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The Indian Names—Difficulty of their Interpretation—Circumstances Suggesting Names of Vernal, Nevada and Bridal Veil Falls—Mr. Richardson’s Descriptions of the Falls and Round Rainbow—Py-we-ack Misplaced, and “Illiluette” an Absurdity—An English Name Suggested for Too-lool-lo-we-ack, Pohono and Tote-ack-ah-nü-la—Indian Superstitions and Spiritual Views—A Free National Park Desirable—Off on the Trail.
During our long stay in the Yosemite, I discovered that almost every prominent object and locality in and about it, had some distinctive appellation. Every peak and cliff, every cañon or ravine, meadow, stream and waterfall, had a designation by which it could be distinguished by the Yosemites. I made considerable effort to acquire these names in their native purity. Although I did not at that time learn all of them, I did in subsequent visits to the valley and to the camps of the remnants of the tribes, acquire, as I then believed, a very nearly correct pronunciation of most of them. I used all the advantages afforded by my position as one of the Spanish interpreters, and applied myself perseveringly to the task of preserving these names; for even at that early day I realized that public interest would, in time, be attached to that wonderful locality. I was ridiculed for the idea, or at least for the supposition that it probably would be awakened during my life-time.
I obtained many of the names of objects and locations from old Ten-ie-ya himself, whenever I could find him in a communicative mood. As he was reputed to be quite a linguist, speaking, besides his native Ah-wah-ne-chee, the Pai-ute, and other dialects, I regarded his authority as superior to that of either the Po-ho-no or Noot-chü Indians, who differed from him in the pronunciation of some of the names.
I was unable to converse with Ten-ie-ya except through an interpreter, but the words I noted down from the old chief’s lips as they sounded to my ear at the time, getting the signification as best I could, or not at all. There is really no more sentiment or refined imagery of expression among Indians than will be found among ignorant people of any kind. But living as they do in close affinity with nature, natural objects first attract their attention, and the dominant characteristics of any object impress themselves upon their language. Hence many of their words are supposed to be representative of natural sounds. Our Po-ho-no-chee and Noot-chü scouts were familiar with the dialect in common use by the Yosemites, and they also aided me, while at times they confused, in acquiring the proper names. The territory claimed by the Po-ho-no-chees, joined that of the Yosemites on the south. During the Summer months, they occupied the region of the Po-ho-no Meadows, and the vicinity of the Pohono Lake. Their territory, however, extended to the right bank of the South Fork of the Merced. It was there we found a little band on our first expedition. Some of this band were quite intelligent, having with the Noot-chüs, worked for Major Savage. It was from them that the Major first learned that the Yosemites were a composite band, collected from the disaffected of other bands in that part of California, and what is now Nevada; and as the Major said, the dialect in common use among them was nearly as much of a mixture as the components of the band itself, for he recognized Pai-ute, Kah-we-ah and Oregon Indian words among them.
Major Savage was intimately familiar with the dialects of his Indian miners and customers, and was probably at that time the best interpreter in California of the different mountain dialects.
I consulted him freely as to the pronunciation of the names, and learned his interpretation of the meaning of them. These names, or most of them, were first given for publication by myself, as received from the Yosemites and Po-ho-no-chees; together with English names which had been given to some of the same points by the battalion. I purposely avoided all attempts at description, giving instead, a few estimates of heights. The data then furnished by myself was published in editorials, and has been mostly preserved, though in an imperfect state, from some fault in my writing or that of the proof-reader. Reference to old files of the “California Chronicle,” “Sacramento Union,” “California Farmer” and the Mariposa papers, will show a somewhat different orthography from that now in use.* [*Mr. Winchester, connected with some eastern publication, accompanied Captain Boling and myself, in the latter part of June, 1851, as far as the Tehon Pass. During the trip I gave him a full account of the operations of the battalion, which he took notes of, and said he should publish on arriving home. His health was very poor, and I doubt if his manuscript was ever published. I never heard from him afterwards.]
