The Weird Controversy Behind the New ‘Tenaya Stone’ at Disneyland

Photo: Disneyland Resort

Disneyland recently opened the Tenaya Stone Spa at the Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel & Spa, boasting a beautiful outdoor themed space for people to recharge and relax. At the center of the spa sits a large, beautiful rock dubbed the ‘Tenaya Stone’ which is advertised as coming from Tenaya Lake in Yosemite National Park.

The problem? The rock sits as a weird display of Native American appropriation and, if it truly comes from Yosemite, it’s also a felony.

The brand-new spa is objectively stunning, using a design inspired by Yosemite and, according to the designers, creates an experience that “honors nature like Native Americans.” The massive obsidian stone at the center of the entrance is intended to supply visitors energy and healing.

Photo: Disneyland Resort

According to Disney’s Native American Cultural Advisor and Imagineer Dawn Jackson, the rock was gifted to the park by the elders of the Ahwahnechee-Miwok tribe, who are direct descendants legendary Chief Tenaya. The story seemed odd to the journalists who first toured the area, since the spa was already named “Tenaya” before the meeting between the two groups occurred. A bit serendipitous, don’t you think?

After the journalists began pushing forward with their suspicions, they found some inconsistencies with the story. After reaching out to the Southern Sierra Miwuk Nation, the Indigenous People of the Yosemite Valley, they said they were never contacted by the resort.

The problem with promoting visitors to touch the stone is also a bit odd, since it’s not a practice of the tribe. It’s also probably not something the legendary Chief Tenaya would promote, since his child was stoned to death by a group of white settlers.

Cultural appropriation aside, Disney may have an even bigger problem with the stone. Did the resort really source the rock from Tenaya Lake? A representative from Disney told Fodor’s “our team visited the [tribal] family in their ancestral homelands in the Yosemite Valley and from the family, the stone was chosen, blessed and gifted to us.”

Tenaya Lake in Yosemite National Park

What Disney officials didn’t think about is that taking a rock like that from Yosemite National Park is a felony, whether it was “gifted” from the tribe or not. Is Disney is possession of stolen property? Only if the story they told journalists is true. If a felony wasn’t committed, they are just full of it.

When pressed about the actual source of the stone, a Disney wrote an email response to Fodor’s saying “to confirm, the stone was not sourced from the Yosemite National Park. Any suggestion that the stone was obtained in any unlawful way is completely misleading and blatantly false.”

The true story of the “Tenaya Rock” will likely come to light in the coming months, but until then Disney has a real conundrum ahead of it – admit the rock wasn’t actually from Yosemite or admit to a felony. Do you admit to faking an indigenous rock or accept felony? My guess is that they’ll admit the rock is fake. Not a good look, Disney.

Active NorCal

Telling the Stories of Northern California


  1. Another giveaway is that this rock is metamorphic, very few areas in Yosemite have metamorphic rock. This rock most likely came from the eastern Sierra.

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