of The AICMC/SSMN
Indian Cultural Center
Yosemite is a World Heritage site, representing the significance of the Yosemite Indians as the original caretakers of these lands for unknown millennia. We are in a moment of our history that needs to take this connection seriously in order to maintain the balance and wisdom of our ancestors who understood the natural laws. Wahhoga is here now to represent and continue their tradition and culture through the spiritual practices of ceremony and ultimately a contribution to the National Park that can inspire and educate the millions of people that visit Yosemite.
To have the Wahhoga Village represented as an educational center would be an incredible contribution to what is termed “outdoor education.” Organizations such as Nature Bridge operating inside Yosemite could work together with the awareness and sensitivity that comes through the connection with the ancestors to again broaden the realm of education that could contribute to the public schools’ systems as well.
Outside educational courses for Indian youth are scheduled to begin in the fall of 2022, funded by a grant awarded to the AICMC/SSMN.
The Wahhoga Committee had its earliest beginning in the 1970s when Jay Johnson, Les James, Bill Tucker, and other Yosemite Valley descendants worked with the National Park Service to create the concept of the Indian Cultural Center (ICC) to be located at Wahhoga Village. They worked diligently to get the ICC authorized in the 1980 Yosemite National Park General Management Plan, to be built on the land of the ancient village of Wahhoga and the 20th Century New Village where many had lived as children and adults. When the ICC became a reality with the June 2009 groundbreaking ceremony for the Traditional Ceremonial Roundhouse, the group became more organized and in 2010 the Wahhoga Committee of the AICMC/SSMN was formed to administer the Wahhoga Village ICC.
It’s been a long, sometimes rocky road, but we are moving full steam ahead now.
My name is Vernett “Sis” Calhoun. I have been a part of the group working toward getting a Traditional Ceremonial Roundhouse built, from the mid-1970s when we worked to get the Indian Cultural Center included in the 1980 Yosemite National Park General Management Plan long before we became known as the Wahhoga Committee. I have shared the disappointments and victories with our Elders. In April of 2021, I found myself the Chairperson for Wahhoga Committee.
I have shared the heartbreak felt by our community, first with the passing of Elder Jay Johnson, then last year the passing of Elder Les James. Now I find myself walking with remaining Elder William “Bill” Tucker carrying on the dream of building a Traditional Roundhouse in Yosemite Valley “for all the people” as Jay use to say.
Wahhoga Village is a special place, a place of healing not only for those that lived there but healing for those that have roots that connect us to the land now known as Yosemite National Park. It’s surprising to some, native and non-native, the feeling of peace and wellbeing they get when spending time at Wahhoga Village, we call this healing. It is our hope that by educating our life ways to the young, native and non-native, all peoples will one day connect with all living elements of Yosemite as our ancestors did and we still practice today.
The generosity of the Adam Dalton family (Jackson Rancheria Me-Wuk), whose mother believed in the Creation story that all people walked out of the Valley, donating money and an all-native crew with experience building a traditional Ceremonial Roundhouse, and the Wenaha Group, a native owned engineering group based in Oregon have been instrumental in our success of this project so far.
Wahhoga Village will be a place where the Indian people conduct traditional ceremonies and cultural activities crucial to the survival of our culture, the healing of the land, and the people. Sanitary facilities will be the only modern structures.
Our next steps are to repatriate the historic Wilson Cabin, the last remaining cabin, back to its original location. It’s the only cabin of 15 that was not burned down by 1969. This will be dedicated to the 29 Veterans who lived in the New Village at Wahhoga, and with the ancient grinding stone represents the continuity of the cultural landscape of our ancestral homelands.
Our Ceremonial Roundhouse will be dedicated in the fall of 2022. We are now preparing to provide sanitary facilities, potable water, and electricity to support cultural, spiritual, and educational activities while we work to build the community building and shade structures.
I invite you to be a part of this project.
Our Elders had a vision. They would create a place in Yosemite Valley, our ancestral homelands, where our people could come to honor the ancestors’ while living and sharing our cultural heritage. This place would be for all the people to come for education and healing. They chose Wahhoga Village, the site of an ancient Indian village, and the New Village, where some of the Elders lived from 1930 to 1969 in cabins built by the park service, for the Indian Cultural Center that we call Wahhoga Village.
The purpose of the Wahhoga Village is to preserve the traditional cultural and spiritual lifeways of the Yosemite Indians for this and future generations, and provide a unique opportunity for park visitors to learn about the local Indians.
