Photographs: Past & Present of the Nevada City Rancheria Nisenan

Photos: Past & Present


Odd Fellows Hall,
Nevada City, California
24 April 2010

The California Heritage: Indigenous Research Project (CHIRP) and its founder, Judith Lowry, hosted a lovely gala for the re-opening of the Firehouse No. 1 Museum. The museum renovations were also funded by CHIRP. The event was well attended. Speakers Sheri Tatsh and Tanis Thorne gave educational talks about the Nisenan of Nevada County. Mountain Maidu speakers Dugan Aguilar and Susan Campbell shared insights into culture and photography.

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Historical Images of the Nisenan Families of
the Nevada City Rancheria, circa early 1900's

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Richard Childs, one of the last full blood Nisenan Indians, is pictured here creating a Flicker Band. Polly Hamburg, Josey Cully, & Maggie Peters Rose Kelly Enos (left) granddaughter of 'Chief' Louis Kelly on the Rancheria. 'Chief' Louis Kelly signed a contract with Nevada City to care take and run the Nevada City dump. He was a well known figure in Nevada County. The China tea set sits in stark contrast with its surroundings exemplifying the changing lifestyle of Nevada City's native people 'Chief' Louis Kelly (left), Lewis 'Lew' Rose, & son Lester Kelly (seated). Louis Kelly told stories that were taught to him by Lew Rose. The men had a very close relationship. Lester Kelly & Lew Rose's son, 'Dutch' Rose, carried on those Tribal bonds in their adulthoods. Today, those family ties are being brought forward through the generations. One of the many Roundhouses that once stood on the Nevada City Rancheria. The Roundhouse was the hub of ceremony. The last Roundhouse was moved off the Campoodie in the early 1900s and reassembled on what was Lizzie Enos' property. It was then used in part to construct a larger Roundhouse in Auburn. 'Chief Kelly's granddaughter, Rose Kelly Enos, continues to hold ceremonial dances upon that land today. Indian Baseball Team standing in front of the last Roundhouse to stand on the Rancheria. Lew Rose's son, Frances 'Dutch' Rose, (right) took responsibility of the Tribe after Louis Kelly's death. Dutch was a peace keeper, problem solver and kept track of the different families and their wellbeing. It was only after the loss of this leader in 1998 that the Tribe felt it necessary to begin a new governing cycle revolving around a Tribal Council. Descendants of the original people adapting to life in a new world. They are wearing modern clothing and driving automobiles. But, life for the Nisenan would never be the same. The Nisenan were part of a fragile ecosystem. Everything was provided in nature; food, clothing, shelter, everything. With the discovery of gold and the ensuing gold rush of 1849, that ecosystem was changed forever. Just as the land continues to recover from hydraulic mining, so are the Nisenan recovering from the long term effects of attempted assimilation. Peter & Margaret Johnson were the only Tribal members to become 'distributees' of Tribal land under the Termination Act. The United States government failed on its part, terminating the Rancheria illegally. Margaret Johnson died before she would ever see a penny of promised money. Mrs. Enos' Acorn Mash Lew Rose was wrongfully convicted in the killing of a Chinese man near Bridgeport on the South Yuba River in 1881. His trial was held in Nevada City where he was sentenced to serve life in Folsom Prison. He did 9 years time before being given a full pardon in 1890. Citizens of Nevada & Yuba Counties, including the Judge that originally sentenced him, petitioned for his release based on his upstanding character. Carol Hall, who is now a Tribal Elder, was born on the Rancheria. She is pictured here with her brother Darrell. Carol's grandfather was from Waukaudok and danced with 'Chief' Kelly and the other old timers of the Rancheria. Lester Kelly (Louis Kelly's only child) & wife Carrie. Richard Johnson, grandson of Peter and Margaret Johnson, pictured here as a baby on the Rancheria in the late 1940's. Richard currently sits as the Chairman of the Nevada City Rancheria Tribal Council.

The land upon which the Rancheria was created was the property of the Tribe's Chief, Charley Cully. In 1887, Cully, with the help of the Native Sons and Daughters of the Golden West and other concerned Nevada County citizens, obtained a land allotment protecting 75 acres of ancient Tribal land for the members of the Tribe. The Nevada City Rancheria was created by executive order from President Woodrow Wilson in 1913 when upon Cully's death, the land was converted into a federally recognized entity; the Nevada City Rancheria.

In 1964 when the United States Congress illegally terminated the California Rancherias, Nevada City Rancheria was one of them. Upon termination and loss of the land, the Tribe also lost rights to its ancient burning site and burial grounds. A group of concerned citizens, including Archeologist, Donald Storm, saw to it that the burial grounds were protected. The Nevada City Rancheria Burial Grounds is now under the care of the Nevada County Cemetery District.

The families of the Rancheria can tie their history back to land that in 1851 became Nevada County. They can document their ancestry from the Bureau of Indian Affairs, genealogy, County histories, newspaper articles and the United States Government. Their oral histories are just as rich and are currently being documented for posterity's sake.