While in the valley I made memoranda of names and important events, which I have preserved, and which, with interpretations kindly furnished me by Mr. B. B. Travis, an excellent modern interpreter, I am now using to verify my recollections and those of my comrades. While acquiring these names, I employed every opportunity to make them familiar, but this proved to be a thankless task, or at least it was an impossible one. The great length of some of the names, and the varied pronunciations, made the attempt an impracticable one. I then gave attention to the substitution of suitable English names in place of the Indian words, and to supersede the fantastic and absurd ones already suggested and affixed by some of the command. It is so customary for frontiersmen to give distinctive names of their own coinage, that we had great difficulty in getting any of the Indian names adopted; and considerable judgment had to be exercised in selecting such English names as would “stick"—as would displace such names as the “Giant’s Pillar,” “Sam Patch’s Falls,” “The Devil’s Night-Cap,” etc., etc. Many English names were given because they were thought to be better than the Indian names, which could not be remembered or pronounced, and the meaning of which was not understood. The English names agreed upon at that time have since been retained, notwithstanding some adverse criticisms and efforts to supersede them by some fancied Indian or mythological substitute. Some of these names were the selection of my comrades—”Cloud’s Rest,” for one; because upon our first visit the party exploring the “Little Yosemite” turned back and hastened to camp upon seeing the clouds rapidly settling down to rest upon that mountain, thereby indicating the snow storm that soon followed.
The most of the names were however, selected by myself, and adopted by our command. This deference was awarded to my selections because I was actively interested in acquiring the Indian names and significations, and because I was considered the most interested in the scenery.
I have related in a previous chapter the incident of selecting the name “Yosemite” for the valley, not then knowing its Indian name. As the “High Fall,” near which we were encamped, appeared to be the principal one of the Sierras, and was the fall par excellence, I gave that the name of “Yosemite Falls,” and in so naming it I but followed out the idea of the Indians who called it “Choo-look” or “Scholook,” which signifies in this case “The Fall.” A comparison of the Yosemite Falls with those known in other parts of the world, will show that in elements of picturesque beauty, height, volume, color and majestic surroundings, the Yosemite has no rival upon earth. The Zambesi and Niagara are typical of volume, but the Yosemite is sixteen times greater in height than Niagara, and about eight times that of the Victoria Falls. The upper part of the Yosemite is more than twice the height of the Svoringvoss, of Norway, and lacks but thirty feet of being twice as high as the highest of the Southerland waterfalls, of New Zealand. The three falls of the Southerland aggregate but 1,904 feet, 730 less than the Yosemite.
The Ribbon Fall of the El Capitan has a sheer descent of 2,100 feet, but its beauty disappears with the melting snow. The other falls were only designated by the names of the streams upon which they are situated. The river Merced was spoken of as the river of Ah-wah-ne; but the three principal branches were variously designated; the main, or middle, up to the Vernal Fall, as “Yan-o-pah,” the “Water Cloud” branch, and above the Vernal, as “Yo-wy-we-ack,” “the twisting rock branch.”
The north and south branches had their distinctive names; the north, Py-we-ack, meaning the branch of the “Glistening Rocks,” and the south, Too-lool-we-ack, or more definitely, Too-lool-lo-we-ack. The modern interpretations of some of these names may be regarded as quite fanciful, though Major Savage would declare that Indian languages were so full of figures of speech that without imagination they could not be understood.
The strictly literal interpretation of this name would be inadmissable, but it is well enough to say, that to the unconscious innocence of their primitive state, the word simply represented an effort of nature in the difficult passage of the water down through the rocky gorge. It is derived from Too-lool and We-ack, and means, . This name has been published as if by authority to signify “The Beautiful"—how beautiful, the learned in Greek may judge. [Editor’s note: the Greek translation is “urinating.”—dea. ]
This really beautiful fall was visited by few of our battalion, and owing to the impracticability of following up the cañon above the fall, and the great difficulty of access to it, it was left neglected; the command contenting itself with a distant view. In view of the discoveries of Mr. Muir that there were glaciers at its source, and that the cliff now known as “Glacier Point” may be said to mark the entrance to this “South Cañon,” a name often confounded with “South Fork,” and especially because of the impropriety of translating this Indian name, I think it advisable to call this the Glacier Fall, and, therefore, give it that name in this volume. The name of “Illeuette” is not Indian, and is, therefore, meaningless and absurd. In accordance with the customs of these mountain people of naming their rivers from the most characteristic features of their source, the North or Ten-ie-ya branch of the Merced, which comes down the North Cañon from the glistening glacial rocks at its source, was called Py-we-ack, “the river of glistening rocks,” or more literally, perhaps, “the river-smoothed rocks.” Whether from Pai, a river, or from Py-ca-bo, a spring, I am in doubt. If the first syllable of the name Py-we-ack be derived from Py-ca-bo, then, probably, the name signified to them “the glistening rock spring branch,” as the ice-burnished rocks at the head of Lake Ten-ie-ya stand at the source of the river.
