The Colfax Indian Cemetery (also known as The Colfax Indian Burial Grounds) is located in Colfax, CA, and has been historically maintained, utilized, and cared for by the local Native American families of the area.
Tracing back as early as the 1800's many families through oral and written history have memories of traveling great distances to tend to loved ones, repair broken fixtures, tend to the upkeep of the grounds, and the traditional practices of hand digging graves.
The Colfax Indian Cemetery sits close to one of the last surviving village sits known as "Wallace camp" before it fell into non native hands. When The Bureau of Indian Affairs purchased property in Colfax (what would become the Colfax Rancheria) it was asked that The Bureau also purchase the graveyard.
The Bureau didn't purchase the graveyard. The Owner of the property instead chose to deed the Colfax Indian Cemetery back to The Colfax Indian People. Since then The Colfax Indian People have continued to maintain and care for the cemetery as they have for generations.
Site of Wallace Camp where the cemetery/burial grounds is located today. (Lucy Wallace pictured)
Indian history lesson continues
Mike Maynard, Special to the Colfax Record
Dec 22, 2010 1:33 PM
Last week I talked about the Miwok Indians living in the Colfax area and how the Wallace Indian Camp existed in the Suburban Pines area.
The Nisenan word for the roundhouse in the picture is “Kum.”
I also asked for information about the 40 acres given to and taken away from the local Indians by the government. Boy, did I get a history lesson. I sat down with April Moore, whose great-grandparents were George and Lucy Wallace. They were married in 1890 and had seven children. The last two children, Guy, was died in 1967, and Lee in 1972, were buried in the Colfax Indian Cemetery at the corner of Canyon Way and Iowa Hill roads.
The cemetery was started around 1848 and may also contain the remains of Chinese who had helped build the railroad through this area.
I learned that April’s great, great-grandmother had lived to the age of 106 and had been given the white man’s name “Suzie.” No one is sure of her exact birth date or what her given Indian name was.
The Indians in this area were actually “Nisenan,“ pronounced ni/se/nan which literally means “I from here.”
There were numerous camps — over 20 — from Colfax to Weimar where anywhere from 6 to 25 persons lived. The main camp in Colfax was called “Koyo,” which means “valley.”
Last week I said that the “chief” in this area was Weimah. His actual name was Weyma and he was not a chief. His title was “Head Man,” what we would consider to be the equivalent to our mayor. The last Head Man in our area was April’s great-grandfather Jim Dick, who was a Nisenan Maidu. The Indians around here were Miwok and Maidu, but each had their own language and many were bilingual. The Nisenan Maidu language has no R’s, X’s, or F’s, which makes the language difficult to speak.
I also learned some very disturbing information. Apparently, the U.S. Government had a bounty on the Indians from the 1870s through 1900. Twenty-five dollars would be paid for the head of a male Indian and $5 for each female and child. The Federal government gave the state of California $2 million in reimbursement for the approximate 80,000 Indians that were killed. The government kept this fact hidden until the 1990s. Survivors were lucky enough to run and hide from their attackers, who literally hunted them down.
In 1924, American Indians ceased to be “Children of the Government” and, as such, were recognized as U.S. citizens.
Last week I referred to 40 acres given to the Indians around 1916 for the purpose of forming a rancheria somewhere near Highway 174. It turns out the 40 acres were what is now White Oak Estates and included the areas across and west toward the Bear River.
The property had not been improved by the Indians. In 1932, Russell Enos, a Maidu, attempted to get onto the property to build a house. He was told that before he could build he would first need to build a road and drill a well for water. This was during the Great Depression, so Enos was unable to complete anything.
In 1965, Rio Oso Rancho, Inc. purchased the property for $13,640.
Lucy Wallace pictured on location of the old Wallace camp (site of current Burial Grounds)