half-dome the legend of tis-sa-ack

Yosemite’s history includes Native American legends and lore to explain how the monolithic granite structures came to be.

Many generations ago, long before the Great Spirits completed their work on the cliffs and domes in the Valley of Ahwahnee, Tis-sa-ack and her husband, Nangas, traveled to the fertile valley to make it their home.

As was the tradition in those days long ago, the woman carried a beautiful, but heavy cone-shaped basket that was woven from reeds and course grasses. Tis-sa-ack labored under the weight of her heavy burden and papoose carrier, while Nangas carried his bow, arrows and staff.

The sun shone high and hot and the couple had grown very thirsty as they finally arrived at the Valley they knew as Ahwahnee. Nangas, tired and hot from the long journey suddenly lost his temper and struck Tis-sa-ack with his staff. She ran away to escape his wrath.

The Great Spirits caused the path she took to become a stream and the acorns she dropped became oak trees. Tis-sa-ack came upon the beautiful Mirror Lake. So great was her thirst that she drank every drop of the water. When Nangas arrived the lake was dry!

So enraged was he that there was no water for him, he again struck her with his staff. As Tis-sa-ack fled again, tears streaking her face, she turned and threw her heavy basket at her husband.

As the Great Spirits watched this scene, they were displeased. “Tis-sa-ack and Nangas have broken the spell of peace,” they said. “Let us transform them into cliffs of granite that face each other, so that they will be forever parted.”

Tis-sa-ack is known forever to us as Half Dome and Nangas as Washington Column. Her basket became Basket Dome, her papoose carrier became the Royal Arches.

Can you see the tears that still stain Tis-sa-ack’s face? You can make out her light gray silhouette as she faces to the left.

Photo and story submitted for the WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge: Face

Story borrowed in part from Yosemite and Undiscovered Yosemite.

24 thoughts on “The Legend of the Face of Half Dome

  1. although sumone forgot to mention the iceberg that cut through that valley eons ago also huh…lol even the indians didn’t like to talk bout recessions lol.. my hum or fer da day 🙂 cheers 2 yaz frum Q 🙂


  2. Spectacular – I love it. Came here looking for a photo, ended up reading an interesting story.

    Makes me want to see more of your work.

    Following you now. Have a great day! 🙂


  3. Wonderful story and photo Terri! I see you have moved your bog. I’ll have to refollow you now and either manually add you to my wordpress reader or finally start reading blog subscriptions from my email 🙂


    1. Hi Terry, yes I moved to self hosting! I don’t get to be in the WP reader any more 😦 Please subscribe/follow and you will get an email or two 🙂 I have been reading most blogs from email myself. I can still go read the reader. Thanks, Terry!


      1. Interesting… at first in the “WP Reader Manage Followed Sites” it appeared as if I was no longer subscribed to your blog after you moved to self hosting. I noticed you still had a button in your sidebar to follow your blog via WordPress.com so I clicked on it. When I went back and looked at “Manage Followed Sites” it showed that I was once again following your blog via WP.com. It remains to be seen if your posts will actually show up in the reader. I could always add your blog manually to the reader and then your posts would show up for me. I do this with several other blogs… but I’m beginning to think it would be easier to follow via email. Either way i’ll keep reading 🙂
        Are you running the Jetpack plugin on your new WordPress.org site?


      2. Hi Terry, this comment moved into my spam folder. This was so informative. Yes, when I used WordPress guided transfer (they did all the work for $130–worth it!), they provided the jet pack plugins and some others. I thank you so much for sticking with me. That was my fear that I would lose all my readers; it’s happened to others who moved on. If you get the chance to subscribe to my new email service (via FeedBlitz), I would love to hear your feedback. Again, Terry, thanks so much for taking the time to comment!


      3. You’re welcome! To have your new site show up in the WordPress reader the new site must be connected and signed-in to your wordpress.com account. Sometimes it can be difficult getting it to work. Sounds like the $130- was indeed well spent!
        I’ll sign up via FeedBlitz and let you know how it goes.


  4. I say Tis-sa-ack got a raw deal! She was only defending herself against a brute of a hubbie. Why was she turned to stone? It seems unfair, but I guess you can’t argue with legend. A fun tale and makes me want to go check out these two. Thank you.


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