Miwuk Village Comes Back to Life

The Miwuk Native Americans lived in Yosemite Valley for seven thousand years before their villages were destroyed. The last small Miwuk village was torn down in the 1960s by the United States National Park Service. Now, it is being revived.

The village is being reconstructed in order to preserve the Miwuk culture. Older Miwuk people, such as 78-year-old Bill Tucker, still remember living in the old village before its destruction. Tucker lived there with his grandmother and wife. He has many emotional memories from the village, including the time his wife gave birth to their stillborn daughter. He still considers the village to be his home, though it has been gone for over 40 years.

The Miwuk people have been trying to get permission to rebuild their village since the late 1970s, and permission was finally granted by the federal government in 2009. The village reconstruction began then but ended temporarily in 2011 because building safety codes were not being met adequately. Only recently have the Miwuk been able to continue to rebuild.

Park preservation concerns were cited as a reason that it took so long for the government to approve the requests to rebuild. However, the National Park Service now recognizes that the preservation of Native American culture is just as important as preserving the park.

The Miwuk population has suffered losses since the 1800s. At that time, American militiamen killed many Miwuk people and destroyed villages. Some of the Native Americans managed to survive by escaping to the Sierra Mountains. Their descendants are now getting a chance to learn about their culture with the reconstruction of the Miwuk village.

The new Miwuk village will most likely allow tourists to come learn about the culture as well. However, the tribe's primary goal is to teach young Miwuk people about their own heritage. Not everything is meant to be shared with outsiders, so some tribal events will likely be restricted to Miwuk people only.