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Leaping Frog Rocks

Long ago, the Yosemites named the three peaks outlined against the north ridge the Leaping Frog Rocks. Yosemites called them Kom-po-pai-ses, because they look like three frogs sitting on their haunches, ready to spring. Today in Yosemite National Park you can still see the same formation.

The last great chief of the Yosemites was Chief Ten-a-ya. Constantly he watched from his hideaway mountain lodge, and saw strange white horsemen riding from across the plains to the West.

Often he remembered what the Old Chief his father had said, "Obey my word, Ten-a-ya, and your people shall be as many as the blades of grass. No enemy tribe shall ever dare to bring war into Yosemite Valley.

"But beware, my son, of the white horsemen coming from across the plains beyond. If once they cross the western mountains, your tribe will scatter as the dust before the desert wind. Then the Yosemites will never be the same again.

"Guard your stronghold, Ten-a-ya my son, lest you be the last of the great Chiefs of the Yosemites."

The Old Chief, trembling, had raised his peace pipe above his head and prayed, "Great Spirit Above, be good to my son, Ten-a- ya, Young Chief of the Yosemites."

To the four points of the compass, he turned and prayed:

"To the pines of the north, cold Wind treat him kindly.

"To the rising Sun of the east, Great Sun shine upon his lodge early in the morning.

"To the place where the Sun goes in winter, south wind bless my son,

"To the land of the Setting Sun in the west, tenderly carry on the breezes a gentle sleep for him.

"Lowering my pipe I say to you, kind Mother Earth, when you receive my son into your warm bosom, hold him gently forever.

"Let the howl of the coyote, the roar of the bear and the mountain lion, and the sound of the wind swaying the tops of the tall pine trees, be to him a sweet lullaby."

As he remembered the Old Chief's words, Ten-a-ya guarded his mountain retreat like a mother-bear protects her young cub. With great anxiety day after day, he saw the white horsemen coming nearer and nearer from across the plains.

Ten-a-ya watched them take the land that the Great Spirit had made for the Yosemites and the other tribes. Ten-a-ya watched the white men burrow into the earth like moles. He watched them wash the sands and rocks of the rivers, searching for something yellow and shiny. They pastured their cattle upon the sacred hunting grounds of the Yosemites.

Ten-a-ya heard of the strangers stealing Yosemite women and girls for their wives. Nearer and nearer they made their camps, stealing Yosemite supplies.

Because Ten-a-ya was young and strong, he did not fear the white men. In his heart, he hated them for their disregard of what the Great Spirit had created for the Yosemites. Sometimes at night, Ten-a-ya and his braves drove away the white men's horses or killed them for food in place of their own natural game which supply was stolen by the white men.

A feeling of defiance against the white man's encroachment grew among the Yosemite braves. Ten-a-ya grew older with time. White horsemen increased in numbers, arriving at the very walls of Yosemite Valley. Again Ten-a-ya recalled his dying father's words, and Ten-a-ya knew the evil day was drawing near.

The white men climbed the western mountains. They offered gifts in the name of their White Father in Washington, and then made Ten-a-ya their captive. Young Yosemite braves fled from their camps, crossing the North Dome to the camp of the Mono Indians. They were young and could hunt far for food to supply their families. They refused to be herded like cattle in the white man's camp.

Though a captive, in spirit Chief Ten-a-ya remained strong. With native cunning, he watched for a chance and escaped to his mountain stronghold. More and more in his heart, he was growing a strong hatred for the white man.

The children of the Yosemites scattered. They were unable to rally again around Chief Ten-a-ya, because the white horsemen pursued him into his mountain retreat. Day and night, signal fires burned upon the mountaintops.

When messengers from the White Father entered Yosemite Valley, they found it deserted. But five dark figures darted from trees to rocks at the base of the jagged spur of the northern rock wall of Yosemite Valley.

A swollen river lay between the enemy and the five Indian scouts. With this protection, the scouts came into the open and taunted the white strangers. Then the scouts disappeared up the mountain, leaving no trail visible for white men to follow. Later, however, false promises induced the five scouts to come again to the white men's camp. Three of the scouts were sons of Ten-a-ya.

One brother was killed when he became a hostage. Another brother escaped only because of the bad aim of a white stranger.

When Ten-a-ya realized that it was useless to resist further, he surrendered to the messengers of the White Father in Washington. They had stolen his lands and his families, and they would not let the Yosemites live in peace in their homeland.

Ten-a-ya came down the mountain by his secret path from Le-ham-i- te, the canyon of the Arrowwood. His first sight was that of his oldest son's dead body. He spoke no word. That night he secretly carried the young chief's body to a sacred burial place.

Angered at the loss of his son, once more Ten-a-ya tried to escape and gather his tribe together, but he was captured a second time. In grief, he turned his bare chest toward his captors and cried:

"Kill me, White Chief, kill me as you have killed my sons and my people. You have brought sorrow to my heart and to the Yosemites. Kill me--and when I am dead, my spirit will rise up and call the spirits of our dead Yosemites to avenge the deaths you have caused. Our spirits will follow your footsteps forever.

"You will not see me or other Yosemites, but we will follow you wherever you go. You will know it is the spirit of Ten-a-ya and his people. You will come to fear us. Someday you will be sorry. This message is from our Great Spirit Above."

Ten-a-ya's prophecy came true. When the white men crossed the western mountains they encountered many problems and hardships because they had not made friends with the native people in the beginning. Yosemites scattered and never came together again as a tribe.Ten-a-ya was the last great Chief of the Yosemites.

Because the three sons of Ten-a-ya were captured at the base of the northern mountain wall, the three peaks were named to honour the "Three Brothers." Because their posture still resembles the "Three Leaping Frogs," they are also called Kom-po-pai-ses.

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The Indigenous Peoples' Literature pages were researched and organized by Glenn Welker.