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'Our Past. Our Future. Integrating Native Kowledge.' lecture at the Nevada County Library. What's Language got to do with it?

Nisenan Heritage Day
Sierra College - Nevada County Campus
Grass Valley, California
2 November 2013
Photography by Akim Aginsky

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Nisenan aim to rekindle community spirit Saturday
by Christopher Rosacker
30 October 2013
Heritage Day 2013 at Sierra College - Nevada County CampusThe Union Newspaper

Staff members of the Sierra College's Nevada County campus and members of the Nisenan tribe of the Nevada City Rancheria are touting their collaborative Heritage Day event Saturday as a milestone worth attending. For the Nisenan, the fourth incarnation of the Heritage Day being held at Sierra College represents, for the first time, the largest opportunity yet to incorporate their perspective into the local historical narrative taught in the county's education systems, said Shelly Covert, tribal council secretary for the Nevada City Rancheria. “The Nisenan hold the truth about their history and can tell it like no one else,” said Judith Lowry, an artist and leader of the California Heritage Indigenous Research Project, “rather than leave it to teachers who have to troll the intent looking for lesson plans on a subject about which they know little to nothing.”

For Mary Anne Kreshka, a member of the Sierra College Human Development and Family department, Saturday's event provides an opportunity for non-natives “to recognize that there are Native Americans living in our community and that it isn't just the stereotype of them dressed up and having a pow-wow but rather that they are contributing members in their community and that they have lives similar to the rest of us.”

Descendants from the Nevada City Rancheria will speak Saturday about their history, which dates back long before European settlers discovered what is now Nevada County and before the Gold rush that fostered the county's development.

“This is a group that has been here for thousands of years,” Kreshka said.

The Nisenan once had a 70-acre reservation, the Nevada City Rancheria, on what is now Cement Hill, created under the authority of President Woodrow Wilson. However, when the federal government stripped California's tribes of their federal federal status following the 1958 California Rancheria Act, the Nisenan lost their land in 1964, according to tribal leaders.

While all but four of California's previously terminated rancherias have regained their federally recognized status, the Nisenan are still fighting to restore their federal recognition. covert estimates the tribe has no more that 100 recognized members with another nearly as many pending confirmation.

“They were something of a hidden group that very much want to emerge and join with the college to present their story,”Kreshka said.

Hence this years' Heritage Day theme is “Rekindling the Spirit of Community”. the event is appropriate for all ages and families; children are encouraged to attend. Parking is free, so is admission. Lunch boxes from the BriarPatch Co-op will be available for purchase.

“Everything about this event is free,” Kreshka said.

“It is important for young children to have as positive and wonderful an experience with great diversity around them, and this program will provide that for those that goon Saturday.”

Nisenan Heritage Day will feature artisans weaving baskets, and mashing acorns, a traditional mainstay of the Nisenan diet.

“I think it will be very exciting,” Kreshaka said. “the plan is have it very interactive.”

There will also be discussions, demonstrations, merchandise, information booths, music and ceremonial dancers.

“some of those dancer are direct descendants of old Chief Kelly,” Covert previously told the Union. “that's huge that they can come here and dance on our homelands.”

Chief Louis “Laloak” Kelly was the Nisenan's last patriarch. He died in 1964.

Native america academic and professional speakers will give individual presentations as well as panel-style discussion about current events and topics of historical and cultural relevance. Local authors will be on hand to discuss their books and offer to sign books for sale.

“This is an event that most definitely has educational reach to our students,” said Stephanie Ortiz, excutive dean of Sierra College's Neavda County campus.

Anyone interested in Nisenan Heritage Day can call 530-570-0846 or visit

Nevada County Historical Society presents
American California and the Fate of the Nisenan
Thursday, 17 October 2013
American California and the Fate of the NisenanGold Miners' Inn (aka Holiday Inn)
121 Bank Street, Grass Valley, CA 95945
Submitted to The Union Newspaper

THE NEVADA COUNTY HISTORICAL SOCIETY will present “American California and the Fate of the Nisenan,” a multimedia presentation by Shelly Covert of the Nevada City Nisenan Rancheria.

Richard Hurley and TJ Meekins, authors of the historical novel “Queen of the Northern Mines” also will attend.

The Foothill Nisenan, the indigenous people of Nevada County, lived at the epicenter of the Gold Rush. Through historical photos and eyewitness narratives, the show tells how the Nisenan way of life was destroyed and how the tribe was pushed to the edge of extinction.

The story of the Paiute Wars of 1860 and the death of Nevada City's favorite son, Henry Meridith, will be told from Paiute point of view.

