Maidu teepee that stirred debate disappears from downtown Nevada City

IMG_4990We were up in Tahoe this weekend, when I noticed a Facebook post by Shelly Covert,  tribal secretary of the Nevada City Rancheria, that read: “I heard today, that ‘the cone’ of shame, as it has been called, has disappeared from the corner in Nevada City. Many traditionalists in our Nisenan Tribal membership have been embarrassed by the structure. Also, the signage placed there caused contention as we are Nisenan people, not Maidu. This was and is a Nisenan Tribal landscape. I say these things to open conversation, not to hurt feelings, so please, keep that in mind.”

Then when we returned home Niel Locke, a longtime member of the Nevada County Historical Landmarks Commission, also brought Shelly’s post to my attention in an email. We grabbed a scone at Three Forks Bakery & Brewing Co. this morning, and photographed the site where the wooden teepee (made of milled cedar) — known as a bark house — and sign once stood.

This morning, a source confirmed that the Tsi-Akim Maidu had discussed plans to remove the bark house. One reason: complaints about loitering around the structure. The structure also had been vandalized. City Manager Mark Prestwich said he did not know the teepee was gone.

Native American artist and Nevada City resident Judith Lowry also has spoken out against the structure, echoing Shelly’s sentiment. Judith recently spoke about the need to remove it at a Nevada City Council meeting. She also pointed to public safety concerns. Judith’s letter to Prestwich is here: Prestwich Maidu Cone Letter.

Nisenan is a separate and different language than Maidu with 13 dialects (that we know of) spoken, Shelly noted on her Facebook page.

The adjacent building’s owners had donated the small plot of land to the Tsi-Akim Maidu. A City proclamation for the structure from 2010 — “the Tsi-Akim Maidu have graciously chosen to share the bark house and grinding rock with Nevada City” — is here (scroll to the second document). The Tsi Akim Maidu’s website is here.

A report from the Nevada County Historical Society titled “Committee to Investigate the Society’s 2000 Endorsement of the Tsi-Akim Maidu is here. And “The Indigenous People of the Sierra Nevada’s Foothills are Nisenan” is here.

Tribal Chairman Don Ryberg had disagreed with the historical society’s decision in 2000. “Their research isn’t what it should be as far as I’m concerned,” he told me in an interview at the time.

About 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 SierraCulture.com. Jeff covered business and technology for The San Francisco Chronicle for years, was a founding editor and Editor of CNET News, and was Editor of The Union, a 145-year-old newspaper in Grass Valley. Jeff has a bachelor's degree from UC Berkeley and a master's from Northwestern University. His hobbies include sailing and trout fishing.
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5 Responses to Maidu teepee that stirred debate disappears from downtown Nevada City

  1. Tony Loro says:

    Going to put my own there.

  2. jeffpelline says:

    Here’s a comment from Dennis Barry on my Facebook page:
    “Dennis Brian Barry: I happened to be driving by early Sunday morning on my way to Three Forks Bakery as I noticed the wooden teepee structure on the back of a flat bed trailer after being removed, and a team of workers cleaning up the area. Minutes later, while walking around the block there were about three people cleaning up the area, and I asked them what was going on. I was told that a certain tribe of Maidu where moving the structure to a different site. They named the site, but I didnt catch the exact name…..it was out of the area. A person told me they picked up a very large amount of cigarette butts, and the teepee was constantly being vandalized. The tribe repectfully left the area and road near where the structure was in a very clean pristine condition…..”

    • Niel Locke says:

      I imagine they are moving the structure to Yuba County on the 5 acres they have leased from the County in a park. Thank you for the information.
      Niel Locke, Chairman
      California Heritage Indigenous Resource Project ( C.H.I.R.P. )

  3. nelsonminar says:

    This 2011 article has a bit of history about the disagreements between the Tsi-Akim and the Nisenan. http://indiancountrytodaymedianetwork.com/2011/08/01/will-one-true-indigenous-tribe-nevada-county-please-stand-44697

  4. If you had attended any of several very informative meetings, you would understand why Shelley and the rest of the Neshenam (her spelling in her Facebook post) group, have the weight of historic data gathered by UC and other anthropologists on their side, through careful linguistic analysis.

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