Historic Tradition Of The Upper Tuolumne





Yosemite Valley



(As given by Mr. Stephen Powers, 1877.)(4)



There is a lake-like expansion of the Upper Tuolumne some four miles

long and from a half mile to a mile wide, directly north of Hatchatchie

Valley (erroneously spelled Hetch Hetchy). It appears to have no name

among Americans, but the Indians call it 0-wai-a-nuh, which is

manifestly a dialectic variation of a-wai'-a, the generic word for

"lake." Nat. Screech, a veteran mountaineer and hunter, states that he

visited this region in 1850, and at that time there was a valley along

the river having the same dimensions that this lake now has. Again, in

1855, he happened to pass that way and discovered that the lake had been

formed as it now exists. He was at a loss to account for its origin; but

subsequently he acquired the Miwok language as spoken at Little Gap, and

while listening to the Indians one day he overheard them casually refer

to the formation of this lake in an extraordinary manner. On being

questioned they stated that there had been a tremendous cataclysm in

that valley, the bottom of it having fallen out apparently, whereby

the entire valley was submerged in the waters of the river. As nearly

as he could ascertain from their imperfect methods of reckoning time,

this occurred in 1851; and in that year, while in the town of Sonora,

Screech and many others remembered to have heard a huge explosion in

that direction which they then supposed was caused by a local earthquake.



On Drew's Ranch, Middle Fork of the Tuolumne, lives an aged squaw called

Dish-i, who was in the valley when this remarkable event occurred.

According to her account the earth dropped in beneath their feet, and

waters of the river leaped up and came rushing upon them in a vast,

roaring flood, almost perpendicular like a wall of rock. At first the

Indians were stricken dumb, and motionless with terror, but when they

saw the waters coming, they escaped for life, though thirty or forty

were overtaken and drowned. Another squaw named Isabel says that the

stubs of trees, which are still plainly visible deep down in the

pellucid waters, are considered by the old superstitious Indians to be

evil spirits, the demons of the place, reaching up their arms, and that

they fear them greatly.



(4) (Vol. 3, Part 2, U. S. Geographical and Geological Survey of the

Rocky Mountain region: Contributions to North American Ethnology, 1877.)





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