The Ahwahnechee Legend of Half Dome

This Thanksgiving, I’m going to do something a bit different.

From now until the end of November, I’m going to share with you some of my favorite landscapes, a little bit about their heritage and the people whose traditional lands they belong to.


Long before the white settlers came to Turtle Island, in the Valley of Ahwahnee, before the cliffs of Yosemite, a couple traveled to the valley to make it their new home.

On the way, Tis-sa-ack carried much on her back and exhausted on arrival, drank every cool drop of water in Mirror Lake. When her husband, Nangas reached her, he was so filled with anger that she emptied Mirror Lake, that he lashed out at her.

God was displeased as it was against tribal custom to mistreat one another.

“Tis-sa-ack and Nangas have broken the spell of peace—let Us transform them into cliffs of granite that face each other, so that they will forever be parted.”

Tis-sa-ack was then turned into Half Dome and her tears are the dark streaks rolling down the face of the cliffside.

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