Legendary Indian fighter General George Crook's first campaign in California will be seen through his eyes - and through those of Joaquin Miller, “The Poet of the Sierras,” who fought on both sides of the conflict. Covert will tell her tribe's story of survival and share photographs from family albums that the wider community has not yet seen.

The presentation begins at 7:00 pm at the Gold Miners Inn (Holiday Inn) on 121 Bank St. in Grass Valley and is free.

The historical society will return to its regular venue at the Makelyn Helling Library in Nevada City for its next meeting.

For information, visit:

Nisenan Heritage Day
Miner's Foundry
Nevada City, California
Saturday, 13 October 2012

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Chairman Richard Johnson

Honoring heritage
Artifact forum seeks input from property owners to preserve local history
By Laura Brown
11 October 2012
Special to The Union Newspaper

IN AN EFFORT TO PRESERVE ARTIFACTS and the very legacy of Nevada County's rich cultural heritage, a panel of local archeologists and experts from state and federal agencies and Native American tribes will lead a public forum this weekend during the inaugural Nisenan Heritage Day.

Hosted by the Nevada County Historical Society, the free discussion, titled “Nevada County's Historical Legacy - A Public Forum on Artifacts on Public and Private Land,” will take place from 8:30 a.m. to noon Saturday at the Miner's Foundry in Nevada City. Registration starts at 8:00 a.m.

The artifact symposium is designed to give property owners clarity on ambiguous state and federal laws governing historical artifacts.

Daniel Ketcham, president of the Historical Society, has received a number of calls from well intentioned property owners who felt “duped” into giving up artifacts to a “pseudo-Native American Tribe.”

Fueling archeologist nightmares are rumors of Native American artifacts being taken and reburied at different sites.

“I couldn't ignore it any longer,” said Ketcham who helped organize the event in response to the calls he received.

The forum will help outline property owner rights and goes a step further by suggesting the documentation of artifacts and landscape features as they are found. In addition, organizers hope the symposium will give landowners a chance to voice their own concerns and questions to the seven-person panel that includes representatives from the U.S. Forest Service, United Auburn Indian Community, and the California Department of Parks and Recreation.

Dialogue like this is considered timely and critical because large properties in the county are increasingly subdivided into smaller and smaller lots, a development pattern that threatens to disturb and erase archeological memory.

Having a panel of experts speak about Nisenan history simultaneously with the first annual Heritage Day means a lot to Shelly Covert, tribal council secretary for the Nevada City Rancheria.

Covert also wears the hat of Cultural Outreach Spokesperson for the Nevada City Rancheria and for the past three years has volunteered as a docent at the Nevada City Firehouse Museum, where a carefully displayed exhibit of Nisenan artifacts and photographs is housed.

She says the Historical Society-led forum gives credibility to the Nisenan of the Nevada City Rancheria, a small tribe of 80 members that many in the community erroneously believe to be extinct.

“We're talking about these lands and artifacts being removed from here … to the history that people seem to have forgotten,” Covert said.

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Chinese Brass Ornament Projectile Point Opium Tin Basalt Drill/Awl

An artifact symposium, designed to give property owners clarity on ambiguous state and federal laws governing historical artifacts, is scheduled for Saturday, October 13, 2012. Artifacts found locally include (above) a Chinese brass ornament, a projectile point, a lid from an opium tin, and a basalt drill/awl.

Tearing out a page of history

In Nevada County, numerous artifacts and non-movable “features” exist on private lands. Many remain undiscovered, just below the surface or overgrown by brush.

Unknown numbers of artifacts have been removed from original sites and placed in private collections, museums and universities. Still others - along with the knowledge they hold - have been sold to the highest bidder on eBay.

Secretly removing artifacts and neglecting to record their origins changes the entire story of a place.

“It's like tearing a page out of a book,” said local author and archeologist Hank Meals, one of the forum's scheduled speakers.

In his 40 years living in the county, Meals said has witnessed many artifacts disappear. Without passing down the knowledge that an artifact offers, a glimpse of history is easily lost in one generation.

“It really belongs where it was found … It speaks to this whole ownership thing. Who owns them? I think it speaks to the legacy of the entire county,” Meals said.

To Meals, Nevada County is a “cultural landscape” if you know what to look for.

Tree lines, land contours, old bottles and rusty trunk latches tell of timber and mining industries, PG&E camps, recreation sites and the people who lived and worked here. Fragments of Chinese pottery and Native American arrowheads are still found in the soil.

While textiles, baskets and items made with feather and bone long ago decomposed in local acidic soils, many stone objects remain.

