Scoop: Nisenan win key backing as county native Indians

Nisenan museum exhibit in Nevada City
The common perception that Nevada County is part of the traditional homeland to the Tsi-Akim Maidu is “clouded,” a new investigation of the historical society has concluded.

As a result, the county Historical Society’s board recently voted unanimously to rescind a more than 10-year-old endorsement of the Tsi-Akim Maidu and is acknowledging that the Nisenan tribe of the Nevada City Rancheria are native Indians of Nevada County.

The Historical Society also noted that its 2000 endorsement of the Tsi-Akim was used to gain leverage for similar resolutions, including one from the county supervisors. The supervisor’s ensorsement — described as “weighty” by the Nisenan — still stands for now.

“The decision was important to the Nisenan of the Nevada City Rancheria, in efforts to preserve its heritage and autonomy,” according to the group.

I spoke to Shelly Covert, one of five governing members of the Tribal Council. I also spoke with Historical Society President Daniel Ketcham and reviewed a copy of the report, which is here: NCHS.

Tsi-Akim Maidu Tribal Chairman Don Ryberg disagreed with the historical society’s decision. “Their research isn’t what it should be as far as I’m concerned,” he told me in an interview.

He also downplayed its importance. “The tribe is strong right now and getting stronger, working in this community and others also,” he said.

The Historical Society stood by its findings. “Our objective is education,” Ketcham said.

For years, the Nisenan have argued that the indigenous people of Nevada County are incorrectly labeled as Maidu instead of Nisenan.

Though the label Maidu is still used widely in North America academia, Maidu is actually a gross oversimplification of a very complex division of smaller groups, the Nisenan have argued.

It its investigation, the county Historical Society agreed, writing, “The common perception that Nevada County is part of ‘Maidu’ territory is inaccurate. . . In fact, the term ‘Maidu’ refers to a very large and diverse linguistic unit.”

After interviewing representatives from both groups, it concluded: “The Tsi-Akim produced no verifiable evidence or documentation that any of its members can trace their genealogical roots to historic Nevada County.

“Without such evidence, the NCHS cannot support the contention that Nevada County is the Tsi-Akim’s (or the Taylorsville Rancheria’s) traditional territory. The claim that their ancestors are buried in historic Nevada County remains unsupported.”

In his discussion with the Historical Society committee last August, Ryberg stated that the “Tsi-Akim” name was assumed by members of the Taylorsville Rancheria of Plumas County to avoid use of their “white man’s name.”

Ryberg further stated that membership in his tribe was open to anyone in 13 surrounding counties who were acceptable to the Tribal Council, including “non-Indians,” the report said.

The historical society made it clear that it “did not investigate, nor reach any conclusion, as to the merits of either group’s quest for federal recognition.”

“It is understandable why the NCHS Board of Directors gave its original endorsement,” the report said. “Recollections of those present in 2000 suggest that the Board believed Don Ryberg had a direct genealogical connection to other, well-known Indians of Nevada City, like Louis Kelly.”

It added: “The board did not critically examine the resolution, but rather adopted it as a gesture of good will. In retrospect, this committee now sees that was a mistake.”

A 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.

“The Nisenan Indians are the native Indians of Nevada County, having lived here long before the arrival of European settlers,” according to the museum’s website. “While the Nevada City Rancheria (reservation) no longer exists, the Nisenan people still live here. The tribe continues to be active in the community as they have for the past 200 years. They are well represented at the museum.”

Author: jeffpelline

Jeff Pelline is a veteran editor and award-winning journalist - in print and online. He is publisher of Sierra FoodWineArt magazine and its website Jeff covered business and technology for The San Francisco Chronicle for 12 years, and he was a founding editor and Editor of CNET News for eight years, among other positions. Jeff has a bachelor's degree from UC Berkeley and a master's from Northwestern University. His hobbies include sailing, swimming, and trout fishing in the Sierra.

71 thoughts on “Scoop: Nisenan win key backing as county native Indians”

  1. I don’t know much local indigenous culture and history but would love to learn. It sounds like the term Maidu is kind of like the Southwest Pueblo or the Eastern Iroquois? Is it possible both Tsi-Akim and Nisenan participated in living with what we now call Nevada County?

  2. Douglas,

    This a link to the “about us” page on the Chape de website.

    Chapa de is a state health program for California’s tribal peoples. It is not affiliated with any one tribe. It is not a political entity.
    Think “Medicare” for Indians.

    Anyone can use the clinic’s services, but only documented Indian people receive those services for free or at reduced cost.

