COLFAX-TODDS VALLEY CONSOLIDATED TRIBE
( Nisenan) Maidu & Miwok of the Colfax Rancheria
( Nisenan) Maidu & Miwok of the Colfax Rancheria
The Colfax-Todds Valley Consolidated Tribe of the Colfax Rancheria, is a California Tribe located in the Colfax/Placer County area. We are comprised of the (Nisenan) Maidu & Miwok people of the area. We strive for the protection of our sacred sites, traditional practices, language preservation, and the overall betterment of our tribal community.
If you think you might be as passionate about what we're doing as we are, please give us a shout and help us make a good way in the world for all of our relations. If you have time to volunteer (even if you're not a member of the tribe), a story to share about the Native community or just have a kind suggestion - it is welcome, so please don't be shy to reach out. We tend to be spread thin so be please be patient and don't give up if we don't get right back to you! Your thoughts matter to us! The wellness of ALL of our relations matters to us! Aho!!
Whether you are a Tribal Member or generous neighbor, your help through monetary donations (tax deductible via our non-profit), volunteering of your time or spreading our mission through word-of-mouth, is a blessing to us. We couldn't accomplish our goals without the help of our community supporters like you and so we say on behalf of ALL of our members, a heartfelt THANK YOU!! With your help we are able to provide a very treasured Youth and Elders Day to our members, afford our website expense and plan for events in the near future just to name a few.
The Indigenous Peoples of the great Sierra Nevada mountains have lived here for thousands of years. Living peacefully in unique harmony within the great waters and majestic mountains, hills and valleys of what was to come to be known as Placer County. As early as 1858, the US Government began signing treaties with the indians of the area through Chief Weemah (Weimar). In the 1905 Kelsey Census, over seventy indians lived in or around the Colfax/Todds Valley area. In 1915 the U.S. Government purchased Rancheria land in Colfax to provide for the homeless indians. However by 1966, against letters of protest by the indians, the Government sold the land which was the Colfax Rancheria and the indians of the area were wrongfully terminated under Congress's newly created and implemented "California Rancheria Act" of 1958. The Colfax Todds Valley Consolidated Tribe is comprised of generations of people who were born of Miwok and Maidu (Nisenan) ancestry. We come from generations of ancestors who lived in the Colfax/Foresthill (Todds Valley area). It is our hope to someday again become "Federally Recognized" so that we may receive benefits for our people that are currently unavailable to us. With Government assistance we may again obtain a land base for the Tribe, as well as gain health care, housing, educational opportunities, and a self-sustaining outlook for our generations to come. We currently maintain our culture and traditions with help from our Non-Profit organization; the Todd's Valley Miwok Maidu Cultural Association located in Foresthill. Bark houses were erected, and a ceremonial roundhouse is being constructed so that we may celebrate and honor our traditions from the past and share them with the future generations.
THE NISENAN PEOPLE
This article on the Nisenan people was prepared by NormanL.Wilson, retired State Archeologist with the State of California. Among many other credits, he was Coordinator of Native American Programs and his work on the Nisenan Indians was included in the Smithsonian Handbook of North American Indians, Vol. 8, for which he received much acclaim as an authority on his subject. Mr. Wilson is also a Life member of the Placer County Historical Society.