Archeological evidence of the Nisenan culture goes back at least 1,500 years. A subset of the Southern Maidu, the traditional territory of the foothill Nisenan encompassed the watersheds of the Yuba, Bear and American rivers. The movement of Nisenan was based on the ripening of plants, the migration of animals and, most importantly, the staple food, the acorn.

Common “features” dotting rural Nevada County include ditches, rock walls and old roads from more recent times and older Native American bedrock mortars and house pits still detectable by the semi-subterranean depression in the earth.

Meals recommends that property owners make a sketch map of an artifact site by first finding north then noting the relativity of artifacts to the landscape. The sketch map can then be tucked aside with the deed to the property preserving history for the next landowner and hopefully generations to come.

“Just in the process of recording it, it starts to unfold,” Meals said.

For information and a list of speakers and topics scheduled for the artifact symposium, visit ~~

Contact freelance writer Laura Brown at 401-4877 or

Nisenan Heritage Day celebrates native culture
By Laura Brown
11 October 2012
Special to The Union Newspaper

For the first time, the Nevada City Rancheria is inviting the community to Nisenan Heritage Day to share knowledge and culture at an event it hopes will set history's record straight.

Shelly Covert, secretary of the Nevada City Rancheria Tribal Council, has volunteered every Friday over the past three years as a docent for the Nisenan exhibit at the Nevada City Firehouse Museum. On Saturday, the Nevada City Rancheria will host its inaugural Nisenan Heritage Day for the community.

“The community doesn't know who their indigenous people are. It's partly our fault. We've been in the shadows ... We just really want people to know we're here,” said Shelly Covert, tribal council secretary and cultural outreach spokesperson for the Nevada City Rancheria.

President Woodrow Wilson created the 70-acre Rancheria on Cement Hill in 1913. The Rancheria was terminated in 1964. Today, there are 80 enrolled members of the Nevada City Rancheria, with 80 more pending certification.

Tribal members are seeking to have federal recognition of their tribe restored.

Nisenan Heritage Day is a free event scheduled for Saturday at the Miner's Foundry Cultural Center in Nevada City.

It is co-hosted by the Nevada City Rancheria and the California Heritage: Indigenous Research Project (CHIRP), an organization founded by Native American artist Judith Lowry.

Heritage Day 2012 Poster

“This is a purely California native culture event,” Lowry said.

An artifact symposium hosted by Nevada County Historical Society kicks off the day with registration starting at 8:00 a.m.

The California Indian Basketweavers, the Native Daughters of the Golden West, Sierra Streams Institute, California Indian jewelers and others will set up booths at the event. The Colfax Todd Valley Tribe will provide Indian Tacos for sale at 12:30 p.m.

Nevada City Rancheria Tribal Chairman Richard Johnson will lead two tours in the Firehouse No. 1 Museum where Nisenan artifacts are on display.

Johnson will introduce the remaining Nisenan Elders, Native American dancers, special guests and Nevada City Rancheria Tribal Council members.

In the afternoon, attendees can choose from a number of presentations on contemporary Native American art, the California Indian treaties of 1851, the Nisenan language, Indigenous archeology and the cosmos, history of the Nevada City Rancheria termination and more.

An evening of dancing and music by the Debora Iyall Band and Shelly Covert & UnderCover begins at 5:30 p.m. with a cover charge $10. A “no-host” bar is available with the program.

Tickets are available online:, at the Nevada City Box Office (530) 265-5462, at BriarPatch Co-Op and at the door. Visit for information. ~~

Fight to preserve native culture
By Christopher Rosacker
Staff Writer
3 March 2012

WHEN SHELLY COVERT WAS YOUNG, SHE WOULD FREQUENTLY tap upon the drum of her Nisenan forefathers. It had belonged to Chief Louis “Laloak” Kelly, the Nisenan's last patriarch, passed down from the tribe headmen before him.

No one knows where the drum is now.

“So many of our artifacts were lost or taken out of our possession,” Covert said.

The missing drum was an eye-opener for Covert, who now sits on the Nevada City Rancheria Tribal Council, which fights for the restoration of federal recognition for the Nisenan, Nevada County's indigenous people, since recognition was rescinded in 1964.

“Our culture is vulnerable to being lost,” Covert said.

The Nisenan once had a reservation on what is now Cement Hill. When the federal government stripped California's tribes of their Federal status following the 1958 California Rancheria Act, the Nisenan lost their land.

“My family and all the children were removed,” said Tribal Council Chairman Richard Johnson. “That's where my grandfather and great grandfather lived. That's our homeland.”

While all but four of California's previously terminated rancherias have regained their federally recognized status, the Nisenan are still fighting. Covert estimates the tribe has 80 recognized members, with another 70 pending confirmation.

