'Homoja bemi' and Welcome...

THE NEVADA CITY RANCHERIA AND ITS TRIBE OF NISENAN INDIANS seek to further education and communication through a presence on the internet. As Nevada County's historic Tribe, the Nisenan witnessed the onset of the Gold Rush, the statehood of California and the creation of Nevada County. The Tribe is proud to share its pre and post contact history with its community located in the Sierra foothills of Northern California.

What we are doing: Preserving culture, protecting sacred sites, archiving and documentation of Tribal history, perpetuating relationships with the local community, historic Nisenan family genealogies, creation of a 501(c)3 non-profit entity, religious observations, death and birth rituals, Elder documentation, ancient village mapping, reigniting the 160 year relationship with the County of Nevada and all governing bodies, language classes indigenous to Nisenan lands, native crafts and performances, traditional and seasonal celebrations, promoting the Nisenan display at the Firehouse No. #1 Museum in downtown Nevada City, California, and much more which you can read in our History page.


8th Annual Nisenan Heritage Day
Saturday, November 11, 2017
11 AM - 4 PM
Sierra College Nevada County Campus
Hosted by Nevada City Rancheria and CHIRP (California Heritage Indigenous Research Project)
Free parking; all ages welcome!

For more information email Shelly Covert or call 530-570-0846

Download/view event poster

An interview with Tribal Council Chairman Richard Johnson
of the Nevada City Rancheria, Nisenan Tribe.
From the video "Rush for Gold"

Tribes at odds about 2½ acres in Yuba County
by Eric Vodden
28 January 2015
Appeal Democrat

Yuba County's lease of land in a foothills park to a Maidu Indian tribe was approved Tuesday over the objections of another tribe claiming an ancestral link to the property.

Supervisors voted 4-1 to support the lease arrangement with the Tsi Akim Maidu tribe for 21⁄2 acres of the 90-acre Sycamore Ranch Park on Highway 20 east of Marysville. It comes in advance of an 11 a.m. Thursday event at the park in which the lease is to be formally announced and visiting Tibetan monks will bless the land.

But members of the Nevada City Rancheria of the Nisenan Indians of the Sierra Foothills said the lease is inappropriate because the land is not native to the Maidus. Instead, they said, Yuba County, including the park, is within the tribal lands of the Nisenan.

"We do not believe the Tsi Akim should be given the right to build an indigenous center on our tribal land," said Shelly Covert, tribal secretary of the Nevada City-based Nisenan. "The land is not being returned to them. This is improper because the land was never in their tribal area."

Tsi Akim Maidu chairman Don Ryberg could not be reached Tuesday afternoon for comment.

The five-year, $1-a-year lease will give the Tsi Akim control over 21⁄2 acres near the entrance to the park. The property is seen as being the possible future site of a Native American cultural or interpretive center.

Supervisors Mary Jane Griego, Andy Vasquez, John Nicoletti and Randy Fletcher approved the lease, while Supervisor Roger Abe objected.

Griego and Fletcher were also named to an ad hoc committee to discuss how to include Nisenan representatives in future plans to preserve the Native American culture.

Abe said he would have preferred to wait until the tribes could discuss the issue before approving the lease.

"I don't know why we didn't wait a couple of weeks, and let them all talk and work together," he said after the meeting. "If these people aren't willing to work together, I am not sure we want any of them."

Nicoletti noted the Tsi Akim tribe has held Indigenous Peoples Day ceremonies at the park since it was acquired by Yuba County in 2010. He said the intent of the lease is to provide a way to preserve local Native American culture.

"We have had a number of events down here that have never included your tribe," Nicoletti told the Nisenan representatives.

Fletcher said he saw the appearance of the Nisenan representatives as a way to be included in the preservation of Native American culture. The park is in his district.

"There are opportunities here for the tribes to get together," Fletcher said. "Why not work together to educate the public, not just the board."

Griego said, that as a member of the ad hoc committee, she would be willing to meet with Nisenan tribal members.