I have never been satisfied with the poetical interpretation given the name, nor with its transfer to “Yan-o-pah,” the branch of the “little cloud,” as rendered by Mr. Travis. But as Py-we-ack has been displaced from Lake Ten-ie-ya and its outlet, it is proper and in accordance with the custom to call the branch Ten-ie-ya also. The name of Ten-ie-ya was given to the lake at the time of its discovery. It was there we captured the remnant of the Yosemite band, as will be explained in the next chapter. The name of Ten-ie-ya Cañon, Ten-ie-ya Fork and Lake Ten-ie-ya, has for this reason superseded the original name of Py-we-ack; but in naming the lake, I preserved an Indian name that represented the central figure in all of our operations.
Wai-ack was the name for “Mirror Lake,” as well as for the mountain it so perfectly reflected. The lake itself was not particularly attractive or remarkable, but in the early morning, before the breeze swept up the cañon, the reflections were so perfect, especially of what is now known as Mt. Watkins, that even our scouts called our attention to it by pointing and exclaiming: “Look at Wai-ack,” interpreted to mean the “Water Rock.” This circumstance suggested the name of “Mirror Lake.” The name was opposed by some, upon the ground that all still water was a mirror. My reply established the name. It was that other conditions, such as light and shade, were required, as when looking into a well, the wall of the Half Dome perfecting the conditions, and that when shown another pool that was more deserving, we would transfer the name. Captain Boling approved the name, and it was so called by the battalion.
The middle or main branch was designated by the Yosemites—from the fork of the Glacial Branch up to the Vernal Fall—as Yan-o-pah, because they were compelled to pass through the spray of the Vernal, to them a “little cloud,” while passing up this cañon. The Indian name of the Nevada Fall, “Yo-wy-we,” and that of Too-lool-lo-we-ack, afforded innumerable jests and amusing comments, and when the suggestion of naming these falls was made, it was received with rude hilarity. Names without
|MIRROR LAKE—WATKINS’ AND CLOUDS’ REST.|
It would be a difficult task to trace out and account for all of our impressions, or for the forms they take; but my recollection is that the cool, moist air, and newly-springing Kentucky blue-grass at the Vernal, with the sun shining through the spray as in an April shower, suggested the sensation of spring before the name of Vernal occurred to me; while the white, foaming water, as it dashed down Yo-wy-we from the snowy mountains, represented to my mind a vast avalanche of snow. In concluding my advocacy of these names, I represented the fact that while we were enjoying the vernal showers below, hoary-headed winter was pouring his snowy avalanches above us. Then, quoting from Byron, I said:
The Vernal” * mounts in spray the skies, and thence again
Returns in an unceasing shower, which round
With its unemptied cloud of gentle rain,
Is an eternal April to the ground,
Making it all one emerald.”
These names were given during our long stay in the valley, at a time when
“The fragrant strife of sunshine with the morn
Sweeten’d the air to ecstasy!”