Securing a nonprofit federal grant would preserve Nisenan culture and be a key step toward federal tribal recognition, Covert said. The grant would fund a cultural center and the recording of stories and songs from the elders and develop educational curriculum for classes, she said.

Summit Daily-3 March 2012

Nisenan Tribal Council members Shelly Covert and Chairman Richard Johnson
at the Firehouse No. 1 Museum in front of historic pictures of their ancestors.

The Nevada City Council unanimously supported the effort at a meeting in January and agreed to express that backing in the form of a reference letter.

A big hurdle in the Nisenan push for recognition has been the Tsi Akim Maidu people's local efforts in the last decade in and around Grass Valley and Nevada City. Many people have a misconception that both groups are the same, Covert said.

The Tsi Akim's efforts were largely successful. Their symbol can be seen on the Idaho Maryland Road and East Main Drive roundabout sculpture. Nevada City deeded a small plot of land at the bottom of Broad Street to the Tsi-Akim. Perhaps their most successful endeavor has been Indigenous Peoples Days, celebrated annually in Nevada City.

But Tsi Akim's Nevada County heritage is disputed.

“Basically the Tsi Akim's roots are in Taylorsville,” said Tanis Thorne, director of the Native American studies program at the University of California-Irvine.

“As far as we were able to ascertain, they have no traceable lineage to Nevada County,” Thorne said.

In December 2010, the Nevada County Historical Society board of directors unanimously rescinded their 2000 endorsement of the Plumas County Tsi Akim Maidu.

Subsequently, historic society President Dan Ketchum submitted a letter suggesting the Nevada County Board of Supervisors adopt a motion to rescind its own Tsi Akim endorsement for federal recognition and instead recognize the Nisenan as the “only indigenous tribe of Nevada County.”

The word “Maidu” means “people” in their own language, notes the Tsi Akim Maidu website.

The Maidu are a people whose homelands extend roughly from the southernmost reaches of the Cascade Mountain Range to the north, the crest of the Sierra Nevada to the east, the North Fork of the Consumes River to the south, and to the Sacramento River to the west, the Tsi Akim site reads.

The website indicates that anthropologists have divided the Maidu into three basic groups based upon language variations: Nisenan (foothill or southern Maidu), Konkow (valley or north western Maidu) and the mountain or north eastern Maidu.

Although all those groups are part of the linquistic Maiduan strain, Nevada City's Firehouse Museum No. 1 Director Wally Hagman said those groups were very different from one another.

“Those labels initially were laid out by white guys that didn't know,” Hagman said.

Local Tsi Akim efforts are seen as a push for federal recognition, Johnson said.

“If Tsi Akim get recognized here, we lose everything,” Johnson said, referring to a provision in the Federal recognition criteria prohibiting multiple Historic tribes become recognized in a region.

“We would lose our heritage, our culture, our history and identity,” he said.

Tsi Akim Chairman Don Ryberg declined to comment when reached by phone Friday.

Covert said the Nisenan continue to seek recognition. And she hopes to one day have the chief's drum returned.

“If the drum going missing was the catalyst to what's happening now, then it's a good thing,” Covert said. “If that hadn't happened, I might not have gotten involved with all the people who have helped us since.”

Will the One True Indigenous Tribe of Nevada County Please Stand Up?
By Don Baumgart
01 August 2011

WAS IT HISTORY OR JUST A SAVVY PUBLIC RELATIONS CAMPAIGN that made the Tsi-Akim Maidu the commonly acknowledged indigenous Natives in northern California's Nevada County?

For years the Tsi-Akim have been aggressively public about their place in that community. One of their most successful efforts has been to host Indigenous Peoples Days, originally created as a counterpoint to October's Columbus Day celebration. In 2009 a news release sent to local media called attention to a weekend of various Tsi-Akim Indigenous Peoples activities, including Native music and dance, a public salmon, elk and buffalo feast, storytelling and panel discussions, much of which was broadcast by a local FM station.

A cover story in the Sunday supplement of the local newspaper, The Union, was headlined, “We're Still Here and Tsi-Akim Maidu Tribe Celebrates Indigenous People's Days.” In that article, Tsi-Akim Chairman Don Ryberg talked about the disastrous effects of the California gold rush on American Indians. “The ones that weren't exterminated were run out of the county up to Plumas County.” He claimed the Tsi-Akim Maidu are the returned descendants of those peoples exiled during the frenzied hunt for gold.

This small plot of land was deeded to the Tsi-Akim, but the sign now honors all Maidu people.

The Tsi-Akim's ongoing efforts to become recognized in the community resulted in declarations by the Nevada County board of supervisors and the Nevada County Historical Society naming the Tsi-Akim as the indigenous tribe for the area. The Tsi-Akim also garnered a host of indigenous recognitions from neighboring boards of supervisors and from the local water management facility, the Nevada Irrigation District.

