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Visitors to Yosemite can dig deep into the park’s tribal history; in an effort to restore truth to history, park officials have included information about the original residents of the area, the Southern Sierra Miwok, in everything from brochures to dioramas. But now other tribes claim they’ve been given the shaft, and hope to see their place in Yosemite’s history restored. Paiute tribe members and activists claim their people were the first residents of everyone’s favorite valley, and they want the cred.
“The park manufactured a lot of its history,” said Rhoan, of Roseville, a suburb of Sacramento. “You’ve got living direct descendants of the people in old photos displayed in exhibits telling the park they have the wrong signs up, and they’re not listening to us.”
Park officials are reluctant to revise official history that’s already been painstakingly revised, but getting to the heart of the matter could prove difficult. Early tribes often intermarried, meaning that as many as five tribes — Paiute, Miwok, Yokut, Chukchansi and Mono — could lay claim to being Yosemite’s first homesteaders.
Some refurbished displays already mention Paiute presence in the Yosemite area, but some activists want the park to rewrite signs to indicate the earliest residents were all Paiute. Also, they dispute the thousands of bills in federal money that’s gone to a Miwok-affiliated, non-profit cultural services organization.
— Ted Alvarez