  3. Jeff,

    I forget how long ago it was that I went to the Union to try and get them to examine this issue.
    I do not know why the Union has stonewalled this story for so many years.
    By supporting the Tsi-Akim, without first thoroughly investigating this group, the Union may be responsible for much of the damage done to the Nisenan and the community at large, which has occurred over the last decade.

    It will be interesting to see how the Union responds to this new information.

    Thanks, Jeff, for being a real reporter.

  4. I called Daniel Ketcham last night, and he called me right back. There’s a real thirst in this community for news gathering and “educating” to use Daniel’s words. People are very open and approachable. There just has to be a desire and passion on the other end. It starts at the top. Meanwhile, Bee readers are getting the “scoop” via their newly formed blogging network.

  5. Ben-
    Ethnologists believe that the Mt Maidu (Tsi-Akim) and the Nisenan cultures have been physically separated by at least 1,000 years. Their customs and languages are very distinct. Though both dialects are based on the Penutian language family, interpreters were needed to communicate between the tribes.

    Arguments have been made that Nisenan are a “subset” of the Mt Maidu because of the common language association. That would be like Mexico being a subset of Italy because their languages have a Latin root.

    I applaud the Tsi-Akim for their efforts at recognition (they should be recognized as a tribe), but it should not be done at the expense of the Nisenan and their cultural identity within the Yuba, Bear or American River watersheds.

    1. Thanks RC,
      It seems to me the argument stems from possible government retributions. If this is true once again the US government is sticking it to the original settlers of this area. Have the two nations/ tribes/ bands considered coming together not on historical basis but on pooling retributions. This of course is assuming gov retributions are the fueling point of the dispute. Possibly both the Tsi-Akim and Nisenan have the truth and facts to back up their side of the argument and are both correct.

      Again that’s whole lot of assuming on my part and we know what that does to a person.

      1. Ben-
        Beyond the anthropological aspects of the question anything I might add would be an assumption. I do have strong assumptions!

  6. Giving more than academic importance to genealogical roots is simply racist. Genes may give us special characteristics but they don’t make us special based on lineage. There is no good to that kind of thinking.

    We all would profit from gaining the closeness to the earth that Native Americans are thought now to have had then. Closeness to the earth is not race dependent.

    I applaud that “Ryberg further stated that membership in his tribe was open to anyone in 13 surrounding counties who were acceptable to the Tribal Council, including “non-Indians””

    1. The focal point here when dealing with terminated California Rancherias, which both Nevada City Rancheria and Taylorsville Rancheria are, is each Rancheria’s prior government-to-government relation with the United States. The only chance of regaining recognition of a previously recognized California Rancheria is to prove to the United States that it was wrongfully terminated.

      With this in mind, it is the United States government who decided long ago the rules and guidelines for entry into these government-to-government relationships. Each government-to-government relationship was built upon genealogies of the indigenous peoples of a said Rancheria and its l a n d b a s e as well as the Tribe’s governing entities.

      It is these same Tribal governments that will be re-recognized. Some Tribes have reformed themselves so the players may have changed over the years, but one must still prove they descend from the original membership of said Rancheria. Failing to meet the government’s extremely strict criteria will only doom ones chances at regaining federally recognized status with the United States.

      I would assume anyone could create a “Tribe” and seek federal recognition with a membership of their own choosing. But, do not doubt for one moment that the United States government has the final and only word on with whom it will treat as a sovereign nation.

      1. That’s interesting. I think I am hearing you say that this is not a simple disagreement between rival tribes or philosophies but a high stakes legal struggle involving specific criteria.

        I used to own a portion of the Rancheria that was on Cement Hill Road. It might have reverted back to the government and then into the private hands I purchased it from after it was “abandoned.”

  7. Mr. Zaller,

    Mr. Ryberg’ largess in handing out tribal membership to non-Nisenan and non-Indians is a way of handing over Nisenan homelands to outsiders.
    It is politically motivated by the Tsi-Akim’s desire to control what rightfully belongs to the Nisenan.
    No tribe has attempted this on Tsi-Akim homelands in Plumas County and no self-respecting tribe would.
    I find in appalling that a century and a half after being practically wiped off the earth, the Nisenan once again face hostile forces on their own homelands.
    I wish Hippies and New-agers would stay out of tribal affairs.
    I further believe an audit of the Tsi-Akim group is called for.

    1. I’ve heard you make the same type of inference before, relying on information you might have special access to. I don’t know.

      I suspect that “ownership”- if you even believe in such thing- of this land probably changed “hands” many times through history and might well continue to. What really matters is not what we own or are owed or what happened to our ancestors, but what we do now.