The Nisenan, who also trace their lineage back to the Maidu, have been much more low-key about their place in Nevada County. Tribe Chairman Richard Johnson said he doesn't need a PR campaign to show his people have deep roots there. “This is our country, and we have always been here, and we do not have to prove who we are. There's some hurt in it because we thought history was well known in this community,” Johnson added. “Apparently this becoming a senior community has brought in people whose history is not from here. As a result of that they don't know the old Indian folks, so they are seeking history but they have obtained it from the wrong individuals. That has hurt us.”

The Nevada County Historical Society now agrees with him. “The common perception that Nevada County is part of ‘Maidu' territory is inaccurate,” it said in its recent report, in which it revoked its endorsement of the Tsi-Akim Maidu as indigenous. “Don Ryberg and his immediate family,” the report continued, “are indeed Maidu. However, they are Mountain Maidu of the Taylorsville Rancheria of Plumas County.” The report makes a clear distinction between the Maidu from a neighboring county and the Nisenan of Nevada County.

“We wrote to the board of supervisors some years ago and explained that they had recognized the wrong tribe and that tribe is from Plumas County's Taylorsville Rancheria,” Johnson said. “We asked them to rescind their action. The response we got back was at this time they are not interested in recognizing two Tsi-Akim tribes. That just told us they did not really read the letter, nor did they even understand it.”

The result of the historical society's reversal is that many community organizations are left with public declarations naming the Maidu as the area's one indigenous tribe. A bark shelter at the entryway to Nevada City proclaims, “On this small piece of land will be a monument to honor the Maidu people and to encourage the healing of all peoples.”

“The deed to that small bit of land has been given to the Tsi-Akim,” Wallace Hagaman of the historical society said.

And other bits of land have been given to the Tsi-Akim over the years, adding to their presence in Nevada County. “A small piece of land in nearby Penn Valley was bequeathed to the historical society,” Hagaman said. “It was thought to be of historical value because it had grinding stones located on it. The land was turned over to the Tsi-Akim during the time when the society's original indigenous endorsement was still in force.”

Hagaman prompted the society's investigation into the indigenous status of the Tsi-Akim after he became curator of their museum in 2005 and started cataloging the facility's Native baskets. His investigation into their origins led him to the Nisenan Tribe and produced historical Nisenan photos placing them in the Nevada County Rancheria. He then went to the museum files and found numerous mentions of the Nisenan but none of the Tsi-Akim. “I felt that there was something a little bit strange about all this,” he says. “I wanted to have a recognition of the Nisenan by the museum, since we had so many of their artifacts.” He went before the society's board and in May of 2010 a committee was appointed to study the matter. The study led to a reversal of opinion on the Tsi-Akim claim to be indigenous to Nevada County.

“The Tsi-Akim are not a tribe,” Hagaman says. “The word Tsi-Akim did not exist until 1996.”

“Wally's right,” Ryberg says. “Tribe is a European word. It doesn't apply to the situation.”

“In each area you had tribes who had land,” Hagaman adds. “In earlier days, if the Plumas County Maidu had come here to what is now Nevada County they could have been killed for trespassing on Nisenan land.”

The confusion over which tribe is indigenous has rippled throughout the area. The newly dedicated Deer Creek Tribute Trail was designed to honor both the Chinese who lived and worked in Nevada County during the Gold Rush and the area's Native Americans. “At the time we wrote the grant to obtain funding for the trail we did not even know the Nisenan existed,” Joanne Hild, executive director of Sierra Streams, said. Funding for Nevada City's Tribute Trail came from the California Resources Agency to improve river parkways. “We have two pedestrian bridges on the trail and we decided to dedicate one to the Chinese and one to the Maidu. The second bridge is not going to be dedicated to the Tsi-Akim Maidu,” she adds, “it is going to be honoring all of our Native American ancestors.”

Members of Nisenan Tribe attended the dedication ceremony for the Tribute Trail. “We are going to be including the Nisenan and Tsi-Akim Maidu in whatever ways they want to be involved. We're thrilled the Nisenan are here, we're thrilled the Tsi-Akim—who weren't from here but are from the area—are participating in developing the trail's history,” Hild said. “We want our history to be told not by us but by those whose ancestors experienced it.”

Asked about interaction between him and Tsi-Akim chairman Don Ryberg, Johnson says there is none. “When we meet each other we talk and I try to be very sociable with him. I do support his Indian group. But, he has a very large group of non-Indian people and I feel that's extremely wrong. If he's representing an Indian group then it should be Indians, and it should be Indians from California.”

