Located in the Southern Sierra Nevada Mountains in Visalia, California, Sequoia National Park was the second established U.S. National Park in 1890. It was established with the intention to protect the Sequoia Tree and was the first park ever created to protect a living organism. A second adjacent park, King’s Canyon, was established in 1940 and the two parks have grown to over 1,353 square miles in 125 years.
Before this land was considered a federally protected national park, it was part of the inhabited territory of the Western Mono or Monache people. The Western Mono actually inhabited land from the foothills to valley plains all over the San Joaquin Valley in Central California.
6 independent tribal groups make up the Western Mono Tribe, including: Northfork Mono, Wobonuch, Entimbich, Michahay, Waksachi and Patwisha. The Patwisha, always known as the Balwisha, occupied the western half of the Sequoia National Park.
Their spoken language is Mono, which is an Uto-Aztecan language and is referred to as Owens Valley Paiute by the Eastern Mono Tribe. Today this language is considered critically endangered.
Most of the Western Mono made their homes in the nice climate of the foothills and used the valley floor for resources like hunting game and fish, gathering reeds for basket making and for ceremonies and trade. They also used overlapping territories with nearby tribes, like the Tubatulabal and Yukots, to access different regions and resources through complex political and social organizational procedures.
The Western Mono began to experience contact with Non-Native settlers in the early 19th century, with Spanish invasion driving many tribal members to the foothills or making them convert into the missions.
The mid-19th century brought on even more Non-Natives to California with the Gold Rush. With more outsiders more came tragedies and injustices such as the malaria epidemic of 1832, and the Act for the Government and Protection of Indians of 1850, legalizing the indentured servitude of Native children.
Though attempts to negotiate land through treaties and reduce the violence caused by the rapid influx had begun, the California Land Claims Act of March 3, 1851, is enacted, and California tribes are denied all legal interest in either their aboriginal lands or in the lands reserved by treaty. This leaves California tribes completely landless by 1853. This was just the beginning of years of conflict over land for the Western Mono Tribe. They struggled to receive proper land acknowledgement and spent many years re-negotiating land allotment through land trusts, treaties and subsequently the development of reservations.
Today, the Western Mono is recognized and culturally preserved in the modern world by Mono Tribes such as: North Fork Rancheria in Madera County, Cold Springs Rancheria and Big Sandy Rancheria in Fresno County. There are also Mono descendants that inhabit the Tule River Reservation in Tulare County.