  8. Hi again GregZaller,

    I believe the original purchasing party of the Rancheria was the Wood family. They bought the Rancheria when it was terminated in 1964. That particular piece of land was originally owned by our headman, Charley Cully. The land was then put into trust status for our Tribe of Nisenan when President Woodrow Wilson gave his executive order making the land a federally recognized Rancheria.

    The land’s occupation pre-dates non-native settlement and is still sometimes referred to as the “stronghold” among the people. That is really awesome that you owned it for a time. It’s quite special and holds great symbolic importance for us, as well.

    1. Hello Shelly,

      It really is beautiful land and I miss being there. My wife and I just needed to make a change. I found a grinding rocks in wonderful spots over looking the city. We named the road we put in Rancheria Court in its honor.

      I bought it from a Robert Gates. I think he told me a different story about how he came to own it. I think he also said it was the last reservation created and the first to be extinguished, as I recall now.

  9. Mr. Zaller,

    What is important is the history, accurate and truthful.
    The Nisenan are the indigenous people of Nevada County.
    This is, and has been, a matter of historical record in this county.
    Somewhere along the line, the history became lost.
    Again, no assignment of blame here.
    However, the record must be set straight.
    The Nevada City Rancheria was never abandoned.
    To suggest that these two distinct tribes divide what belongs, by right of heritage, to the Nisenan, would be theft for the sake of conciliation.
    Comfort for those who made assumptions and mistakes.
    The Nisenan deserve more respect than that.
    Sorry if all of this bursts some bubbles around here, but truth matters more than illusion.
    Oh, and sorry about the Hippie remark from before.
    I’m sort of an old hippie myself.
    I just meant that these are the folks who, in spite of good intentions, sometimes do more harm than good.
    And you are right, there is nothing simple about today’s Indian affairs.

  10. Hi Judith, Thank you for explaining this to me.

    I recognize that this topic would be deeply personal for you and that the need for healing may still remain. If I were alive back then I would have stood with those who were here first.


  11. Hello Michael. All of California’s Rancherias were terminated by congress through the Termination Act which began in 1958. All but 4 remain terminated; the rest have been unterminated through litigation or legislation.

    Most, if not all, of the Rancherias were terminated illegally thus the means to get “unterminated” through the above stated venues.

    Actually, our Rancheria on Cement Hill was one of the last to be terminated due to the long list of mining claims and suits (which began in the late 1800’s) against the title of the property. Termination began in ’58 but was not completed, with the land auctioned off, in ’64.

    All but two other California Rancherias had their land purchased by the United States government for homeless Indians. However, our Rancheria on Cement Hill was created from our own Tribal land and specifically for our Foothill Nisenan Indians who lived on the Yuba River and Bear River watersheds.

  12. Greg,

    The concept of “healing” the Maidu has been one of the mantras around here in the past couple of years.
    KVMR released a CD by Estrella Acosta on the Tsi-Akim.
    Ms. Acosta interviewed me for her program. I gave her the information about the Nisenan. She ignored it. In her statement to the Union, she said she found Don Ryberg, “more compelling”, so she centered her program around that tribe.
    I reviewed the Acosta radio program “Blood, Gold and Medicine; Healing in Maidu Country” and found it lacking in substance, authenticity or quality.
    Ms. Acosta created a textbook example of how not to make a documentary on Native people, from the inappropriate use of Plains style flute music and drums to the hackneyed rhetoric of “white guilt” and “healing”. All the while doing great disservice to the Nisenan, whom she chose to ignore.
    When Ms. Acosta asked to record me, I refused because I realized that she would only take my story and my words to plug into her Tsi-Akim thesis.
    It was I who told her about Alma Baker and the Nisenan weavers who used to have to request permission to enter the Baker’s “homesteaded” property in order to gain access to the gathering beds they had cultivated for generations before the coming of the Anglos. Alma told me that story and made mention of gift baskets the Indians women had made and given to her and her sister. I had always hoped she would allow the Nisenan a glimpse of these precious artifacts, so they could interpret the designs and maybe make some photos, that’s all. Ms. Acosta appropriated and altered that story to strengthen her contention that the Tsi-Akim are the Indigenous People of the Foothills.
    KVMR committed a serious blunder in supporting and airing the program. They will have to retract it at some point, but I am not holding my breath for them to do the right thing.
    That goes “Dreamwalk”, a propaganda vehicle for the Tsi-Akim.
    Meanwhile, Nevada County is neck deep in commitments to the Tsi-Akim Corporation.
    Financial holdings, careers and reputations may suffer when a full review reveals those who are most heavily involved and they are called to account.
    You see, Greg, the Nisenan of the Nevada City Rancheria are in good space, continuing their own healing and doing just fine.
    It’s Nevada County itself, that I am concerned about.

