Sunday, May 14, 2017

How Mount Diablo in the eastern San Francisco Bay Area got its name

Mount Diablo with historic, stone-built Summit Visitor Center
Various tribal groups of Native American peoples were living in today's Mount Diablo area before and at the time when the first Europeans arrived. Among them were the Volvon Miwok people, a tribelet living in the rugged hills southeast of Mount Diablo [1-3]. No one knows what the Volvon inhabitants called their home mountain.

Early Spanish settlers (conquerors), who began using Mount Diablo for winter grazing, named local places—including Volvon sites they occupied. One Volvon village became associated with the devil, when some of its inhabitants successfully escaped while Spanish troops tried to enforce their relocation to Mission San Jose. A board of the exhibit in Mount Diablo's Summit Visitor Center explains:
Spanish troops searching for runaway mission Indians surrounded a Miwok village in a willow thicket. Somehow the Indians escaped unseen and the angry, disappointed soldiers called the place Monte del Diablo (thicket of the Devil) - the basis for a later linguistic misunderstanding.
English-speaking settlers later translated “monte” with “mount” and called the “Miwok Mountain” Mount Diablo. This was a mistranslation—or misinterpretation—since the Spanish word “monte” can also mean “scrubland” or “thicket.”  

We will never know, if those surrounded-and-escaped Volvon people, in their language, called their traitors devils. If so, the name “Mount Diablo” has double meaning and literally serves as a reminder of unjust treatment of California native tribes.
 
Keywords: human history, geographic name, Contra Costa County, California.

References and more to explore
[1] Territory: Volvon [bayareanativesites.com/territory/bay-miwok/volvon].
[2] Save Mount Diablo: Mount Diablo History [www.savemountdiablo.org/why_mtdiablohistory.html].
[3]  Legends Of The“Devil” Mountain Of California [cowellhistoricalsociety.org/html/devil.html].

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