Outside: Yosemite Finally Reckons with Its Discriminatory Past. “Pioneers, the government, even John Muir helped kick out Native Americans from their homes on national parks. But in Yosemite, the Miwuk Tribe is getting its village back.”
“Though nobody will live in the wahhoga, the agreement is nonetheless a watershed moment in the park’s relationship with local Native Americans, who have long sought to reestablish their cultural and subsistence connection with the park. The wahhoga could also function as an example for other NPS units, nearly all of which were created following forcible or coerced removal of the Native population. “Our ancestors used to live there, and we always felt that what was available to our ancestors should’ve been available to us,” James says.
James, who chairs the Wahhoga Committee, sees this as one more step toward indigenous tribes reconnecting with their ancestral homeland. Next on the docket, he plans to start programs that teach Native youth about traditional plant and animal harvesting. As James says, “This is about our survival.””
“Wahhoga’s return has been decades in the making. The American Indian Council of Mariposa County/Southern Sierra Miwuk Nation finally got the OK to begin construction a decade ago, only to have their work halted for nearly seven years by Yosemite’s former superintendent, who cited safety concerns.
“We knew how to build a roundhouse from traditional knowledge that’s been passed down. … The park service didn’t understand that,” said Tony Brochini, former tribal chairman and executive director of the Wahhoga Committee. “That is where we butted heads. The park service wanted us to follow project management protocol and we were moving forward with our traditional methods.”
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