A Miwok Legend: Guardian of Yosemite
as told by S. E. Schlosser
For many nights and many days, the guardian spirit of Tisayac watched over the beautiful valley of Yosemite. Often, the gentle spirit would drift invisibly among the good folk of the valley, and it was during one of these visits that she noticed a tall, proud man named Tutokanula.
He was a strong leader who greatly enhanced the lot of his people, and Tisayac came more often to the valley so that she could watch him.
One day, Tutokanula was hunting near the place where Tisayac had laid down to rest. When she realized the proud leader was close by, the shy spirit peered out at him from among the trees. Seeing the beautiful woman with her golden hair and ethereal appearance, Tutokanula fell in love.
Realizing it was the guardian of the valley, he reached out his hands to her, calling her by name. Confused by the rush of feelings inside her, Tisayac flew away, leaving a brokenhearted warrior behind.
Tutokanula spent many days searching for Tisayac. Finally he left the valley and his people in despair. Without his wise guidance, the valley fell into ruin and most of the good folk left to find a new home.
When Tisayac returned again to her valley, she was horrified to find it barren and her people gone. When she learned that Tutokanula had forgotten his people, had left them to fend for themselves without the benefit of his great wisdom, and had spent many days and nights searching and longing for her, she cried out in despair.
Kneeling upon a mighty dome of rock, Tisayac prayed with all her heart that the Great Spirit would undo this wrong and would restore to this land the virtue which had been lost.
Hearing her prayer, the Great Spirit took pity on the plight of her people. Stooping down from on high, he spread his hands over the valley. The green of new life poured forth over the land; trees blossomed, flowers bloomed, birds sang. Then he struck a mighty blow against the mountains and they broke apart, leaving a pathway for the melting snow to flow through.
The water swirled and washed down upon the land, spilling over rocks, pooling into a lake and then wandering afar to spread life to other places. In the valley, the corn grew tall again, and the people came back to their home.
Then Tutokanula himself came to the valley when he heard that Tisayac had come home. Upon his return, he spent many hours carving his likeness into the stone so his people would remember him when he departed from this earth. When the carving was finished, Tutokanula sat down wearily at the foot of the beautiful Bridal Veil Falls the Great Spirit had created.
Tisayac drifted into the spray of the falls, watching him. He was ready to depart from his people, from his valley. Would he go with her? She moved forward through the falling water and made herself visible. When Tutokanula saw Tisayac, he sprang to his feet with a cry of joy and she held out her arms to him. The brave warrior leapt into the falls and took his love into his arms at last.
For a moment, there were two rainbows arching over the water. Then Tisayac drew him up and up into the clouds and away as the sun sank over Yosemite.