The history of people in Yosemite goes back thousands of years. American Indians traveled and used this area since Ice Age glaciers receded providing an environment for plants, animals, and people to survive. Their descendents remain a part of Yosemite’s history to the present day.
In 1849, the discovery of gold in California meant new groups of people arriving in California. Competition for land and resources brought many of these groups into conflict, and, often, into violent confrontations. The first non-native group to enter Yosemite was the Mariposa Battalion, a Euro-American militia formed to drive the native Ahwahneechee people onto reservations. After the Mariposa Indian War came to a close, Yosemite was now open to settlement and speculation.
Through the work of illustrators, authors, painters, and photographers, word spread of the magnificent valley in the heart of the Sierra Nevada and giant trees. Many pioneers became tourist operators, building hotels and inns and starting stagecoach companies to bring the interested early tourists on the long journey to Yosemite. By 1864, the value of Yosemite was recognized by the federal government when Abraham Lincoln signed the Yosemite Grant, placing Yosemite under the protection of the state of California.
The growth of the national park and the surrounding areas has seen a large cast of characters. Some are famous worldwide, like John Muir and Ansel Adams, while others are significant at a smaller scale.
Individual and group contributions to Yosemite abound and help shape how we learn about and experience the park today.
Last updated: November 7, 2019