Nisenan Heritage Day

Heritage Day305                                                                                                                                                                                                               A few weeks ago, Mary Ann and I joined a packed house at the Gold Miner’s Inn for a program featuring Richard Hurley and TJ Meekins on the fate of the Nisenan in California, followed by Shelly Covert’s talk on her family’s experiences in Nevada County. It was an enlightening and informative presentation that will be repeated Saturday at the above event at Sierra College. Richard and TJ will be up at 11:55, followed by Shelly at 12:40. There will be plenty of other educational performances and examples of Native American art as well. Check it out. (And by the way, it’s a free event, including parking.)

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7 Responses to Nisenan Heritage Day

  1. Chris Peterson says:

    What ever happened to the Figowe tribe?

  2. Judith Lowry says:


    I think you re referring to the old 60’s TV show, “F Troop”.
    I checked with wikipedia and found this

    The Hekawi live an indeterminate distance from Fort Courage, though the directions to the camp are shared in one episode: “Make right turn at (the) big rock that looks like (a) bear, then make left turn at big bear that look like rock”. The Hekawi tribe supposedly derived their name from an incident in which the tribe became lost mid-migration, and after wandering the plains for weeks and falling off a cliff, one of the braves asks “Where the heck are we?”, which then became “We’re the Hekawi” The original name for the tribe, ‘Fugawi’, was to be changed after the censors discovered the sentence “Where the Fugawi?”[1] They are partners in O’Rourke Enterprises and produce most of the company’s products. They are a peace-loving tribe, (mainly due to cowardice). The chicken-hearted braves of the Hekawis, “the tribe that invented the peace pipe”, are “lovers, not fighters”, according to their leader. Because it had been such a long time since they had been on the “war path” Agarn has to teach the Hekawis how to do a war dance when they are asked to make a fake attack on the fort. When the tribe wants to signal the fort they use smoke signals which only Sgt. O’Rourke can read. They have a 50/50 deal with O’Rourke and have a still which produces the whiskey for the saloon. As a sly jest based on the myth that American Indians are the 13th tribe of Israel, many of the Hekawi Indians were played by veteran Yiddish comedians using classic Yiddish shtick.

    • rl crabb says:

      Many moons ago, I knew a woman who was involved with a group of mostly middle-aged Jewish women called Women in Wilderness. They practiced Native American rituals and went on long treks into the forests, where they struggled with mosquitos, ticks, and twisted ankles. The stories were hilarious, and led me to rename them “Babes in the Woods”, or maybe the Wannabe Tribe.

  3. rl crabb says:

    And by the way, congratulations to Judith and the Nisenan Rancheria for the successful program they did on Saturday. Over the past few years, their efforts have rekindled awareness of the largely forgotten history of Nevada County’s first people.

  4. Chris Peterson says:

    Thanks for the info Judith, and I add to Bob’s admiration for your efforts in securing the history of the areas original inhabitants.

    What I was musing on was a rag tag group of drinking buddies back in the early 70’s, of which I was a part, who used to party down at Bridgeport. When we arrived there at night, we would yell out, “Figowe!” from the bridge and await a similar cry from our upstream friends.

    But, long live Capt. Wilton Parmenter!

  5. Robert Lovejoy says:

    I am so thankful that we as a community take time each year to remember our First Nations tribes, especially the most beloved tribe here in the foothills, our own Maidu. Long live the Maidu. Long may they be remembered and cherished by all.

    • Judith Lowry says:

      Thank you Robert.
      I would add that the Nevada City tribal branch of the mighty Maidu nation are particularly keen for folks to know them specifically by their special name, Nisenan.
      Nisenan means, “from among us”, in their dialect.

      The Nisenan Heritage 2013 event at the college was well attended and the audience remained attentive and engaged throughout the day. The Nisenan people are touched with gratitude that the people of this community reached out to them on their special day.

      Special kudos to the staff at Sierra College who did an outstanding job helping the NCR bring this valuable cultural event to our community. To quote Claude Rains at the end of Casablanca, “This could be the beginning of a beautiful friendship”.

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