Let me digress for a second. The following may sound weird. But you’ve got weird stuff in your head too.

Now, “Star Trek V: The Final Frontier” came out in summer of 1989. By the summer of 1990 it was playing on HBO almost every day. I probably watched that movie 25 times.

Many consider it the worst Star Trek movie. Maybe it is. But I liked it. Kirk, Spock and McCoy were hysterical together. Their scenes still make me laugh.

The point, though, is that they camp at Yosemite in the beginning and end of that movie. In fact, at the end, as the camera pulls back from their campfire, and reveals Yosemite Falls and then stars above, and the horns of the Star Trek theme boom, I always felt so uplifted. The hope of a happy future from the ending’s sound and scenery wound themselves into my expectation of this land.

Again, maybe that sounds weird. Certainly better things can be said to set Yosemite up. So here goes…

Of course, there have been Indians living in the vicinity of the Yosemite Valley since time immemorial. How far back you want to go is your choice. However, I’ll start with the Miwoks, who had probably been living here for centuries before the white man came.

The particular band of Miwoks – not Ewoks like in Return of the Jedi – around Yosemite were called Ahwahneechee. As a National Geographic guide for Yosemite explains…

“Out of fear and respect, other tribes called them the yo-che-ma-te – a phrase that’s been translated as “grizzly bear,” “band of killers,” or “some among them are killers” – and a word that would eventually be applied to the entire valley and the surrounding park.”

Got that? The word “Yosemite” can mean “band of killers.” That sounds a little less romantic in this light, no? But whatever.