"This lease is not about defending territory," she said. "We are not saying who was there first."

Griego noted the county will still have oversight over the terms of the lease. Both the tribe and the county have the right to terminate the lease with 90-day notice.

Covert said the Sycamore Ranch Park site "lies deep within Nisenan ancestral territories" and that documentation shows Nisenan people living in that area as early as 1860 and as late as 1930.

At the same time, she said while the Tsi Akim nonprofit corporation is in Grass Valley, its tribe is indigenous to Plumas County. She said the 1,500-person village referred to earlier were Nisenan Indians, not Tsi Akim Maidu.

"I find it disturbing that these numbers are being used to somehow further this land grab for the Tsi Akim, who hail from Plumas County," Covert's letter said.

Contact Staff Writer By Eric Vodden at evodden@appealdemocrat.com.

Nisenan Indians, Chinese Immigrants,
& Gold Rush Settlers in the video
"Rush For Gold"

Revealed are some of the lesser-known stories of the Gold Rush, as told by people living in and around the Deer Creek Watershed in Nevada City, California. The film combines interviews & local footage with archival film & photos to highlight the stories of the native people, the Chinese Immigrant workers, and the environment itself. A FilmSight Production, in partnership with Sierra Streams Institute, 10 minutes.

Nisenan Bridge Ceremony
Deer Creek Tribute Trail
Nevada City, California
28 October 2014
Photography by Aeron Miller

Click on a thumbnail to see a larger view -
use the arrows at the left/right sides of the larger image to navigate...

The Nevada County Library has recently received a $37,900 grant from the California State Library to help build and preserve a collection of books, photographs, and artifacts of historical and cultural significance.

"As members of the tribe age and move out of the area, there's a real risk of losing them forever," said Nevada County Librarian Laura Pappani. "This is a way of trying to preserve an important part of Nevada County history.

The county has until June 30, 2015, to use the grant funds. The new collection built with that money will be housed at the Doris Foley Library for Historical Research, at 211 North Pine Street.

An opportunity for the community to learn more about the Nisenan is fast approaching, as the fifth annual Nisenan Heritage Day will be hosted Saturday, Sept. 6, 2014, at Sierra College's Nevada County campus in Grass Valley.

Those attending will have the opportunity to meet the families of the Nevada City Rancheria, as they share their history and celebrate through presentations by speakers, artisans, basket weavers and tribal dancers.

"The Nisenan hold the tryth about their history and can tell it like no now else, rather that leave it to teachers, who have to troll the Internet looking for lesson plans on a subject about which they know little to nothing," Judith Lowry, an artist and leader of the California Heritage Indigenous Research Project, state at the rancheria website.

And often, such as with "the sawmill incident", the full truth has not made the pages of history.

In spring of 1849, brothers Samuel and George Holt built a sawmill a few miles outside of Grass Valley.

In May, 1850, it was burned to the ground by the Nisenan.

Samuel Holt, the elder of the two brothers, was killed by arrows. George Holt escaped, wounded.

Days later a contingent of 24 soldiers from Camp Far West arrived to put down the uprising. There are several historical accounts preserved in the literature of that era - but all of the narratives start with the Indian attack, offering little information on its provocation.

"You don't hear the Indian side of the story, which is that the Holt brothers were raping and molesting the young girls of the village," Covert said. "Of course after this fight, they paid swift and strong retribution to all of the Indians in the area. They attacked villages that had nothing to do with the fight, which seems to happen in history all the time."

In addition to the Sept. 6 Heritage Day celebration, more information is available on the Nisenan at the Nevada City's Firehouse No. 1 Museum, including artifacts and artisan work such as basketry.

See this story at theunion.com for a link to a featured article written by Covert published in the October 2012 Nevada County Historical Society bulletin, as well as a video sharing the story of the Mendocino Trail of Tears. ~~

To contact Staff Writer Dave Brooksher, email dbrooksher@theunion.com or call 530-477-4230.

We are in the planning stages for the
5th Annual
Nisenan Heritage Day

Saturday September 6th, 2014

Find Nisenan Heritage Day 2014 on Facebook!

