Southern Sierra Miwuk

The Southern Sierra Miwuk Nation are people indigenous to Mariposa and Yosemite, CA. The Southern Sierra Miwuk Nation has a long relationship with Yosemite National Park, which officially recognizes the group as one of seven tribes with traditional ties to Yosemite. Yosemite Valley was called Ahwahnee and the people called themselves the Ahwahneechee.


The Southern Sierra Miwuk traditionally lived in the western Sierra Nevada between the Fresno River and Cosumnes River, in the eastern Central Valley of California, and in the northern Sacramento–San Joaquin River Delta region at the confluences of the Cosumnes River, Mokelumne River, and Sacramento River. The Southern Sierra Miwuk Nation populated Yosemite by the late 18th century with the Central Miwuk people using the northern quarter of the park.

In the present day, many from the Sierra Miwuk Nation live in or close to their traditional territories.

Indigenous Land Territories, Central Coast Miwok, Yosemite Valley


  • 1848 – Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo between the United States and Mexico was signed.
  • 1849- The California Gold Rush brought miners, ranchers, and settlers to the Sierra Nevada range, causing destruction, disease and a changing way of life to the Southern Miwuk Nation.
  • 1851-1852: United States signed treaties with the Southern Sierra Miwuk Nation to reserve tracks of land within their ancestorial territory.
  • 1852~ The treaties to protect the land were not confirmed by the United States Senate, resulting in the Southern Sierra Miwuk and other tribes being displaced on their native land.
  • 1905 – Yosemite was made a national park, under the National Park Service. From 1905 – 1969 the Southern Sierra Miwuk continued to live within Yosemite, working with the National Park Service until they were evicted in 1969.
  • 1972 – Established the American Indian Council of Mariposa County.
  • 1982 – The Southern Sierra Miwuk Nation filed a petition with the Department of the Interior seeking formal acknowledgement as a federally recognized Indian tribe.

Southern Sierra Miwuk Life

The seasons in Yosemite Valley were a great predictor of the Southern Miwuk’s available food and resources.

Spring was a growth season for plants that were used as food and basket materials. Summer was a harvesting time for seeds, berries, and various other plants used for tools. Toward the end of the summer, fires were set to encourage growth and make the ground clear for harvesting acorns. Autumn was a time for acorn harvesting and storing dried meats and acorns for the winter months. Winter held harsh weather in the valley, and the Ahwahneechee relied on their stored foods and also moved to lower elevations sometimes.


Southern Sierra Miwuk today

  • The Southern Sierra Miwuk Nation is still waiting for federal recognition by the Department of the Interior.
  • With the assistance of their elders, they continue to hold celebrations and ceremonies in the Yosemite Valley.
  • At Mariposa County Fairgrounds a Powwow is hosted by the Southern Sierra Miwuk during Mother’s Day weekend.