    1. Judging from what you say, I can see that the good spirit of the Nisenan is still alive and well in your grieving heart and still has a right to an acknowledgement of the truth.

      My impression, after a very short conversation with Gates, was that the Rancheria was not abandoned, as you say. It left me with a sick feeling about it.

      I agree that it is really the “Gold Country” that is in need of healing. If I can be a help in your long quest, please let me know.

  13. There is abundant evidence, largely ignored by early twentieth century ethnologists (e.g., Kroeber and Dixon), that there was a large amount of migration among the Indians of the Sierras during the nineteenth century as the result of introduced disease and persecution by the invaders. Probate records of decedents in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries commonly show that Indian ancestors came from a different place or even a different tribe. As a consequence, several current Maidu or Nisenan groups can legitimately and conclusively claim to include individuals that descended from Nevada City ancestors, including the Tsi Akim. In fact, as the result of the radiation of kinship back through the generations, it is possible that the majority of the individuals in every current Maidu or Nisenan group could claim to have at least one ancestor apiece from the vicinity of Nevada City. As a result of this, what we would conclude about homelands from this is that if a homeland is defined as the area under the control of a group before the arrival of Europeans and if part of that group is later forced to migrate as a unit to another area, the migrating group would still have a claim to the original homeland.

    1. From what you say then, Dr. Manlove, that because the Nisenan were the only tribe in control of the Nevada County area before the Europeans, they would have the only claim to this area as homeland.

    2. So, prior to the white man, Nisenan here, Maidu there.

      White man shows up, everybody moves around, including some Maidu to Nevada City, where young Maidu and Nisenan mix it up, as young folks do.

      Their offspring move back to Maidu homelands, and then claim mixed blood, come back to Nevada City, and claim turf.

      Why are they claiming turf as Maidu, and not as Nisenan Maidu? Are they ashamed of the Nisenan part? Or they just want the cash to go North?

      1. BTW, took courses from Washburn and Heizer and Dundes, etc., and spent many hours in the Kroeber Museum, unfortunately now renamed for Big Bucks Hearst. Also studied under John Collier, Jr. at SF State for graduate studies in Visual Anthropolgy, the field he founded.

  14. Wow! I thank you, too, Jeff for having this thread. KVMR could improve itself by losing ‘Dreamwalk’ and off subject but George Rebane, too. To Shelly and Judith, keep up the good fight. I will look forward to (hopefully) hearing of your progress forward in our local media.

  15. Thanks Greg,

    I don’t feel grief so much as concern.
    And don’t feel sick about anything, you did nothing wrong.
    It is disappointing to see white guilt exploited by Indian people.
    Embarrassing, really.
    I like to think that after 911, we are all Indians now.
    We are all in this together.
    We must work it out together.
    The rhetoric of guilt is tired and worn out.
    Many Indian People today are educated, empowered and part of a higher discourse.
    They are better able to articulate their issues than to resort to the manipulative, old “Pity-Seek-Um” song and dance.
    The history of the Nisenan does have harsh many realities, but the story as it unfolds into the 21st century is hopeful and inspiring.

  16. Dr. Manlove,

    You carry water for the Tsi-Akim Corporation.
    You attempted to contact and meet with me last year when I began to bring the story of the Nisenan forward.
    I was, and remain, suspicious of your credentials and your motives.
    You do not know the Nisenan.
    You have never met with them.
    Your information seems to come only from the self-serving Tsi-Akim, who are neither linguistically related or consanguineous with the Nisenan Peoples of Nevada County.
    Therefore, I consider you a hack, and a mignon of the Taylorsville Rancheria of Plumas County.
    You are in over your head here.
    A fact that will become more apparent to you as time passes.

  17. Judith:

    I’ve refrained from commenting in this thread up until now because — since we have lived in this area only three years — we’re trying to get up-to-speed on native issues and we want badly to support all the native groups, whom we know have been horrendously treated and continue to be poorly appreciated.

    I called this discussion thread to Bob Manlove’s attention and encouraged him to comment here because I know him and know that he has spent his professional life — he’s a Berkeley anthropologist — studying and supporting the native peoples of California.

    I certainly don’t carry water for anyone, and I don’t believe he does either.

    It’s painful for me to hear you use extremely offensive words like “hack” to a man whose motives were basically kind and meant to give support to all groups.

    Couldn’t you challenge and disagree with his beliefs without accusing him of bad faith and dishonesty?

    Why make it so personal?

