The Yosemite people called Yosemite Valley Awooni or Owwo for (gaping)
“mouth,” referring to the appearance of the valley’s walls from the village of Ahwahnee, the largest and most powerful Indian village in the valley. The natives also called themselves Ah-wah-ne-chee or “dwellers of Ahwahnee.”
Chief Tenaya tried to explain the meaning of “Ahwahnee” to white men by using sign language, but was mistakenly interpreted as saying “deep grassy valley.” In his own language Tenaya was trying to sign “gaping mouth.” In 1851, the US government tried to drive the natives out of Ahwahnee, but Chief Tenaya never submitted and never signed a treaty.
Naturalist and Sierra Club founder, John Muir, described Yosemite as “a place of rest, a refuge from the roar and dust in which one gains the advantages of solitude. This one noble park is big enough and rich enough for a whole life of study and aesthetic enjoyment, as none can escape its charms of natural beauty.” Muir’s sentiment is vividly portrayed in artist’s Stephen Lyman’s masterful "Ahwahnee."