic Wonders cabin—is the perfect destination for learning about Yosemite's native Miwok and Paiute people and the area’s rich (and ongoing) American-Indian saga.

Yosemite’s Native Miwok and Paiute People

Archaeologists have evidence of at least 3,000 years of human habitation in the Sierra Nevada. In historical times, a number of Indian tribes inhabited the area now encompassed in Yosemite National Park, the Miwok and Mono among the most closely affiliated. The Central and Southern Miwoks utilized the western slope of the Sierra, in the Stanislaus and Tuolumne drainages and the Merced and Chowchilla drainages, respectively. A branch of the Miwoks, the Ahwahnechee, lived in Yosemite Valley at the time of Euro-American contact. By some accounts, these Indians called the valley “Ahwahnee,” or “mouth,” referencing its grand, yawning look. The Mono, often linked with the Great Basin Paiute culture, primarily inhabited the eastern front of the Sierra and adjacent basins. There was much interchange between Sierra’s native peoples, with plenty of trade shuttling acorns, salmon, obsidian, and other goods across the mountains. The Museum Spend an afternoon at the Yosemite Museum learning about the Miwok, Mono, and other indigenous Yosemite cultures as well as the park’s Euro-American story. The museum itself is drenched in history: Opened in 1926, it was the first structure dedicated as a museum in any national park, and it remains a classic exemplar of the Park Service’s Rustic Style architecture. Californian and Great Basin tribes are renowned for their complex, ornate basketry, and among the Yosemite Museum’s gems are some stunning regional examples. Yosemite’s human history runs deep. Take the time to learn about the people who inhabited this monumental countryside long before it became a park—and who remain part of its cultural fabric today.

Make Your Yosemite Reservations Today

If you’re looking to explore Yosemite, start planning your trip with Yosemite’s Scenic Wonders. We offer Yosemite reservations within the gates of the park. With one of our cozy cabins, condominiums, or homes, your Yosemite accommodations will be just minutes from all the wonderful spots in Yosemite. Give us a call at 1-888-YOSEMITE (1-888-967-3648) to learn about our rentals and to make your Yosemite reservations today.

Yosemite National Park Blog

Scenic Wonders’ Yosemite blog provides the latest news related to Yosemite National Park. By reading our blog, you’ll stay up to date on activities, accommodations, and more. Image: calmovie

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