Staff members of the Sierra College's Nevada County campus and members of the Nisenan tribe of the Nevada City Rancheria are touting their collaborative Heritage Day event on Saturday September 6th, 2014 as a milestone worth attending. For the Nisenan, the fifth incarnation of the Heritage Day being held at Sierra College represents, for the second time, the largest opportunity yet to incorporate their perspective into the local historical narrative taught in the county's education systems, said Shelly Covert, tribal council secretary for the Nevada City Rancheria. “The Nisenan hold the truth about their history and can tell it like no one else,” said Judith Lowry, an artist and leader of the California Heritage Indigenous Research Project, “rather than leave it to teachers who have to troll the internet looking for lesson plans on a subject about which they know little to nothing.”

Find Nisenan Heritage Day 2014 on Facebook!

For Mary Anne Kreshka, a member of the Sierra College Human Development and Family department, the event provides an opportunity for non-natives “to recognize that there are Native Americans living in our community and that it isn't just the stereotype of them dressed up and having a pow-wow but rather that they are contributing members in their community and that they have lives similar to the rest of us.”

Descendants from the Nevada City Rancheria will speak about their history, which dates back long before European settlers discovered what is now Nevada County and before the Gold rush that fostered the county's development.

“This is a group that has been here for thousands of years,” Kreshka said.

The Nisenan once had a 70-acre reservation, the Nevada City Rancheria, on what is now Cement Hill, created under the authority of President Woodrow Wilson. However, when the federal government stripped California's tribes of their federal federal status following the 1958 California Rancheria Act, the Nisenan lost their land in 1964, according to tribal leaders.

While all but four of California's previously terminated rancherias have regained their federally recognized status, the Nisenan are still fighting to restore their federal recognition. Covert estimates the tribe has no more that 100 recognized members with another nearly as many pending confirmation.

“They were something of a hidden group that very much want to emerge and join with the college to present their story,”Kreshka said.

This community event is appropriate for all ages and families; children are encouraged to attend. Parking is free, so is admission. Lunch boxes from the BriarPatch Co-op will be available for purchase.

Nisenan Heritage Day will feature artisans, basket weavers, and mashing acorns for flour, a traditional mainstay of the Nisenan diet.

For more information about attending please contact:
Shelly Covert, Secretary - Nevada City Rancheria
shelly@nevadacityrancheria.org   •  530-570-0846
Lindy Schasiepen - Event Coordinator
solace.lindy@gmail.com   •  530-263-5156

Passing on her history
Nevada City Rancheria to honor departed tribal member
by Shelly Covert
19 June 2014

Carmel Rose Burrows was Southern Nisenan, Northern Miwok Indian and Native Hawaiian.

She was a tribal member of the Nevada City Rancheria. Born Carmel Jackson in 1921, Carmel was orphaned at two years of age when her mother, Florence "Mandy" Jackson tragically died of tuberculosis.

Mandy was buried in Sacramento near her place of death. Mandy's grandmother, Elizabeth "Lizzy" (Johnson) Jackson, wished Mandy to be buried beside her father, Budd Jackson, at their family burial grounds in Mokelumne Hill.

But, because Mandy's family had no money, the body could not be moved and Mandy's baby, Carmel, could not be relocated to her family for care.

Carmel Rose Burrows
Carmel Rose Burrows

Instead, Carmel was raised by a part African American and part Indian (Miwok/Nisenan) brother and sister known to the family as Aunty and her brother Uncle Sam.

"I really don't know my connection with them. We assumed it is through the Indian family somewhere up the tree. But, when my mother died, Aunty is the only one I would go to," Carmel said in an interview about her life story.

As a young girl, Carmel lived with Aunty on the Auburn Indian Reservation just outside of Auburn, where they took care of elders Captain Jim Dick and Jane Lewis.

During these years, the Federal Indian Agents were coming onto reservation lands, taking Indian children and forcibly placing them in government-run Indian boarding schools for means of assimilation.

