This is Part 8 of a 10-part series of posts entitled, The Mariposa War.
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Chasing Chief Tenaya
The next day the expedition returned to Wawona, and began escorting Chief Tenaya and his tribe of women and children to the reservation. But on the night of April 1st, Tenaya pulled an April Fool’s joke on the U.S. Army. He and his Indians slipped away and disappeared.
Throughout the month of April, expeditions led by Major Savage, a Captain Boling, and a Captain Kuydendall, subdued and captured more tribes, forced them to sign treaties, and sent them to reservations. Then on May 9, 1851, Captain Boling entered the Yosemite Valley to search again for Chief Tenaya and his elusive Ahwahnechees.
A Lieutenant Chandler and several Indian scouts rode ahead, but all they discovered was empty huts. Then they sighted five Indians crossing a meadow, and gave chase. They managed to capture three of them, who turned out to be Tenaya’s sons.
Other scouts located the remainder of the tribe, which had escaped into a canyon. But they couldn’t follow them, as Indians above the canyon walls kept loosening landslides of rocks upon them.
One of Tenaya’s captured sons was sent to locate his father and relay an offer for peace. But while he was gone, the other two sons tried to escape, and one of them was shot and killed.
Then Chief Tenaya was spotted by Lieutenant Chandler’s men, and they gave chase through what is now called Tenaya Canyon, in the upper reaches of Yosemite Valley. The chief didn’t give up easily. He ran east, but was cut off by scouts. So he reverted west along a slope, trying to reach Indian Canyon, which leads out of Yosemite Valley to the north. But Nootchu and Pohonochee scouts cut him off there, also. So he continued heading west along a slope, toward Yosemite Falls. But as he descended this slope Lieutenant Chandler caught up with him and captured the chief.
They led him back to Captain Boling’s camp, where the poor chief saw the dead body of his son. He began to weep, and begged to be shot. But Boling spared his life.
Captain Boling and his men then marched 20 miles to reach what is now known as Tenaya Lake. Here they surprised an Ahwahnechee village and took everyone prisoner. This was the last action of the Mariposa War.
The Indian uprising had been successfully suppressed, and most of the Indians were moved to reservations. But later, a few Miwoks returned to Yosemite Valley. After it became a national park, they worked for the tourist industry as laborers or maids, and they sold baskets to tourists. They were the only Native Americans allowed to occupy any national park.
The Miwoks even established a village that remained until 1969. But beginning in the 1930s, the National Park Service found ways to gradually evict them, until they eventually burned the village down. The final Miwok to occupy Yosemite Valley was a park employee named Jay Johnson, who retired in 1996, and was subsequently forced to leave.