Tenaya was born with the Mono tribe, (probably in about 1830) who lived on
the eastern side of the Sierras near Mono Lake. Later in his life he gathered
his father's old tribe around him, and made the trip to Yosemite Valley.
Tenaya and his people claimed Yosemite Valley as the birthright of his tribe.
Tenaya and his small tribe were able to live in Yosemite for many years in
Tenaya had very dark eyes, generous mouth (without thick lips) and a
broad nose. His hair was very long and black. He was full in strength and
very adventurous. It is said he once fought the most feared beast in Yosemite,
"The Bear." The time had long passed when the young chief would
normally have arranged for a wife. If Tenaya ever got married, it was a sign
that he would stay with the village for life. Late in his life he ended up
getting married to a woman named Loiya. Loiya came all the way from The
Tuolumne River area. She was traveling with her family at the time. Her skin
was much darker than Tenaya's. Loiya loved to prepare the most delicious
foods and loved all nature.
Chief Tenaya was a wonderful poet
and a beautiful dreamer. At cry ceremonies, ( a ceremony when someone had
died) Tenaya was the one who got to sing and dance around the fire. The cry
ceremonies lasted for five days. A day before it started, they would take a
piece of milkweed and tie five knots in it. For every day of the ceremony,
they would untie one knot.
Tenaya and Loiya had three sons, Latta, Till and Seethkill. They were
very active. Seethkill had been the most active baby. He was fun and full of
tricks. Instead of making a fire, he preferred using a neighbor's. He enjoyed
trapping mice and training them. He was considered to be the finest flautist
in the village. His sound was easy on the ear, like a rabbit pelt.
Till, the middle son, had shown strong interest in the people and
their languages. He took great pains in learning new languages when feasts
came around. Till was bigger and stronger than Seethkill. Of course,
Seethkill was younger than Till. But Seethkill's shoulders and chest were
very strong and his legs were small. Till's ankles were like Tenaya's, very
small. It was Till who often got to carry news to neighbors. He was the
strongest, but not the fastest runner in the village.
Latta, the oldest son, was the steady one. First born sons may be
favored more carefully and constantly than the others. He was the first son
and received most of the attention.
Tenaya loved his sons and wanted each of them to have a happy and
wonderful life in Yosemite. He wished the best for all three sons.
In 1851, after many conflicts with the white settlers, Tenaya and his
tribe were moved to King's River and Tejon reservations. Tenaya, Chief of the
"Grizzlies", was affected by the change of his surroundings and by
the humiliation of defeat. He suffered from the hot weather and lack of
freedom. Tenaya and a group of his followers escaped. The army followed them
and a battle occurred. Tenaya was captured and one of his sons killed. Upon
being brought to the reservation Tenaya spoke:
"My people do not want anything from the Great Father you tell
us about. The Great Spirit is our Father and he has supplied us with all we
need. We do not want anything from white men. Let us remain in the mountains
where we were born, where the ashes of our fathers have been given to the
Tenaya was finally allowed to depart the reservation with his family
and he joined some of his old tribe, too. Soon after they returned to
Yosemite, the Mono tribe had set a plan for Tenaya to be killed. The Monos
killed him and many other of his warriors. His death was very sad, but at
least he died in his homeland, Yosemite.