"When the Indian Agents showed up at the Auburn reservation I hid under Aunty's big skirts," Carmel said.

"She told me to be very still and very quiet and I did."

While Carmel escaped the horrors of the boarding school experience, from the age of five she worked in the fields beside Aunty picking whatever was in season: hops, grapes, cherries, lettuce, etc.

They traveled as migratory workers going where the fields needed harvesting. It was during cherry picking time when Carmel met Frances "Dutch" rose, the last leader of the Nisenan people tied to the Nevada City Rancheria. Dutch's eldest sister assisted in an arranged marriage between Dutch and Carmel.

Carmel was absorbed into the Rose/Potts clan living between Dobbins, Nevada City, Grass Valley, North San Juan, Brownsville, and other towns that wer once part of Dutch's ancestral territories. Carmel had six girls, was midwife to six children, birthed one of own daughters at home on her own, and was a great healer of the old ways.

Before passing away, Carmel provided countless hours of interviews about her life and the culture that remained with her.

She recounted stories of the past complete with names and place and cautioned the family not to lose their history and culture.

She added to the living Nisenan dictionary recounting words, songs, and stories in the Nisenan language that is in critical danger of being lost.

Carmel was preceded in death by her daughter, Mary Anne Start, and is survived by daughters Alberta Gallez, Doris Vaughan, Virginia Covert, Lorena Davis, and Cynthia Buero, and a large, loving family.

There will be a "gathering to remember" at noon on Saturday, 21 June 2014, at the home of her daughter in Grass Valley. Contact Shelly Covert at 530-570-0846 or Lorena Davis at 530-268-1657 for address and directions.


This piece is written in honor of my maternal grandmother, Carmel Rose Burrows who celebrated her 93rd birthday on May 19 and passed away shortly after on May 29, 2014. Her strength is a testament to California's Native American women who survived the holocaust of the Gold Rush; her love a reminder that family is the most important thing we have; and her passion for our Native culture demands that we continue to resist total assimilation even today. ~ Shelly Covert

Groups carve out a route through the forest
By Laura Brown
June 2013 Issue, Vol. 5, No. 5
Nevada City Advocate

Bill Haire and Stacey Konner stop to read a map while hiking the newly completed Environs Trail. As Bear Yuba Land Trusts Trails Coordinator, Haire worked with Sierra Streams Institute and many volunteers to construct the 1.5-mile loop trail. Soon the trail will connect with the existing Deer Creek Tribute Trail system with the addition of a footbridge later this year.

JUST A SHORT WALK FROM DOWNTOWN NEVADA CITY, a 1.5-mile newly completed forested loop trail offers a quiet getaway along the south side of Deer Creek.

Known for now as The Environs Trail - the route weaving through tall stands of incense cedars, black oaks and Douglas fir trees provides access to a 40-acre forest owned by Nevada City for more than 30 years.

“The Environs was previously little known and entirely inaccessible except by trespassing on private land,” said Jane Sellen, watershed coordinator for Sierra Streams Institute.

In 2009, Sierra Streams Institute began developing the trail with grant funds from Sierra Nevada Conservancy. American Hiking Society provided additional funding. Sierra Streams Institute worked with Trails Coordinator Bill Haire of Bear Yuba Land Trust and the help of many volunteers to construct the trail. On Saturday, June 1, Haire led a group tour of the trail during National Trails Day.

Five years in the making, the project includes a restoration and re-vegetation effort, education and outreach, and the development of interpretive signs.

The trail plays a key part of the larger Deer Creek Tribute Trail, envisioned as a nine-mile recreational trail that extends along both banks of Deer Creek and pays tribute to the overlooked people of the Gold Rush, said Sellen.

Trail has been dedicated to the Nisenan Tribe

When the Nisenan footbridge is completed in the coming year, the Environs Trail will connect to the Deer Creek Tribute Trail on the north bank, she said.

