The proposed damming of Hetch Hetchy became a battleground pitting conservationists, who thought land should be conserved but used and managed to benefit the most people, and preservationists, who believed that land should be enjoyed in its natural state. Left out of the debate were the Native Americans who had lived off of the land of the Hetch Hetchy Valley for thousands of years. 

 First Inhabitants - Native Americans

Maggie Howard, a Yosemite Mono Lake Paiute,
preparing acorns (Mariposa Library)
         Decades before O' Shaughnessy Dam was built, Hetch Hetchy Valley was a seasonal home for Native Americans who cherished its abundant food and water.  The name Hetch Hetchy comes from the Paiute or Miwok word for "edible grass."  

"My people would camp in Hetch Hetchy and roam the valley. They would travel throughout the area and camp at Paiute Creek, Paiute Mountain and Pait Valley. They would travel through all the Mono trails to gather acorns, berries, seeds, roots and other foods."(Ahwahneechee, Paiute descendent (The Hive))

Prservationists and John Muir

John Muir
(National Park Service)
    The Preservationists were led by John Muir and his Sierra Club. Muir's first visit to Hetch Hetchy Valley was in 1871. He started the Sierra Club in 1882, one of the first environmentalist groups, which would become the main force trying to preserve Hetch Hetchy Valley.

John Muir on Damming Hetch Hetchy Valley
(Restore Hetch Hetchy - Yosemite's Lost Valley)

Conservationists - Gifford Pinchot and James Phelan

Gifford Pinchot and James Phelan
(PBS-National Parks) (SFPUC)
        On the other side of the debate was the city of San Francisco led by its Mayor James Phelan and Gifford Pinchot, Chief Forester of the United States. Pinchot would come to make most of the arguments for San Francisco before Congress.
      "He (John Muir) is a very poetic Gentleman. I am sure he would sacrifice his own family for the sake of beauty. He considers human life very cheap." -
(San Francisco Mayor James Phelan from Sierra Club)