It is agreeably complimentary for me to believe that our motives in giving English names were comprehended, and our action in the matter appreciated by others. Mr. Richardson, in “Beyond the Mississippi,” shows an almost intuitive perception of our reasons for adopting the English names given to the principal falls in the Yosemite. He says: “These names are peculiarly fitting—Bridal Veil indeed looks like a veil of lace; in summer when Bridal Veil and Yosemite dwarf, Vernal still pours its ample torrent, and Nevada is always white as a snow-drift. The Yosemite is height, the Vernal is volume, the Bridal Veil is softness, but the Nevada is height, volume and softness combined. South Fork cataract, most inaccessible of all, we did not visit. In spring each fall has twenty times as much water as in summer. On the whole Yosemite is incomparably the most wonderful feature on our continent.” Speaking of the Vernal Fall, Mr. Richardson says: “I saw what to Hebrew prophet had been a vision of heaven, or the visible presence of the Almighty. It was the round rainbow—the complete circle. There were two brilliant rainbows of usual form, the crescent, the bow proper. But while I looked the two horns of the inner or lower crescent suddenly lengthened, extending on each side to my feet, an entire circle, perfect as a finger ring. In two or three seconds it passed away, shrinking to the first dimensions. Ten minutes later it formed again and again, and again as suddenly disappeared. Every sharp gust of wind showering the spray over me, revealed for a moment the round rainbow. Completely drenched, I stood for an hour and a half and saw fully twenty times that dazzling circle of violet and gold on a ground-work of wet, dark rocks, gay dripping flowers and vivid grasses. I never looked upon any other scene in nature so beautiful and impressive.” Mr. Richardson has with a great deal of enthusiasm given a vivid description of what appeared to me as a glowing representation of youthful spring; and to which the name of “vernal” was, I think, consistently and appropriately applied.
Mr. Hutchings, in criticising the name Vernal, has misstated the Indian name for this fall, furnished him by myself, and published in his magazine and his “Scenes of Wonder;” and while neglecting to speak in terms of the vivid green of the yielding sod that “squirts” water, he eloquently describes the characteristics of a vernal shower; or the Yosemites “little water cloud,” Can-o-pah; or, if it pleases him better, Yan-o-pah. The name given by the Yosemites to the Ten-ie-ya branch of the Merced was unmistakably Py-we-ack. This name has been transferred from its original locality by some romantic preserver of Indian names. While passing over to Yan-o-pah, it was provided with an entirely new signification. It is indeed a laughable idea for me to even suppose that a worm and acorn-eating Indian would ever attempt to construct a name to mean “a shower of sparkling crystals;” his diet must have been improved by modern intelligent culture. The signification is certainly poetical, and is but one step removed from the sublime. One objection only can be raised against it; it is a little too romantic; something after the style of the tradition furnished Mr. Bancroft.* [*From an elaboration of legend interpreted by Stephen M. Cunningham, in 1857.]
Names were given to the numerous little streams that poured into the valley during the melting of the snow, and formed many beautiful water-falls and cascades, but I shall not attempt to describe them, as it would serve no useful purpose to give the common-place, and in some instances, very primitive names of these ephemeral streams. In any other mountains, in any other country, great interest would attach to them; but in the Yosemite, they are but mere suggestions to the grander objects that overshadow them.
Another witness to the propriety of the English names is Professor J. D. Whitney, State Geologist. In his admirable “Yosemite Guide Book” he says: “The names given by the early white visitors to the region, have entirely replaced the native ones; and they are, in general, quite sufficiently euphonious and proper, some of them, perhaps slightly inclined to sentimentality; for if we recognize the appropriateness of the ‘Bridal Veil’ as a designation for the fall called Po-ho-no by the Indians, we fail to perceive why the ‘Virgin’s Tears’ should be flowing on the opposite side of the valley.”
This criticism is undoubtedly just. It seems as if some one had made an enormous stride across from the poetically sublime to ridiculous sentimentality. It is fortunate that the fall dries up early in the season!
The name of “Bridal-Veil” was suggested as an appropriate English name for the Fall of the Pohono by Warren Baer, Esq., at the time editor of the “Mariposa Democrat,” while we were visiting the valley together. The appropriateness of the name was at once acknowledged, and adopted as commemorative of his visit. Mr. Baer was a man of fine culture, a son of the celebrated Doctor Baer of Baltimore.
The Pohono takes its rise in a small lake known as Lake Pohono, twelve or fifteen miles in a southernly direction from the Fall. The stream is fed by several small branches that run low early in the season.
The whole basin drained, as well as the meadows adjacent, was known to us of the battalion, as the Pohono branch and meadows.