The Elders envisioned that the Wahhoga Indian Cultural Center would have two components: A traditional village and a modern community building. The traditional village to acknowledge and honor the spiritual connection to the land and the ancestors, and the modern community building to prepare meals to share in the traditional way, and provide sanitary facilities and potable water.
Today the Elders’ vision is becoming a reality.
The Indian Community is NOW constructing the first and most important structure, the traditional Ceremonial Roundhouse. An all- native crew from Jackson Rancheria Construction have been working building the foundation and collecting and preparing materials, and soon the Ceremonial Roundhouse will be dedicated.
The Indian Cultural Center was authorized in the 1980 General Management Plan for Yosemite National Park. Later, Conceptual Designs and 100% Design Development & Specifications were developed during the review process for the National Environment Policy Act and National Historic Preservation Act, documented in the Yosemite Lodge Area Redevelopment Plan Environmental Assessment 2010 Finding of No Significant Impact.
Two traditional Miwuk dwellings, umacha’s, were built on the pad of the Castro family’s cabin as a high school graduation project, one other by the Dondero family and other families are planning to build theirs.
The goal for completion of the ICC is 2026.
Utilities connection from existing YNP utilities, into the ICC land assignmnet
Repatriation of Wilson Cabin
Construction Drawings and Specifications for the Community Building
Construction of modern structures
On June 1, 2018, a 30-year term GENERAL AGREEMENT between the UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR NATIONAL PARK SERVICE AT YOSEMITE NATIONAL PARK and the AMERICAN INDIANC COUNCIL OF MARIPOSA COUNTY INC. also known as THE SOUTHERN SIERRA NIWUK NATION NATIONAL PARK SERVICE formalizing the partnership for the Indian Cultural Center was ratified.
AICMC/SSMN is a nonprofit 501 (c) 3 organization in California with headquarter offices in Mariposa, California.
SUPPORT THE WAHHOGA PROJECT
SEND CHECK DONATIONS TO:
AICMC - Wahhoga Committee
P.O. Box 1083
Mariposa CA 95338
TIN # 77-0161686
Resale # SR KHE 100-271129
In 1972 the People organized as the American Indian Council of Mariposa County, Inc. the 501 3(c) nonprofit arm of the Southern Sierra Miwuk Nation, and in 1973 partnered with Yosemite National Park to build a traditional Ceremonial Roundhouse in the reconstructed Indian Village at the Yosemite Valley Museum where we have been conducting our ceremonies and cultural activities.
My name is Sandra (Rhoan) Chapman, Chairwoman for the Southern Sierra Nation and the American Indian Council of Mariposa County (501C3). I am a descendant of Chief Tenaya on my dad’s side and Castro Johnson on my mother’s side. Castro helped build the Ahwahnee Hotel and he and my grandmother, Grace Johnson, were both Miwuk dancers so I have strong ties to Yosemite. Remembering the elders that shared their life stories with me always reminds me of who I am and where I come from, and two of the most important things that they would tell me are that we are the caretakers of the land and we will always be here.
The Elders were very strong-minded people but always in a soft-spoken voice, because they knew what they were talking about because they had lived and learned the old ways. Many of our elders were born in Yosemite. They played as children there learning every plant, stone, and animal of the valley. Most lived and worked their entire life around and in Yosemite.
Our tribe has been working toward rebuilding Wahhoga Village and becoming federally recognized for nearly four decades. We stayed strong with the knowledge and wisdom we carry from our Elders; we have decades of oral and written history and continue on a path of action even through difficult times and sometimes with little hope of success. To give up is to let the Ancestors be forgotten, and that’s just not who we are.
Following on the path of our ancestors before us we gained a lease to Wahhoga Village, a place to build our traditional Roundhouse that will be dedicated in the Fall of 2022, excluding any setbacks. A place to hold our ceremonies, that keep us true to who we are, we, so we can pass the old ways on down to the next generations.
We are Southern Sierra Miwuks, we are proud people who are still the stewards of the land, most importantly the stewards of our homeland Yosemite. When I return to my homeland a quiet peaceful calm comes over me as though the new ways of life cannot invade my peaceful thoughts, that’s how I feel when I enter Wahhoga Village. For me it’s a blessing that I’m here one more day to experience that. Wahhoga Village being set into place is for the future generations from all nations that will follow after I’m gone.
Wahhoga will be a place where young and old can learn who they are and where they come from, a place that teaches respect not only for themselves and others, but for Mother Earth and all she provides for all living things, food and water for the people, the animals that live on the land, the winged ones and the ones who keep the ecosystem flowing, respect for the elders and for the teachings from their ancestors that have been passed down from the beginning of time.