“Our ongoing vision is to get recognized by the federal government,” Johnson says. “We wish to have a cultural center here and we would like to build one that our people would be proud of. It would be to educate all people, and to educate our own people.” The land for such a center would come from the federal government, he says. “Each Indian tribe, as it gets recognized, receives what is called revenue sharing if it doesn't go into gaming. That's money contributed by all the gaming tribes. Each one of the recognized non-gaming tribes receives $1.1 million a year.”

The money would be most welcome, he says. “We need to start getting our people educated, and we have a very large contingent of elders who need elder care. We need to do that.”

Loss of the historical society's endorsement hasn't forced the Tsi-Akim into retirement from public view, according to spokesman Michael Ben Ortiz. This fall's Indigenous Peoples Days will be celebrated in neighboring Yuba County. Ryberg says that the former location, outside Nevada City, was just too small to accommodate the turnout. He insists that the relocation had nothing to do with the historical society's decision to remove its endorsement of the Tsi-Akim as indigenous.~~

Partnering again with the Firehouse No. 1 Museum, the Nevada City Rancheria Nisenan
entered a float in the 2011, 4th of July parade. The parade was held in Grass Valley this year
and had great attendance. The theme for the parade was "Active Liberty” and they addressed
the theme by honoring Native American Veterans. Everett “Weary” Smith, the Tribe's eldest
living member and WW2/Korea veteran, rode in the truck and Nisenan dancers danced and sang in his honor.

Deer Creek Tribute Trail Dedication in Nevada City
4 June 2011
by YubaNet

NEVADA CITY, CA - RIGHT ON TIME FOR TODAY'S NATIONAL TRAILS DAY, the latest addition to Nevada City's trail system was officially dedicated on Friday. The Deer Creek Tribute Trail is an eight-mile long trail system starting in Nevada City and meandering along Deer Creek and the Newtown Canal.

Celebrating the Dedication

Around noon, Sierra Fund CEO Izzy Martin welcomed everyone at the Chinese Bridge site, briefly introducing the agency and non-profit representatives involved with the project. Then Wally Hagaman, of the Chinese Quarter Society, reminded people of the history of Chinese immigrants, their contributions and tribulations during the Gold Rush. The Community Asian Theatre for the Sierra (CATS) rounded out his presentation with a dragon ceremony.

Mayor Robert Bergman recognized some of his fellow council members and other elected officials, including former District 1 Supervisor Peter Van Zant and NID Director Nick Wilcox. Joanne Hild, the Executive Director of the Sierra Stream Institute, formerly known as the Friends of Deer Creek, thanked the many donors to the project. Izzy Martin then thanked the investors who provided funding for the project via donations and bridge loans. Marty Coleman-Hunt, Executive Director of the Bear Yuba Land Trust (formerly the Nevada County Land Trust), talked about the work accomplished to secure the necessary easements from many landowners. Warren Knox invited everyone to join the Tribute Trail Association. Bill Haigh, BLM Motherlode Field Manager, briefly outlined his agency's role and concluded by saying, “Welcome to your public lands!”

Elizabeth Soderstrom, who came up with the original idea for the trail years ago when she and her husband Steve Rothert moved to their property on Deer Creek, was positively glowing as she explained her vision of the trail and the amenities. A place for people to meet, discover mutual interests and learn about their community's history and environment.

Tribute Trail DedicationTribute Trail DedicationTribute Trail DedicationTribute Trail Dedication

Elizabeth, Joanne, Warren, Marty and Izzy, representing their organizations, all “gave back” to the creek with blessings symbolizing the respect of the community for the creek. They were joined by the Nisenan's Shelly Covert of the Nevada City Rancheria Tribal Council.

California Resources Secretary John Laird thanked all the participants for their efforts to provide a culturally significant and ecological greenway along the Deer Creek corridor. The traditional ribbon cutting concluded the official part of the ceremony.

Read more about the Deer Creek watershed at Sierra Streams Institute Friends of Deer Creek webpage...>>

The Deer Creek Tribute Trail was created with funding from the California Natural Resources Agency California River Parkways - Proposition 50 grant program. Project partners include The Sierra Fund, Friends of Deer Creek, American Rivers, Nevada County Land Trust, the City of Nevada City, Nevada County, the Nisenan Tribe, the Tsi-Akim Maidu, the Bureau of Land Management, Greater Champion Neighborhood Association, the Chinese Quarter Society and Save Our Historic Canals. The trail was made possible through generous private land easements and investors.