The band who inhabited this region as a summer resort, called themselves Po-ho-no-chee, or Po-ho-na-chee, meaning the dwellers in Po-ho-no, as Ah-wah-ne-chee was understood to indicate the occupants of Ah-wah-nee. This delightful summer retreat was famous for the growth of berries and grasses, and was a favorite resort for game. The black seeds of a coarse grass found there, were used as food. When pulverized in stone mortars, the meal was made into mush and porridge. I found it impossible to obtain the literal signification of the word, but learned beyond a doubt that Po-ho-no-chee was in some way connected with the stream. I have recently learned that Po-ho-no means a daily puffing wind, and when applied to fall, stream, or meadow, means simply the fall, stream, or meadow of the puffing wind, and when applied to the tribe of Po-ho-no-chees, who occupied the meadows in summer, indicated that they dwelled on the meadows of that stream.
Mr. Cunningham says: “Po-ho-no, in the Indian language, means a belt or current of wind coming in puffs and moving in one direction.” There is such a current, in its season, on the Old Millerton Road, where the dust is swept off clean. The Chow-chilla Indians call that the Po-ho-no. The Po-ho-no of the Yosemite makes its appearance where the two cascade creeks enter the canon, and this air current is daily swept up the canon to the Bridal Veil Fall, and up its stream, in puffs of great power. The water is thrown back and up in rocket-like jets, far above the fall, making it uniquely remarkable among the wonders of the valley.
Mr. Hutching’s interpretation is entirely fanciful, as are most of his Indian translations.”
The name for the little fall to which the name of “Virgin’s Tears” has been applied, was known to us as “Pigeon Creek Fall.” The Indian name is “Lung-yo-to-co-ya”; its literal meaning is “Pigeon Basket,” probably signifying to them “Pigeon Nests,” or Roost. In explanation of the name for the creek, I was told that west of El Capitan, in the valley of the stream, and upon the southern slopes, pigeons were at times quite numerous. Near the southwest base of the cliff we found a large caché. The supplies were put up on rocks, on trees and on posts. These granaries were constructed of twigs, bark and grass, with the tops covered in and rounded like a large basket.
If this caché had any connection with the name of “Pigeon Baskets,” Lung-yo-to-co-ya would probably designate “The Pigeon Creek Caché.”
After a reverential salutation, “El Capitan” must now receive my attention.
It has been stated in print that the signification of Tote-ack-ah-noo-la was “Crane Mountain,” and that the name was given because of the habit sand-hill cranes had of entering the valley over this cliff. I never knew of this habit. Many erroneous statements relating to the Yosemite have appeared—some in Appleton’s Encyclopaedia, and one very amusing one in Bancroft’s Traditions—but none appear to me more improbable.
During our long stay at our second visit, this cliff was invariably called by our scouts Tote-ack-ah-noo-la, and with some slight difference in the terminal syllable, was so called by Ten-ie-ya. This word was invariably translated to mean the “Rock Chief,” or “The Captain.”
Upon one occasion I asked, “Why do you call the cliff Tote-ack-ah-noo-la?” The Indian’s reply was, “Because he looks like one.” I then asked, “What was meant by he?” at the same time saying that the cliff was not a man, to be called “he.” His reply was, “Come with me and see.” Taking Sandino with me, I went, and as the Indian reached a point a little above and some distance out from the cliff, he triumphantly pointed to the perfect image of a man’s head and face, with side whiskers, and with an expression of the sturdy English type, and asked, “Does he not look like Tote-ack-ah-noo-la?” The “Rock Chief,” or “Captain,” was again Sandino’s interpretation of the word while viewing the likeness.
This was the first intimation that any of us had of the reason why the name was applied, and it was shown in response to the question asked, why the rock had been personified.
To-tor-kon, is the name for a sand-hill crane, and ni-yul-u-ka, is the Pai-ute for head; but “crane-head” can scarcely be manufactured out of Tote-ack-ah-noo-la. It appears to me most probable that Tote-ack-ah-noo-la is derived from “ack,” a rock, and To-whon-e-o, meaning chief. I am not etymologist enough to understand just how the word has been constructed, but am satisfied that the primates of the compound are rock and chief. If, however, I am found in error, I shall be most willing to acknowledge it, for few things appear more uncertain, or more difficult to obtain, than a complete understanding of the soul of an Indian language; principally because of the ignorance and suspicion with which a persistent and thorough research is met by the sensitively vain and jealous savages.