  18. Don,

    You are right, maybe I was too harsh.
    My history with Robert Manlove differs from yours.
    He did write an article for News from Native California about the Tsi-Akim and their quest for recognition.
    It was one-sided.
    It did not discuss the nature of their political activities in Nisenan homelands or the relationship they have with the Nevada City Rancheria.
    I see him, to use a better word, as perhaps naive.
    I’ll give him this, I want to hear from him after he reviews the facts.
    If he is worth the academic salt you say he is, let him take a look at the big picture here, and then see what he has to say.
    By the way Mr. Pelton, with all due respect, there has been plenty of “pain” to go around.
    It needs to stop.

  19. Having a member or two who may or may not descend from Nevada City Nisenan does not make an entire Tribe “indigenous” to this area.

    Just because I have Miwuk blood does not mean that I can move back to my great-grandmother’s homeland and start a Tribe there and call ourselves the “indigenous or historic” Tribe of that place.

  20. I just hate to see tribal people arguing like this. Clearly both groups endured/survived the most horrific genocide and translocation efforts. So few survived. They should both be recognized, compensated & cherished.

    As someone who has lived and “owned” many places, the idea of owning a place or taking sole claim on a place seems rather surreal. We all own it and none of us own it. I think we all deserve recognition, and especially those who have survived such horrors. I have so appreciated Don Ryberg’s inclusiveness of all the tribes & peoples (including the race that nearly wiped them out), and his focus on the need to heal this dreadful past and put this behind us. It sorrows me to read this comment “Mr. Ryberg’ largess in handing out tribal membership to non-Nisenan and non-Indians is a way of handing over Nisenan homelands to outsiders.” As far as I can see, the Nisenan homelands aren’t here anymore, and they weren’t handed over, they were taken.

  21. Lisa,

    To suggest that this is merely two tribes “arguing” is simplistic and somewhat racially condescending.
    Actually the phrase “Indian Wars” is a cliche in the culture.
    Do you even know about Tilley Hardwick?
    Do you know what a Tribal Federal Trust relationship is?
    Do you know what the word Family means?
    You are an outsider and you need to educate yourself before you offer an opinion.
    I am sure Grass Valley would love to be governed by the Nevada City Council.
    Get real.

  22. Lisa,

    The Nisenan homelands are still here. They are just occupied by non-native people who are ignorant to the local indigenous people who lived there for centuries. There is a spiritual and emotional tie to the land where their ancestors lived. Not just their ancestors but I know of one person who was born on the Nevada City Rancheria. He is the chairman of the Nisenan Tribe of Nevada City. Perhaps there is a need of some education about the Nisenan and Native peoples in general. A good place to start is the Firehouse No. 1 Museum on Main St., Nevada City. Also the name Oustemah (Nisenan) is written in cement, literally. If you stand in front of the OddFellows building on Broad St and look down, you will see, in brass, the building was dedicated to the Oustemah. It is also written on the back side of the building.

    I met Shelly and others of the Nisenan of Nevada City while working on the renovation of the museum and they are very true and honest people who do not play-up the stereotypical Indian to gain support. They are normal people who would like to have their history and heritage acknowledged by their own community in which they live now and in the past. All they want is the TRUTH, and I feel honored to have gotten to know them.

  23. We are all of one human ancestry. Every virtue of character is within every person’s potential. Should a person choose to identify themselves with one clan or tribe then this choice can bring them the wisdom, love, and power of the elders of that tradition. We are all equal in our potential, equal in our power, and equally challenged to deal with the circumstances that will confront us. There is no special genetic disposition to being of one tribe or ethnic group or another, only 1000 different ways to be a human being. The challenge is to find one that fits me that I can claim on merit, not ancestry.

    1. Hi Gordon,

      I said something similar earlier but I think I learned some more about it as the discussion progressed. What you say is true but it may not address the really burning concerns. One concern I heard in the discussions was from ancestors in heart and body of the Nisenan tribe. They want the record of their heritage to be true. I think they feel that there have been illegitimate and even self serving claims made that need to be set straight. If I was in their shoes, I would feel the same way.


  24. Gordon,
    If you go back far enough, we all came from one area on this earth. This discussion is a little more recent than that. Knowing the Nisenan does not make me a member of their tribe, nor can I claim to be a member. “Merit” can not make me Nisenan or any other Native American. I can not change my ancestry to be whatever I want it to be. Even though I can “identify” with their plight, I am still not Nisenan.