"THE NISENAN PEOPLE OF THE MAIDU TRIBE OF CALIFORNIA INDIANS inhabited the valley plain and mountains at such historically familiar places as Sacramento, Marysville, Nevada City, Auburn, Coloma and Placerville. These natives, whose name simply means "People", were a vibrant nation of friendly, happy people who identified themselves by village rather than tribal name. Prehistorically, the Nisenan occupied the drainages of the American, Bear and Yuba rivers, from the Sacramento River in the west to the crest of the Sierras to the east. They spoke a dialect which identified
them from the Northern Maidu and they diverged into two distinct cultural groups known as the Valley Nisenan and the Mountain Nisenan. The Valley Nisenan lived along the valley drainages and were river oriented in their lifeways. Their ancestors had lived similarly in the same region for at least two thousand years. Villages were built on low mounds and sometimes numbered over five hundred people. Houses were dome-shaped, covered with earth or tule. Each large village had a dance house which was semi subterranean and sometimes measured over fifty feet in diameter. Other structures included brush shelters, sweat houses and acorn granaries. Villages with a population of over five hundred people are unusual for non-agricultural peoples, but the Central Valley supported many such Indian villages prior to the Anglo intrusion. Nowhere in Nisenan mythology or folklore is there mention of starvation which indicates a great natural abundance. Their food included acorns and seeds, tule roots, berries and fruits, Salmon, sturgeon, trout and other fresh-water fish that were obtained by using tule boats, and log canoes, weirs, nets and harpoons. Fresh-water shellfish, water fowl, game animals such as elk, deer and antelope and smaller species provided an abundant variety of food throughout the year. The Mountain Nisenan lived in the foothills and along the ridges of the steep Sierra canyons. Their food included acorns, seeds and game with less emphasis on the water fowl-fish foods of the valley people. These mountain villages were much smaller and it was common for small family groups to live away from the main village during the seasonal food gathering rounds. Their culture was much simpler than the valley people with whom they sometimes fought. The Nisenan, like most Central California Indians, made fine basketry, feather robes and elaborate ceremonial costumes. There was extensive trade between villages as well as surrounding groups including the Coastal Indians to the west and the Washoe to the east. The largest social-political unit was the village which had its headman or "captain" who usually inherited his office but could be chosen as leaders for such activities as hunting and warfare. Each village had a town crier who spoke to the people on social behavior and announced any news. Perhaps the most important persons of the village were the shamans or religious leaders, which among the Nisenan, could be either men or women. They cured the sick and practiced revenge, conducted elaborate religious ceremonies and attempted to control the natural environment with their magic. It was not a male dominated society with women in a subservient role. Even though there were secret fraternal societies and restrictions on the use of the dance and sweat houses, in everyday life the women were respected and each person fulfilled a life role to make the village a vital unit. Ceremonies related to the seasons, harvesting of food and rituals centering around their origin, their Gods and rules of social behavior were very important to the Nisenan. These were performed through dances involving God impersonations and the enactment of mythical stories of the Nisenan past. The rituals surrounding death were very important to these people also. It was vital that they be buried at the village of their birth. There were family mourning ceremonies at the time of death involving the whole village. At the "second burning" a great amount of personal wealth was burned in memory of the dead. The Nisenan had brief contact with the Spanish when Moraga traveled through the valley in 1806, Father Duran in 1818, and with the Spanish and Mexican expeditions and escaping missionized Indians. (Continued next paragraph)
(Continued) Their first real contact with the Anglos came with the trappers such as Jed Smith and the Hudson Bay Company men after 1828. These contacts culminated in a devastating epidemic which wiped out over half of the Valley Indians in 1833, a blow from which they never recovered. Captain Sutter and other settlers after 1839 further disrupted the remnants of the Valley Nisenan culture but had little effect on the mountain peoples who carried on their prehistoric lifeways until the discovery of gold and the ensuing Gold Rush. They were an honest people who tried to remain friendly with the European newcomers. Yet, their nation was virtually destroyed by the ethnocentric attitude of the Anglo invaders who brought with them preconceived animosity toward all Indians. Lack of immunity to introduced diseases also hastened their demise. Unfortunately, the Mountain Nisenan villages occupied logical sites for gold camps and within two or three years those Indians who had not adapted to the ways of the Whites, were scattered throughout the less desirable areas in the mountains. Early settler accounts verify that the Nisenan were friendly people with the highest regard for the Americans, yet they were hunted down and killed indiscriminately, men, women and children, and their villages destroyed by the gold-seekers. This senseless killing was often for revenge when the Anglos could find no one else to blame. The Indians were scapegoats for the frustration of the newcomers as were most minorities during the California Gold Rush. Throughout this time of desecration and wanton destruction, a few of these proud people managed to
survive in more remote areas and at the edges of the gold towns, and carry with them the cultural values and lifeways of their ancestors. Those who could find work were employed in logging, ranching, construction and domestic pursuits. Many ceased to identify themselves as Indians to avoid harassment by the Whites. Today, the remaining Nisenan Indians are regaining the pride of their ancestry. We are only beginning to appreciate these proud and happy people who lived for thousands of years in harmony with their land and their resources."..