In leaving this subject, I would say that before it be too late, a careful and full collection of vocabularies of all the tongues should be made. I am aware of what has already been done by the labors of Schoolcraft, and the officers of the army in more modern times; but there is yet left a large field for persistent labor, that should be worked by the Smithsonian Institute or ethnological societies.
In adopting the Spanish interpretation, “El Capitan,” for Tote-ack-ah-noo-la, we pleased our mission interpreters and conferred upon the majestic cliff a name corresponding to its dignity. When this name was approved it set aside forever those more numerous than belong to royal families. It is said by Mr. Hutchings that a profile likeness is readily traced on the angle of the cliff. The one pointed out to me was above the pine tree alcove on the southern face of the cliff, half way up its wall. It appeared to have been formed by the peculiar conformation of the rock and oxidation. The chemical stain of iron, or other mineral substance, had produced this representation, which was looked upon with superstitious awe.
“The Fallen Rocks,” “The Frog Mountains,” or “Three Brothers,” the “Yosemite Falls,” “The Lost Arrow,” “Indian Cañon” and “The Arrow-wood Rocks” have already been noticed in these pages. It remains for me to briefly notice a few more objects and close this chapter. The names “North Dome,” “South Dome” and “Half Dome” were given by us during our long stay in the valley from their localities and peculiar configuration. Some changes have been made since they were adopted. The peak called by us the “South Dome” has since been given the name of “Sentinel Dome,” and the “Half Dome,” Tis-sa-ack, represesented as meaning the “Cleft Rock,” is now called by many the “South Dome."* [*This cliff was climbed for the first time by Mr. George G. Anderson, on October 12th, 1875. It has now a stair-way running over the difficult part of the ascent.] The name for the “North Dome” is To-ko-ya, its literal signification “The Basket.” The name given to the rocks now known as “The Royal Arches” is Scho-ko-ya when alluding to the fall, and means the “Basket Fall,” as coming from To-ko-ya, and when referring to the rock itself it was called Scho-ko-ni, meaning the movable shade to a cradle, which, when in position, formed an arched shade over the infant’s head. The name of “The Royal Arch” was given to it by a comrade who was a member of the Masonic Fraternity, and it has since been called “The Royal Arches.” The “Half Dome” was figuratively spoken of as “The Sentinel” by our mission Indians, because of its overlooking the valley. The present “Sentinel” they called “Loya,” a corruption of Olla (Oya), Spanish for an earthen water-pot. The mountain tribes use, instead, a long-pointed basket, shaped somewhat like that rock, which the basket is supposed to resemble.
(3,043 feet in height.)
Of Ko-sü-kong, the name of the “Three Graces,” I never learned the meaning. Ta-pun-ie-me-te is derived from Ta-pun-ie, meaning the toes, because of walking on tip-toes across, and referred to the “stepping stones” that were at the lower ford. Mr. Travis’ “succession of rocks” simply indicated the turning-off place. There are other names that it appears unimportant for me to notice. They have been sufficiently well preserved in Professor Whitney’s valuable Guide Book.
Some romantic believers in the natural tendencies of the Indians to be poetical in their expressions, twist the most vulgar common-place expressions and names into significations poetically refined, and of devotional sincerity.
Others have taken the same license in their desire to cater to the taste of those credulous admirers of the NOBLE RED MAN, the ideal of romance, the reality of whom is graded low down in the scale of humanity. Mr. Hutchings, who, were it not for his exuberant imagination, might have learned better, gives the signification of “Lung-oo-to-koo-ya” as “Long and Slender,” and applies it to what he calls the Ribbon Fall. His name is better than his interpretation. Mr. H. also says that the signification of To-toc-ah-nü-la is “a Semi-Deity;” that of “Tissa-ack” “Goddess of the Valley,” and that Po-ho-no means “The Spirit of the Evil Wind.”
These interpretations, like the “sparkling shower of crystals” are more artistically imaginative than correct. The Pai-ute for wind, is Ni-gat, and the Kah-we-ah, is Yah-i, one or the other of which tongues were used by the Yosemites; though the Pai-ute, or a dialect of it, was given the preference.
