yosemite national park

Yosemite National Park


Densely forested with pine and flanked by the granite summits of El Capitan and Half Dome, 13-kilometer (eight miles) long Yosemite Valley lies in the western Sierra Nevada. Yosemite was originally called Ahwahnee by its original inhabitants, who called themselves the “people of the Ahwahnee valley,” the “Ahwahnechee.” But in a story that is all too familiar to the American West, the drive for resources (gold, in this case) brought European-American settlers, backed by the might of the army. In 1851, during a larger-scale war between California natives and the United States Army, the Mariposa Battalion attacked the Ahwahnechee inhabitants, led by their chief, a man called Tenaya. While Ahwahnechee remained following their defeat, the newly “empty” (at least, according to the state) region was to become a scenic park, the first of its kind in the United States, owing to its natural beauty and ancient stand of giant sequoia trees, and tourists and artists (including Thomas Ayres) flocked to the site. Ahwahnee’s beauty remains, as do the Ahwahnechee, although the history of its founding is often overlooked underneath the land’s natural beauty.

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