Tenaya Lodge at Yosemite owes its name to legendary Chief Tenaya of the Southern Sierra Miwok or "Ahwahneechee" people ("Yosemite" is derived from the Ahwahneechee word for grizzly bear). Tenaya was raised among his mother's people, the Mono Lake Paiutes, in the early 19th century; his father was descended from Ahwahneechee chiefs who were among the first humans to live in the Yosemite Valley.
As a boy, Tenaya listened to tribal storytellers talk of the "deep and grassy valley" that his father was forced to leave when a frontier illness felled his people. He soon left Mono Lake and traveled the crests of the Sierra to discover his father's valley. Finally reaching Yosemite Valley, the awestruck Tenaya explored every corner of it. The mountaineering skills learned from his family were put to good use in this dramatic alpine landscape.
Tenaya's band thrived and in time his children had children. According to the legend and history of Yosemite, Tenaya was repeatedly drawn to Half Dome. One day, distracted by the ethereal beauty of Yosemite Valley, he nearly collided with a grizzly bear. Realizing that escape was impossible, he battled with the bear. Tenaya awoke in the dead grizzly's arms. Badly injured, he returned to his village as a hero -- inspiring stories, song and eventually the name of a legendary mountain resort.