On this day in 1864, Abraham Lincoln made Yosemite Valley the first national park ever. That includes other nations. No one had ever done that before. It was dedicated “for public use, resort, and recreation.” And if you have ever been there — or if you just know who Ansel Adams was — then you know what a beautiful place it is. But let’s not harp on something as nice as that. It isn’t the Frankly Curious way!
People have been living in Yosemite Valley perhaps as far back as 8,000 years. The first people we have records of living there are the Ahwahnechee people. If you are like Ayn Rand and, really, most Americans, then you probably know that the Ahwahnechee people defeated Custer at Little Bighorn. Because, you know, as Gertrude Stein would have put it: an Indian is an Indian is an Indian. But of course, you don’t think that because you are a Frankly Curious reader and so you aren’t silly and evil.
I bring it up, however, because the Ahwahnechee people used to burn the Yosemite Valley floor each year to promote the growth of the black oak that grew there. You know, they managed their land — just as humans have been doing for tens of thousands of years, even though the Ayn Rand crowd seems to think it was something invented in Great Britain shortly before James Watt’s got his steam engine going. But the Ahwahnechee started having problems with westerners around 1849.
Was it, as Ayn Rand would expect, that the westerners wanted to use the land in more productive ways? No. It was just a gold rush — they needed to get to Columbia and get all that gold that the Miwok didn’t care about. You know, because gold is such a useful industrial metal! Let’s face it, that’s one thing you can depend upon in the constant mistreatment of native peoples throughout the continent: they needed to be moved because there was some resource under them that the westerners wanted.
But barely a year later, the gold rush was over. And 15 years later, I don’t think there were any Ahwahnechee people left in the valley. Regardless, becoming a national park was a good thing. After all this time, it is still lovely.