Trail Access

From the Nimrod St. trailhead across from Pioneer Park, follow the trail along Little Deer Creek to the Stonehouse parking lot. Continue up Union Street and Commercial Street to the Chinese Monument before taking York Street south toward the Miners Foundry. From here, signs with the Tribute Trail logo will direct you along the rest of the trail which follows the Newtown Ditch and heads down to and across Deer Creek. Portions of the trail along the Deer Creek service road and the Newtown Canal, as well as portions of the trail through Nevada City (from the Stonehouse parking lot to Champion Road), meet ADA accessible trail standards.

For more pictures of the ceremony, visit YubaNet's Facebook Photo Gallery.

Tribe Stripped of Historical Recognition in Unusual Move
By Don Baumgart
March 23, 2011

Watertight baskets were used to cook by dropping heated rocks into the food, Nisenan Tribal Chairman Richard Johnson explained.

THE NISENAN TRIBE OF THE NEVADA CITY RANCHERIA CURRENTLY has 80 certified members and one of them, Richard Johnson, knows about the tribe's history.

“I'm probably the last Indian that was born on our reservation,” said Johnson, chairman of the Nisenan Tribe. “My grandparents were the last two Indians who lived on the reservation.” In 1958 California terminated all Indian reservations in the state. “We were a small reservation and we were one of the first to be picked off. We were promised a lot of things if my grandparents signed some papers, so they signed but the government never followed through on their promises. That's basically what happened to all the California tribes.”

Johnson was removed from the reservation and placed in a foster home in Oakland. “Fortunately, the family I was sent to live with recognized the importance of my homeland and brought me back to spend summers with my grandmother,” he said.

He's back now, permanently, and working to establish his tribe's historic claims.

In a decision that could have far-reaching effect, the Nevada County Historical Society has voided a ten-year-old declaration on which tribe is native to the area.

The Nisenan Tribe now holds the society's endorsement, formerly held by the Tsi-Akim Maidu Tribe.

After a three-month study the society's board of directors told Tsi-Akim Maidu Tribal Chairman Don Ryberg, “… the NCHS voted to rescind the 2000 Tsi-Akim endorsement.” Ryberg said he had not read the society's decision and could not offer a comment on the group's change of mind.

“Tsi-Akim is a manufactured name,” society member and museum curator Wallace Hagaman said. Ryberg told the society the Tsi-Akim name was adopted by members of the Taylorsville Rancheria in a neighboring county, to avoid the use of their “white man's name.”

In its final report the society wrote, “The claim that Nevada County is a part of the traditional homeland to the Tsi-Akim is clouded.” And, “Research revealed factual inaccuracies regarding the Tsi-Akim's claim to Nevada County as its traditional territory.” The committee found that claims made by the Tsi-Akim Maidu in 2000 were “…at variance with the facts,” according to Hagaman.

Hagaman was the person who first brought the matter to the society board's attention. A committee was formed to investigate the authenticity of the Maidu claims.

“They heard testimony from both sides and from experts on local Native Americans. The society's decision to remove its endorsement is a serious move,” he added. “You just don't do that, you stick to your guns. But, it had to be done.”

“It means that the local community is recognizing us as the original indigenous people,” Johnson said.

Recognition as indigenous, given to the Maidu Tribe by the Nevada County Board of supervisors, still stands. “We're not interested in recognizing another tribe,” Johnson said he was told by the supervisors.

The Maidu have been attempting for several years to get federal recognition. “Once a tribe obtains federal recognition then it can claim land and bring in business to the area,” Johnson said. “We're trying to get federal recognition for the Nisenan Tribe, and have been trying for quite a few years, but it is a very long process.”

Standing next to displays in the society's Nevada City museum, he talked of his tribe's struggle to secure recognition. Behind him old photographs of his tribe filled one wall. In a locked case watertight Nisenan baskets and arrowheads from the area are displayed.

“We have no funding, we have no resources. We're pretty well on the way but it's going to take years and years and years.” He added that the Historical Society's decision to switch recognition to the Nisenan Tribe will help with their efforts to get federal recognition—the next task to establishing historical claims for the tribe. ~~

4th Of July Parade 2010

The Nisenan Tribe, in partnership with the Firehouse No. 1 Museum, won 2nd place in the 4th of July, 2010, parade which was held in Nevada City this year. The turn out was awesome! Thank you to everyone who cheered us on that hot day!

Memories pass with elder's death
Nisenan Maidu woman to be buried at Cement Hill Indian burial ground
by Laura Brown
Staff Writer
21 February 2009
The Union Newspaper

MABEL “MAE” JOHNSON HOBBS, A NISENAN MAIDU ELDER who was born and raised on the former Nevada City Rancheria, has died - and with her passing a little known slice of Nevada County's history is gone.