The following pages are taken from the novel, Red Dirt: A Journey of Discovery in the Landscape of Imagination, California's Gold Country by Gary Noy. Pages 219-221. All rights reserved. 2002 by Gary Noy:
.."A journey in the Sierra Nevada region is eternally lovely. The landscape is varied and invigorating -- bumpy hollows dressed with waving grass and the occasional prancing horse greet the eye, tree-lined lanes scoot through glittering farmland with mountainous vistas in the background, and around the bend awaits one wonderful surprise after another. It is hard to believe that anything bad could happen in this splendid spot. But, throughout the Sierra Nevada and Gold Country, evil once took root. It is the gloomy story of the native history of the region, the grievous toll of a shiny golden dream, and the promise of renewal. Ironically, the problems began with James Marshall. In 1847, an Indian escorted Marshall to the Maidu village of Collumah. It was there, at the renamed settlement of Coloma that Marshall decided to build his sawmill in partnership with John Sutter. Sutter’s Mill changed the direction of California and American history and forever altered the lives of the native population. In 1848, when gold was discovered, the Indian population was estimated at roughly 200,000. One of these was “Indian Jim,” a Maidu whom some claim was the actual discoverer of the gold for which Marshall gets credit. Gold was considered useless to most American Indian cultures, who saw much greater value in other minerals, such as obsidian, flint, and slate. But the yellow flake that drives men crazy would become a virtual death warrant for the California Indians. The influx of argonauts would mean disease and destruction for the region’s original inhabitants. Within a few years, more than half of California’s native population was dead from violence, epidemic, or starvation. In the flush early Gold Rush days, Indian miners outnumbered white argonauts, but, by 1850, El Dorado had become Hell for the natives. Thousands of gold seekers swept across the foothills like an ill wind. The results for the Indians were devastating. From 1850 to 1863, Indians and other non-whites could not testify against the dominant culture in court. This led to continually abusive and savage treatment at the hands of unscrupulous usurpers. It was open season on the legal rights of Indians. Three thousand Indian children were sold into slavery at $50 to $200 a piece. California's sanctioned “apprentice system” allowed white settlers to keep homeless or dispossessed Indians in a form of indentured servitude until the age of thirty. Jailed natives were auctioned to the highest white bidder. The Indians would then be compelled to work off their bail. When the indenture neared completion, it was not uncommon for the “master” to ply the Indians with alcohol, have them arrested for public drunkenness, bail them out, and start the cycle anew. Young Indian girls would be kidnapped and forced into sexual slavery. The natives knew that the gold had value to the argonauts, and many mined to purchase commodities for their families. Some mined, but were cheated. James Savage made $500,000 in 1851 by trading for goods with the Indians. His condition was that the items be paid for in their weight in gold -- five pounds of flour, five pounds of gold. In 1851, Congress ordered federal agents to negotiate treaties of “peace and friendship” with 402 California tribal leaders. Eighteen treaties were written and signed. They promised 8.5 million acres on ten protected reservations in exchange for the remainder of California’s territory. Tragically, the treaties were a gilded promise of security built on an underlying foundation of racism and exploitation."..