  25. Gordon Baker,

    I read the Union story about the Tibetan Monks’ Sunday ceremony at Wolf Creek.
    I looked up the Wolf Creek Alliance and saw your name on the sterring committee, Don Pelton’s too.
    Now I understand why you support the claim of the Don Ryberg that Nevada County is Tsi-Akim traditional homelands, a patently false assertion.
    You should know that the name Ha-Lee-Ya-Nim Se-Wim (my late father’s spelling) is a Mountain Maidu term.
    I am Mountian Maidu, and a friend to the underdog Nisenan.
    You are using a language foreign to the indigenous people of Nevada County.
    You might think about doing some research and renaming that creek in the Nisenan language.
    I am certain your group never intended to harm Indian People, but by your ignorance of the true history and your support of the Tsi-Akim Corporation, you are aiding and abetting the continued annihilation of Nisenan culture.
    Can you live with that?

  26. Why isn’t The Union writing about the Historical Society’s decision about the Tsi-Akim and Nisenan? It has generated lots of traffic and 40 comments.

  27. What I could surmise from reading all the posts in this very interesting clearly emotionally charged blog is that there is no definitive or consensus view about how the modern linage of Native Americans is directly connected with a true ancestral people who called modern day Nevada County their home. The conflict arises out of an incomplete anthropological records. The issue of who has a claim to any reparation is a matter of concern for all of us who currently live in the Nevada County. If someone believes their ancestral heritage is being dismissed, hijacked, or distorted, I will do my best to inform myself of what these claims are and base my decisions on the evidence presented. hat I will not allow to happen is my own current day stake-hold in the environmental protection as well as my peaceful enjoyment of the natural water course resources, primarily in the Wolf Creek watershed where I live and work, to be dismissed, hijacked, or distorted by the political ambitions of any other group that seek to use me, or the organizations I belong to for means and ends other than the self-evident intention of protecting the creek and preserving its natural beauty and environmental integrity. My question is, what can we do together to heal the damage done to the the creek by development encroachment the the lingering damage of the legacy mining? As the name implies, I belong to a Community Alliance, which means, bringing stakeholders together to sit at the table and discuss options in the name of an environmental benefit.

  28. “there is no definitive or consensus view about how the modern linage of Native Americans is directly connected with a true ancestral people who called modern day Nevada County their home.”

    Gordon, you are quite incorrect here.

    “. . . I will not allow to happen is my own current day stake-hold in the environmental protection as well as my peaceful enjoyment of the natural water course resources, primarily in the Wolf Creek watershed where I live and work, to be dismissed, hijacked, or distorted by the political ambitions of any other group that seek to use me, or the organizations .”

    Gordon, too late.
    You and the WCA are in very deep.
    And what I won’t have, is the very theatrical use of my ancestral Mountain Maidu language to be exploited on Nisenan homelands for the purpose of burnishing the reputation of your environmental group and lend luster to your cause.

  29. Jeff,

    The Union has consistently refused to meet with the Nisenan or any of their supporters.
    The Union is entrenched in its support of the Taylorsville, Tsi-Akim Corporation.
    I don’t know who holds influence over the Union, maybe you do.

    1. You should email this blog post to the editor/publisher as an “FYI”! It’s community news and obviously has generated a lot of discussion. Heck, if The Union did more of this, I’d be put out of business.

  30. Jeff,

    The Union won’t listen to me.
    I have tried, in vain, many times over the years.
    Thank you for providing this space for news.
    Any “scoops” that come my way, I will send directly to you and your blog.

  31. The extent of my knowledge about the history and ethnology of the Native Americas in Nevada County comes directly from reading this blog. To the extent that I am incorrect I sight Mr. Manlove… “as a result of the radiation of kinship back through the generations, it is possible that the majority of the individuals in every current Maidu or Nisenan group could claim to have at least one ancestor apiece from the vicinity of Nevada City.” Is this not the accepted fact by all parties?

  32. “The history of the Nisenan does have many harsh realities, but the story as it unfolds into the 21st century is hopeful and inspiring.

    Dear Judith,

    In some ways this discussion is rightly confusing. I wish I could understand more. It seems like we need to embrace the legacy you gallantly defend more than you need to have it.

    Thank you.


  33. This conversation is very interesting and thanks again Jeff for providing a venue to have it aired. When is the Nisenan museum open? I would hope that their attendance figures will increase. I believe that the Historical Society’s proclamation will have more residents seeking information on this subject. The belief that Tsi Akim was the local tribe is prevalent because they said so and they’ve been more diligent in getting their message out. I would love for KVMR and other media outlets to contact you, Judith and give you or a representative the opportunity to tell your story. I will also ask WCCA for an opportunity. Thank you.

    1. Jon, the museum is part of the Nevada County Historical Society’s network and is the Firehouse No.1 Museum located at 215 Main St. in lovely downtown Nevada City.
      The museum is closed all winter but will re-open again in May. I am the Nisenan coordinator for the museum. We are very proud of our collection of baskets, artifacts and photo display. You should definitely drop in and check it out this spring.