This spring, her son Richard Johnson, the chairman of the small, quiet Nisenan Maidu tribe, will hold a ceremony at the Indian burial ground on Cement Hill.

Mrs. Hobbs' ashes will rest in the earth of her birthplace, where Maidu people have been buried for 500 to 1,000 years. The cemetery is located on land that once served as rancheria property.

“She wanted to be buried up on (her) daddy's place, which was the rancheria,” Johnson said. “She thought that was a real good idea.”

Johnson's grandparents, Pete and Margaret Johnson, were the last to live on the 75 acre Nevada City Rancheria. Mae was the eldest of three daughters.

Like many Indian families living on the rancheria at the time, the Johnsons knew extreme poverty, surviving on a meager income supported by the few logging, gold mining and horse care jobs Pete Johnson could find.

“He lived off probably less than a $100 a month for a family of five. It was basically one-room shacks, maybe an outhouse,” Richard Johnson said. “He never had an automobile. You walked to town.”

Mrs. Hobbs was born July 14, 133, at the rancheria or “Campoodie” as most knew it. the small land base was set aside for surviving local Indians through a presidential executive order in 1913.

By 1964, the rancheria was terminated as part of the Indian Reorganization Act.

In 1998, the tribe began to reorganize and is working on attaining nonprofit status to qualify for grants to pay for educational projects such as recording elder history. The tribe also is working to regain its federal recognition and become “unterminated.”

About 30 members of the tribe have confirmed ties back to the original Nevada City Rancheria, Johnson said.

Escaping roots, finding them

Richard Johnson barely knew his mother as a boy. By the time he was 18 months old, he was living in a foster home.

“My mother got pregnant at a very young age,” he explained. Mae was 15 when Richard was born.

After giving birth to a second son, Bob, she left Nevada City for Sacramento and never looked back.

“She had it really tough when she was young. I guess it was best for her to leave,” her eldest son said.

Like many of her generation, Mrs. Hobbs wanted to escape her Indian identity because of the public ridicule and stereotypes associated with her heritage at the time.

“She did not like being known as an Indian. She lingered on with that bad taste and feeling longer that I did,” said Johnson, who became interested in his own family history only a decade ago after becoming tribal chairman.

“The children of the Johnson family did not want to have anything to do with Indian. they wanted to blend into society,” he said.

As he grew up, Johnson would see his mother occasionally during holidays such as Christmas.

“My Mom was a very quiet woman. She did not talk much,” he said.

Mrs. Hobbs married several times, worked and retired from Sutter General Hospital in Sacramento where she met her husband, Jim Hobbs of Loomis. It is there she lived out the remainder of her days. She died February 11, 2009 at Roseville Sutter Hospital.

Mrs. Hobbs was one of about a dozen Maidu elder's with roots in the rancheria.

“They're in their 80's. They're not going to be around much longer,” Johnson Said.

Mrs. Hobbs is survived by her husband Jim; sister Harriet; sons Richard Johnson, Bob Johnson and Cash Gimbicki; grandchildren, Martin and wife Julie, Nina and husband Ron, and Bobby J. (Rob); two great-grandchildren and many nieces, nephews, and cousins. ~~

The newly renovated Nisenan Indian collection has been housed at the Firehouse No. 1 Museum since 1949. Tribal heirlooms and artifacts can be seen at the museum Tuesday – Sunday, 1:00pm – 4:pm. (Closed on Monday). The museum is supported by donation so please feel free to be generous!

Stone Bowl

Nisenan artifacts are making their way “home” from as far as Oregon! Recently, a Stone Bowl made its way back to Nevada City. The bowl was originally the property of the Campoodie on Cement Hill but was given away as a graduation gift. Some 85 years later it is now back in the hands of the Tribe from whom it was originally created. If you have a Nisenan artifact that you would like to donate to the Tribe, or have a story about the Indians of the Campoodie, contact Shelly Covert, Tribal Secretary.

The Tribe has created a non-profit and is awaiting 501(c)3 status. It is hoped that the non-profit will become an integral part of education and culture sharing throughout Nevada County.

The Tribe was invited to provide an information booth at the California Historic Preservation Conference which was held in Nevada City, California. Many new relationships were forged during the four day conference. Thank you to those who made our experience at the conference so productive.

The traditional Spring Dance was held at the historic Enos Ranch property. Many of the dances performed in this celebration have been danced by our people for centuries. Both spring and fall dance celebrations are held every year.

Four Elders

The Elder documentation project got underway at the beginning of the year. Four Elders have been documented thus far; Carmel Burrows, 89, Weary Smith, 82, Sam Starkey, 80 and Rose Enos, 75. We hope to have their interviews available online in the near future.