The savages have a crude, undefinable idea of a Deity or Great Spirit, a Spirit of Good, who never does them harm, and whose home is in the happy land they hope to reach after death. This happy hereafter, is supposed by most on the western slope of the Sierras to be located in the West, while those on the eastern slope or within the Colorado Basin, in Arizona and in Mexico, locate it in the East. They all have a superstitious fear of evil spirits, which they believe have the power to do them great harm, and defeat their undertakings.
They do not as a rule look to the Great Spirit for immediate protection from evil, but instead, rely upon amulets, incense and charms, or “medicine” bags. Through these and certain ceremonies of their priests or “mediums,” they endeavor to protect themselves and their families from the evil influence of spirits in and out of the flesh.
They believe that the spirits of the dead who have not, through proper ceremonies, been released from the body and allowed at once to go to the happy land, were evil spirits that were doomed to haunt certain localities. They looked with superstitious awe upon objects and localities, which to them were of mysterious character. Even familiar objects were sometimes looked upon as having been taken possession of by spirits. These spirits it was supposed could do injury to those who might venture near them without the protection afforded by their charms, or certain offerings to their priests for indulgences from the spiritual inhabitants. Streams were often said to be controlled by spirits, and for this reason, offerings of tobacco and other substances were at times thrown in as a propitiation for past offenses, or as an offering for something in expectancy. They believe that the elements are all under control, or may be used by the more powerful spirits, and, owing probably to its infrequency in California, lightning seemed to be an especial object of awe and wonder to them.
Waterfalls seemed not to engage their attention for their beauty, but because of the power they manifested; and in none of their objections made to the abandonment of their home, was there anything said to indicate any appreciation of the scenery. Their misfortunes, accidents and failures were generally believed to have resulted from evil spiritual interference, and to insure success in any undertaking, these dark or evil spirits must first be conciliated through their “medicine men,” from whom they obtain absolution.
All spirits that had not been released and taken their flight to their happy Western spirit-land were considered as evil; and only the Great Spirit was believed to be very good. The Indians of the Yosemite Valley did not look upon Tote-ack-ah-nü-lah as a veritable Deity or “semi-Deity.” They looked upon this cliff, and the representation of the likeness of a human face, with the same mysterious awe and superstitious feeling that they entertained for some other objects; though perhaps their reverence was in a somewhat higher degree stimulated by this imposing human appearance; and their ability, therefore, the better to personify it. They regarded this vast mountain as an emblem of some mysterious power, beyond their comprehension. From my knowledge of their religious belief, I have come to the conclusion that their ideas in this direction are wholly spiritual, without material representation, except as stated, through symbolic ideas, growing out of their superstitious ignorance, like some ignorant Christians. They have in imagination peopled the rocks and mountains, woods and valleys, streams and waterfalls with innumerable spiritual occupants, possessed of supernatural or spiritual powers, none of which are believed by them to equal the power of the Great Spirit whose home is in the West, and who prohibits the return of the evil ones, until a probationary existence here upon this earth shall have given them such knowledge of and disgust with evil as will fit them for the enjoyment of good.
The special inconsistency of this belief seems to be, that if one of these demons can lure any one to destruction, the victim will be compelled to take the place and occupation of the evil spirit, who is at once liberated and takes its flight to join its family or such members of it, as are already with the blessed. This idea seemed to be based upon the natural selfishness of human nature, that would gladly fix its responsibilities and sufferings upon another. A writer in his descriptions of the Yosemite says: “The savage lowers his voice to a whisper, and crouches trembling past Po-ho-no, while the very utterance of the name is so dreaded by him, that the discoverers of the valley obtained it with difficulty.” These statements were prefaced by the assertion that “Po-ho-no is an evil spirit of the Indians’ mythology.” On our second visit to the valley, it will be remembered, we found huts built by the Yosemites not far from the Po-ho-no Fall.
I never found any difficulty in learning the name of this fall, or observed any more fear of spirits exhibited at this fall than at the Yosemite fall; but in later years, for causes that will appear in the course of this narrative, the little meadow and detached rocks west of Po-ho-no, and near to the foot of the Mariposa trail; became haunted ground to the remnant of the band, for disaster and death followed the commission of crime at that locality.