  34. Thank you for that Greg,

    I wrote this blog over a year ago.
    It brought me together with the Nisenan.
    In the last year my research, which began with a simple question from my father when My husband and I moved here, “What Indian People do you have there in Nevada City?”

    In my blog I used the general term for all Maiduan Peoples.
    I now wish to correct that misleading oversimplification.

    With that I have said enough in support of the Nisenan.
    I have other projects demanding my attention.
    The Nisenan know who they are and they have provided the information for anyone who cares to review it.

  35. Thank you, Jeff, for providing this community forum. My questions are for Professor Manlove. If some Tsi-Akim members can trace ancestry to historic Indian families of Nevada County, why have they not presented any concrete evidence of this to the NCHS or in any other public forum? Is there some reason for secrecy? Secondly, as the history of Native North Americans is filled with examples of forced migrations (Lakota displacing the Caddoan Pawnee and Crow for example), under what principle of US-Indian law is the legal right to a territory once abandoned demonstrated?

    If the question is “reparations,” the California Claims Cases 1920s-1970s (culminating in the Alcatraz and Pitt River occupations) in theory paid that national debt, though of course 47 an acre was robbery. If the question before us is the possibility of federal recognition of the Tsi-Akim as a Nevada County “tribe”, this blog is a much needed forum because there are so many unanswered questions. Tsi-Akim has indicated on many occasions it seeks federal recognition. The termination of the Taylorsville community should be reversed, but is the Tsi-Akim (which affiliates with Taylorsville) wanting to be recognized in Nevada County? If so, to meet federal criteria, the genealogical connections to ancestral Nevada County indigenous people need to be made. If there was an internal migration of Nisenan to Mt. Maidu country, shouldn’t there be some indication in the ethnographic records of Nisenan speakers in the county of people speaking the “Maidu” dialect?

  36. Judith, you have been our beacon and our strength. You have helped to give us our much needed voice. Thanks to you and the Historical Society’s Firehouse No.1 Museum (and its currator, Wally Hagaman), we have become known to our community.

    Thank you also Jeff for posting this blog.

    We can’t thank you enough for your support.

  37. This is very simple. It is means nothing to this discussion whether Tsi-Akim could produce some evidence that someone in their tribe had sex with someone in another tribe. Nevada City area was inhabited and controlled by Nisenan when gold addicted Europeans came and stole it from them. That’s what we own here: land stolen from Nisenan. I’m not saying it should be given back but let’s at least let them have their history. This isn’t gold country here, it is ex Nisenan tribal land.

  38. So it seems that there really is no definitive single historical tribal homeland here in Nevada County.

    Instead, it appears that different tribal groups each have some claim to ancient history, and that got muddled up with the arrival of the Europeans.

    I will leave that discussion to the academics.

    What is more obvious and practical to me is that we who live here today must share the future. We are tied together through the land, creeks, and ecosystems of the foothills.

    If we owe any debt to those who came before us, it is to pass a legacy of environmental protection to those who come after us.

    Our history separates us by ethnicity protocols that are biologically insignificant.

    Our future ties us together by an ecology that is all encompassing.

    The question I ask is not where did your grandparents come from?

    But what will you do today so your grandchildren can live in peace, or live at all?

    I have stood in my own backyard on the banks of Wolf Creek and felt the powerful invocation of Elder Wisdom speaking to me of my duty to protect this sacred water course.

    The voice I heard calling me to step up and play my role as a steward of this precious community resource did not mention if they were Tsi-Akim Maidu or Nisenan. hey did not ask me if my parents parents came southern or Europe. They only asked me one question- Was I willing serve and would I give my heart and soul to protecting the headwaters?

    I don’t have any choices about the past.

    I have lots of choices about the future.

    Let’s join together a make a better future, through conscious intention on what really matters.

    1. Gordon, I appreciate your words and do not want to beat-a-dead horse here, but I will reiterate this one more time. Nevada County is the homelands of the Foothill Nisenan. There is a ton of history and research out there if one wishes to become educated on this subject.

      Like you, I believe that environmental issues are a priority for all humanity, but as an indigenous person of t h i s land, I too believe that a true and correct recording of our history must be preserved and not distorted for future generations.

      Our history happened on this land, our Tribal memory is entrenched in this land, and not to sound cliché, but our blood and ashes are part of this land; literally. Our people were part of the landscape – tending, stewarding and being a part of this ecology for mellinnia.

      Today, we seem to be reinventing the wheel when it comes to the environment because a large part of the collective memory has forgotten how to be PART of nature’s cycles.