“With The Sierra Fund's pending acquisition of creekside land next to the Environs on the other side of Providence Mine Road, we hope to extend the trail downstream and eventually connect to the loop trail on BLM land at Stocking Flat.

No longer will Nevada City's residents and visitors have to drive five miles to the pools and trails of the Yuba River. The Tribute Trail will introduce them to the hidden jewel at the heart of Nevada City - Deer Creek,” said Sellen.

The Environs Trails is dedicated to the Nisenan Tribe of the Nevada City Rancheria.

“The trail offers a chance for them to tell their story publicly for the very first time,” said Sellen.

Interpretive signs along the two-mile trail tell the story of the tribe's history, language and culture. In addition, hikers and bikers can glimpse traces of Nevada City's Gold Rush history.

Parts of the trail follow the century-old Rough and Ready ditch, an early irrigation canal used for transporting water for mining operations that later became part of Nevada Irrigation District.

Environs Trail
Environs Trail

“Stone masonry built by Chinese miners lines the approach to the trailhead on Jordan Street and the long-abandoned Providence Mine once stood just downhill from the trail,” said Sellen.

Sierra Streams Institute is cleaning up contamination at the mine site with grant funding from the US Environmental Protection Agency.

“Once the contamination is cleaned up and the area is safe for public use, the trail will provide access to the mine area,” Sellen said.

In addition, Sierra Streams Institute is restoring an erosive gully area. Native plant species are taking root and volunteers are clearing invasive non-native plant species.

The trail was a collaboration of many. Besides Sierra Streams Institute, Bear Yuba Land Trust, the City of Nevada City and the Nisenan tribe, a number of other individuals and organizations offered feedback and support including: Residents of Jordan Street, American Rivers, Bicyclists of Nevada County, Forest Trails Alliance, Greater Champion Neighborhood Association and The Sierra Fund.

Grass Valley Group provided a crucial easement, Audubon Society helped with monitoring, Sierra Nevada AmeriCorps Partnership participated in restoration days and students from local schools helped remove invasive weeds.

An official opening of the trail is planned in the fall.

“We are excited to be planning for the official opening in the fall and are already looking ahead to future education, outreach, monitoring and restoration projects along the trail,” Sellen said. ~~

Contact freelance writer Laura Brown at 401-4877 or laurabrown323@gmail.com

Nevada County Historical Society

Nisenan Indians of the Nevada City Rancheria
by Shelly Covert
Nevada County Historical Society
Vol. 66, No. 4, October 2012

BEFORE THE ARRIVAL OF THE FIRST NON-NATIVES, the indigenous people living in what later became Nevada County had peacefully occupied the land for thousands of years. Scattered across the large area of the Yuba and Bear river watersheds were dozens of Nisenan villages or “rancherias,” each made up of extended family groups of different sizes.

Nevada County Historical Society-October 2012

A perception that Nevada County is a part of Maidu territory is inaccurate. The error is a common one, caused by the mistaken assumption that the term "Maidu" represents a single tribal unit. In fact, Maidu refers to a very large and diverse linguistic unit.

The Northern Maidu and the Nisenan are sub-groups of a parent Maiduan language stock, which in turn is part of a larger Penutian language group that includes Miwoks, Wintus, Yokuts, and others. And within the Nisenan and Northern Maidu were many individual groups speaking a variety of dialects-each as different as German is from Italian.

In the act of recording and preserving local history (indigenous and non-indigenous alike) the Nisenan portion has been overwritten and altered in the past two decades. Inaccuracies and misinformation have crept into the public discourse, examples of which can even be found in Nevada County newspapers, books and semigovernmental reports.* Fortunately, by moving back in time one can find factual and accurate information about the indigenous people who lived on these lands.

Read the complete article and more by downloading the entire Nevada County Historical Society's October 2012 Bulletin as a 6-page PDF file here....>>

Have you seen this Drum?LOOKING FOR THIS DRUM: We would like to photograph this particular drum for our reference collection. Do you know where it might be?
Call the Firehouse Museum at (530) 265-5468
or Wally at (530) 265-3937.