Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Alisa Velaj writes


Mist, yes, mist blocks our sight,
Preventing us from watching
The landscape.
Lo! It disappeared.
The shores are so magnificent…
They should not have such,
Or we might have probably failed
To look at them properly at that time…

-- tr. Ukë Zenel Buçpapaj

 Sierra Point in Mist against Granite Backdrop as Seen from the Top of Vernal Fall  -- Wingchee Poon


  1. Sierra Point, in Yosemite National Park in California, the US, is at the eastern end of the valley, below Grizzly Peak, on what is essentially the southern shoulder of Half Dome. Vernal ("relating to Spring") Fall is a 317-ft (96.6 m) waterfall on the Merced river; it was previously known as Yan-o-pah (little cloud) before Lafayette Houhton Bunnell, a physician with the Mariposa Battalion in 1851, the first non-Native Americans to enter Yosemite Valley, renamed it. He is often credited with naming the Yosemite itself, since he led the battalion members in a vote to name the valley, which had previously been called "Ahwahnee" ("big mouth"); Yosemite
    ("they are killers" in the Miwok language) referred to the Ahwahnechee people, who had occupied the valley until a sickness destroyed most of them; the remnants then moved to the eastern Sierra Nevada Mountains and joined the Mono Lake Paiutes, but a generation later Tenaya led them back to their homeland. ("Yosemite" may also be a corruption of "uzumati" [grizzly bear], the totem of the larger of the band's two main social subdivisions.)

  2. The Mariposa War (December 1850 - June 1851) was sparked by the 1849 California Gold Rush; until the discovery of gold, about 14,000 Spanish-speaking Californios, along with various tribes of Native Americans, had inhabited the former Mexican province, but by the end of May 1849, more than 40,000 gold-seekers had entered from the US, Latin America, Europe, Australia, and China. Many of the newcomers attempted to drive the Native Americans off their tribal lands or force them to work in the mines. The Ahwahneechee and the Chowchilla in the Sierra Nevada and San Joaquin Valley briefly fought back, before being defeated by the Mariposa Brigade and confined to a reservation on the San Joaquin river. At first, Tenaya had agreed to move to the Fresno Reservation, but fled back before his people entered it. The brigade entered the valley and captured Tenaya's sons, killing his youngest one. Tenaya amd his people then agreed to go to the reservation. By the summer of 1851, however, he was allowed to return to the Yosemite after promising not to disturb any of the settlers. In 1852, a prospector lured his companions into the valley, then incited the natives to kill the intruders, in order to take possession of a mine they held in partnership; Tenaya and his band then rejoined the Mono Paiutes. He returned to the valley again in 1853, but was stoned to death in a dispute with the Mono Paiutes over stolen horses, or in a gambling dispute over a hand bone game, and the remnants of his tribe were enslaved by and absorbed into the Mono Lake population. In 1855 James Mason Hutchings and artist Thomas Ayres began to tour the area, becoming responsible for most of the earliest publicity about Yosemite. Then,
    Galen Clark discovered the Mariposa grove of giant sequoia in Wawona, a native ebcmpment in the southwestern park of the modern park in 1857 and lobbied to protect Yosemite valley from development, leading to the creation of the Yosemite Grant in 1864, the first time the US government specifically set aside lands for preservation and public use; it ceded Yosemite valley and the Mariposa grove were ceded to California as a state park, and a board of commissioners was proclaimed two years later, which named Clark the Grant's first guardian, but no one had the authority to evict homesteaders (including Hutchings). Finally, in 1872, the uS Supreme Court invalidated the homesteader land holdings. But Clark and the commissioners were ousted in 1880, and Hutchings became the new guardian; this dispute was also settled by the Supreme Court the same year; the two Yosemite Grant cases became important precedents in American land management law. Bunelle's 1880 account of the Mariposa War also sparked renewed interest in the Yosemite, and John Muir led the effort to create Yosemite National Park in 1890 (though California retained control of Yosemite valley and Mariposa grove). The new park came under the jurisdiction of the US Cavalry, but Muir (and his Sierra Club organization) continued to push for a unified Yosemite National Park. In 1903, he camped with president Theodore Roosevelt for three days near Glacier Point and convinced him to support the plan; in 1906, Roosevelt signed the law that took Yosemite valley and Mariposa grove away from California and gave it to the federal government. The National Park Service was formed in 1916, and Yosemite was transferred to its jurisdiction.


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