      And, in the scheme of things, it may very well matter to you where my grandparents came from because of the symbiotic relationship they had with this land; with these waters; with the plants and animals of this place.

      There are very few Nisenan Elders left that hold the memory of this place and what it was like prior to non-native settlement.

      To me, it does matter what Tribal peoples are being promoted on t h i s land. To me, this is important and crucial to our future as Nisenan people and as citizens of Nevada County.

    2. So… how can anyone hear a voice of elder wisdom when he isn’t sure who or where that voice is coming from? My ‘voice’ is telling me to seek the truth. I will visit the Nisenan museum this spring and read up on whatever I can get my hands on pertinent to the subject. I will give the Historical Society some credence for their proclamation. I believe they analyzed the information closer than most of us have to this date. I will honor those that came before me… wherever they are from.

  39. The Nevada County Historical Society did extensive research before they recognized the Nisenan Tribe. If a person wants information on the Nisenan, all they have to do is do an internet search of Nisenan and you will get a lot of info. Some of it isn’t quite accurate, but minimally. All the articles still support the fact that the Nisenan are Nevada County and has been for thousands of years. This info is taken from anthropologists, and other academians. And of course, the tribe itself. They are eager to set history straight and would give you facts that are backed up by elders, and official records. They have nothing to hide. I request people to do the research and not go by what another tribe is saying.

  40. Over on Yubanet they have an article about the opening of the local tribes cultural center. They claim the Tsi Akim have that recognition. I sure wish our local media would do a little investigative reporting and determine the rightful owner of this recognition. I continue to see the Tsi Akim at all kinds of local functions, including today’s Placer Land Trust’s ceremony at the Bruin Ranch. Why?

  41. Since Our Nevada County changed their recognition of our local native tribe, why hasn’t any local media surveyed the various local organizations that support the Tsi Akim as to why they continue that support? What are the problems that the Tsi Akim have encountered in getting Federal recognition? Maybe some of the same concerns the Historical Society had?

    1. My understanding is that the Tsi Akim somehow lost the ability to get recognition so they are trying to make ties elsewhere for this purpose. This is worth a lot of money.

  42. whoops! That should have read our Nevada County Historical Society, above. I emailed our Board Of Supervisors as to whether they will follow the lead of the Historical Society, soon. I’ll let everyone know what their response is if I get one.

  43. I received a response from my email to our County Supervisors from Ed Scofield, who is my supervisor from District 2.


    My understanding is that Tribal recognition is a federal issue. The County would have no authority in this matter, the Historical Society is a nonprofit organization and not connected to any government agency.

    Ed Scofield
    Supervisor District II

    I emailed Ed and the rest of the Supervisors back making them aware of the past recognition of the Tsi Akim tribe and of their use of this recognition. Since the County has no authority in this matter and Tribal recognition is a federal issue than why do they continue to recognize the Tsi Akim based on their predecessors decision?

      1. Hello Jon, I just noticed there were more comments on this blog and wanted to offer my experience in this matter.

        Members of the Nevada County Historical Society physically went to the BOS meeting with the Tsi-Akim back in 2000 (or 2001 not positive on the exact date) and suggested the Board sign the Resolution. It seems logical that since the Historical Society has rescinded that original support, the BOS would do the same; especially since it was the Historical Society who seems to have initiated the ball rolling – so-to-speak. (More on this subject can be found in the Nevada County Historical Society’s report on their research into this subject. )

        The Nevada City Rancheria Tribal Council wrote to the Nevada County Board of Supervisors back in 2009 to inquire why they signed a Resolution stating their support for the Tsi-Akim Maidu as the “indigenous” people of this county. While I continue to believe our communication to the BOS was clear and concise, their response was extremely confusing.

        Basically, the BOS said they had no desire to recognize two Tsi-Akim groups and further, was not interested in signing another Resolution with another Indian group.
        How they deduced there were two Tsi-Akim groups from our original letter is beyond me.

        To be very clear: Federal recognition is obviously a Federal issue. But, we are not talking about Federal recognition here. We are talking about our local Board of Supervisors signing a Resolution of support of an out-of-the-area group; this has nothing to do with Federal recognition. But, it holds tons of weight locally and that is the point. Our BOS is confusing a simple situation by throwing their support, by means of creating a Resolution, behind another group.

        I like your idea about surveying the other non-profit and local organizations to see why they continue to support. While I am aware it is a free world and these organizations retain the right to support whom they choose, my concern is the spreading of misinformation that anyone but the Foothill Nisenan are indigenous to this place.

        Anyway, thank you for keeping this thread alive. It is obviously an important topic for the Nisenan.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s