Savages are seldom able to trace to themselves the cause of misfortune, and hence evil spirits must bear the burden of their complaint. For this service they are well paid through their representatives, the “medicine men.” I have often been amused, and agreeably entertained while listening to their traditionary literature.
Among the Chippewa and Dahcota tribes, my likeness to a brother, who was a trader, was recognized, and many times I was honored by a prominent place being given me in their lodges and at their dances. Some of their mysteries I was not permitted to witness, but the consecration of the ground for the dance, which is performed with great ceremony, I have several times seen, and had its signification fully explained to me. The ceremony differs but little among the different tribes, and consists of invocations, burning incense, scattering down, feathers and evergreens upon the pathway or floor of the dance, lighting of the sacred fires with their ancient fire-sticks, which are still preserved among the priests, and repeating certain cabalistic words, the meaning of which they do not even pretend to understand, but which are supposed to have a most potent influence. They also have their pantomimes and romances, which they repeat to each other like children. This legendary literature is largely imaginative, but I found the California Indians less poetical in thought and feeling than eastern tribes, and less musical, though perhaps as primitively figurative in expression.
THE INDIAN BELLE.
But, when the influence of the “gold en era” finally reached this once blissfully ignorant people, and wants were created that their belles and beaux had never known before, their imaginations excited by the superfluities of civilization, their natural cunning came at once to their aid, and lo! the “honest miner” or timid Chinaman contributed from their scanty stores and wardrobes, or the poorly sheltered goods of the mountain trader opened their canvas walls to the keen arguments of their flinty knives, and wants real or fancied were at once supplied.
What then was there lacking, to make the Yosemites a happy people, removed as they were from the bad influences of whiskey and the white man’s injustice? Only this: “the whites would not let them alone.” So Ten-ie-ya had said, as if aggrieved. Like all his race, and perhaps like all ignorant, passionate and willful persons, he appeared unconscious of his own wrong-doing, and of the inevitable fate that he was bringing upon himself and his people.
In his talk with Major Savage, he had spoken of the verdure clothing the valley, as sufficient for his wants, but at the time, knowing that acorns formed the staple of their food, and that clover, grass, sorrel and the inner bark of trees were used to guard against biliousness and eruptive diseases, little heed was given to his declaration. Now, however, that we saw the valley clothed with exquisite and useful verdure, for June was now at hand, Ten-ie-ya’s remarks had a greater significance, and we could understand how large flocks and herds had been stolen, and fattened to supply their wants. The late claimants to this lovely locality, “this great moral show,” have been relieved of their charge by act of Congress, and fifty thousand dollars given them for their claims. It will probably now remain forever free to visitors. The builders of the toll roads and trails should also receive fair compensation for their pioneer labors in building them, that they may also be free to all. When this is done, this National Park will be esteemed entirely worthy of this great republic and of the great golden State that has accepted its guardianship.* [*All trails within the original grant have now been made free.]
Perhaps no one can better than myself realize the value of the labors performed by the early pioneers, that has made it possible for tourists to visit in comfort some of the most prominent objects of interest; but “a National Park” should be entirely free. In suggesting a new name for the fall of Too-lool-lo-we-ack, or the absurd “Illiluette,” I wish to honor Mr. Muir for his intelligent explorations and discoveries, and at the same time feel that the word glacier is the most appropriate. Of this, however, the residents of the valley will judge.
The names of the different objects and localities of especial interest have now become well established by use. It is not a matter of so much surprise that there is such a difference in the orthography of the names. I only wonder that they have been retained in a condition to be recognized. It is not altogether the fault of the interpreters that discrepancies exist in interpretation or pronunciation, although both are often undesignedly warped to conform to the ideality of the interpreter. Many of the names have been modernized and adorned with transparencies in order to illuminate the subject of which the parties were writing. Those who once inhabited this region, and gave distinctive appellations, have all disappeared. The names given by them can be but indifferently preserved or counterfeited by their camp followers, the “California Diggers;” but June is now with us, and we must hasten on to our work of following up the trail.
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