A small but important step

I was happy to see Christopher Rosacker’s story on the struggle of the native Nisenan people to gain recognition in Saturday’s Union. There has been an ongoing effort to at least partially right the injustices inflicted on the tribe since 1849, and just acknowledging the problem is a beginning.

When I was in school in the sixties, the history taught in local schools began with the Gold Rush. If there was any mention of Native Americans at all, they were lumped into one group known as the Maidu. It wasn’t until I was an adult that I learned any details of the holocaust that consumed these people.

The first prospectors to arrive in the foothills were a hardy and brutal lot. Most had endured months at sea, coming around the horn from the east, and then made their way to the goldfields with only one thing on their mind; to get rich. Anyone or anything that stood in their way was disposed of in the most opportune manner. In the native’s case, it was murder or slavery. There was a bounty for Indian scalps. The few that survived were shipped off to reservations in other parts of the state and forgotten. It’s a blot on our history that some would like to shrug off or forget altogether.

I’m sorry to say the Nisenan’s humiliation continued in my lifetime. When some of the first hippies arrived here in the late sixties, they found out about a local burial ground and dug into it to retrieve the handmade beads of the deceased. I’m happy to say I was never tempted by such a ghoulish endeavor, but I did know a few who proudly showed off their trophies.

Another instance even happened in fairly recent times, when Nevada City was deciding what to name the new streets east of town. It was suggested and approved that one street would be known as Chief Kelly Drive. After the vote, one councilperson remarked that it was being named after “an old squatter”.  

So the efforts of Judith Lowry, Wally Hagman, Shelly Covert and others are finally being recognized. It’s a small but important step toward restoring the dignity and rights of a people who deserved much better treatment from their fellow man. Thanks to all involved. 


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4 Responses to A small but important step

  1. Fine way of explaining, and good article to get information about my presentation subject, which i am going to deliver in school.

    • Judith Lowry says:


      Be sure to visit the Nevada City Rancheria website.
      You may also wish to contact the Tribal Secretary, Shelly Covert through the site.
      Sometimes she gives special tours of the Firehouse Museum during the winter months.
      Otherwise, The Firehouse opens in May for the summer.
      Good luck with your presentation.

  2. Don Baumgart says:

    RL: Last summer I wrote about the Nisenan for Indian Country Today:
    Will the One True Indigenous Tribe of Nevada County Please Stand Up?

    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?


    I’m not great either at links. You’ll probably have to cut and paste this one to get there.

  3. Judith Lowry says:


    That was a very good article.
    Thank you.

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