Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Did You Know that John Muir Wanted to Force Indians Out of the Yosemite Valley?

by Ryan M. Yonk

On March 1, Yosemite National Park changed vendors, dumping Delaware North in favor of Aramark, with a $2 billion concession contract for the next 15 years. The shift prompted visitors to snap up items from the Ahwahnee Hotel and Curry Village, longstanding landmarks soon to be renamed. The true Yosemite memorabilia, however, goes all the way back to the days of John Muir.

The influential naturalist and conservationist has been called a “wilderness prophet” and the father of our national parks. Dozens of places are named after him and his writings contributed greatly to the creation of Sequoia, Mount Rainier, Petrified Forest, Grand Canyon, and Yosemite National Parks.

John Muir was an advocate of views that perceive human activity at odds with the “balance of nature.” He devoted his life to creating parks and wild areas that did not contain people, with the exception of naturalists and tourists. Many of his ideas took shape when he visited and lived in California’s Yosemite Valley, a place of stunning natural beauty.

There he saw the Miwok Indians growing crops, white settlers raising sheep, and miners seeking gold and other minerals. Muir decided that “the other occupants had to go.”Although Muir claimed to oppose the oppression of Native Americans, he fully supported the extraction of Miwoks from Yosemite, referring to them as “dirty,” “deadly,” and “lazy.”

For John Muir, it was more important to maintain the “balance of nature” than to allow the Miwok Indians to live off the land. Muir’s ideology about the “balance of nature” within national parks was so influential that the Yosemite model spread to other national parks, including Yellowstone, where the forced evictions killed 300 Shoshone in one day.

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