By: Nancy Hagman, Colfax Record Correspondent; Wednesday Feb 15 2012 The Nisenan: from 'digger Indian' to citizenship
"On Nov. 8, 1856 the Placer Herald reported the estimated population of this county as being 12,540 white males, 1,860 white females, male and female blacks 400, Chinese 3,500 and 125 Indians. In less than a decade, since the discovery of gold in 1848, the men invading this region managed to destroy what was once a numerous people. The native inhabitants of hundreds of years disappeared mainly due to the greed for a precious metal and lust for domination of the land. This genocide came about in several ways. First, the indigenous people had no immunity to the viral and bacterial infectious diseases carried by the interlopers. This accounts for the greatest number of deaths among the Indian people. Second, through displacement to reservation land (see Colfax Record, Feb. 9, 2012), many died while in transition and due to lack of food, promised by the government, but never delivered by the suppliers. Third, their numbers diminished???? through outright killing by militia groups such as the Blades of Colfax (see Colfax Record, Feb. 2, 2012). The latter also includes hunting Indian people for the bounty placed by the government, both federal and state. When that ended “officially” in the 1860s, the hunting for mere sport went on for some time as many Indians (not counted in the above census) had escaped to the vast reaches of the Sierra, away from the settlements and expansion. Those few who remained, under the protection, usually, of white merchants and landowners, did so in servitude. In Illinoistown the indigenous people’s village known as Wallace Camp was located just up the hill from the town. Today, it is the area occupied by the Indian Cemetery, Cal Fire and the houses of the Suburban Pines subdivision. Children, not indentured to white households, were sent away to Indian boarding schools, often run by churches, to learn reading and writing at grammar school levels. Sewing, cooking and other household skills were taught to the girls, while the boys learned animal care, carpentry and mechanical trades. In these schools they were forced to “assimilate” to the white society by wearing white man’s clothes, speaking only English and converting to Christianity. The adults who could find work were employed in logging, ranching, construction and domestic pursuits. The Indians were scapegoats for the frustration of the whites as were most minorities during the era. Even though they were, by nature, very clean and health conscious, they would purposefully dirty themselves and wear tattered clothing when they came to Main Street in Colfax. Thus was the source, probably, of the very derogatory slur “dirty digger Indian.” Many ceased to identify themselves as Indians to avoid harassment by the whites. Even though, in 1898, the Colfax Sentinel referred to them as the “humble children of the forest,” this hostile and inhumane degradation continued for decades. In 1917, a major victory for Indians occurred when the California Supreme Court decided that California Indians were citizens. It wasn’t until 1924 that federal recognition took place. Regular public school for the people didn’t begin to happen until well after World War II. But, according to several locals, they continued to be hazed and treated rudely. The mores and folkways of the first people of this valley for hundreds of years were lost, seemingly, in the blink of an eye. In the Colfax area some traditional Nisenan life did continue in this small, out-of-the-way pocket, until there was just one left who lived in the old way. Her story is as close as we can come to knowing what it was like before the Gold Rush to the Bear and American Rivers. Fortunately her descendant, April Moore, a Nisenan-Maidu educator and Placer County local, is around to tell her tale. “My great-grandmother was Lizzie Enos, a very, very knowledgeable woman,” Moore said. “So with her having that knowledge and carrying it on for so long, she was able to pass it on to us. Especially as a little girl, myself, my cousin, and my brother, we would spend many, many hours with my great-grandmother, where she would tell us stories about coyotes and bears and different animals. But she also took us out and showed us all the different food sources that were available to us: the grasses, the mushrooms, the berries, what kind of seeds to gather, the right kind of acorns, and what kind of herbs were outside our living area that could be gathered for our health.” Today, Moore travels the territory giving talks to school children and adult groups alike on the Nisenan-Maidu history and culture."
By: Nancy Hagman, Colfax Record Correspondent; Wednesday Feb 22 2012 'Rancherias' were set aside as refuge for Indians
Lucy Wallace was last resident of Colfax village.
"Prior to the 1800s, a once-numerous and peaceful people lived on and from the land, today known as Colfax, between the American and Bear rivers. Yet, across the state, by the end of the century, homelessness, hunger, disease and extermination had reduced the Indian population in California to approximately 15,000, just four percent of their numbers prior to European contact. Today’s Colfax Todds Valley Tribe members can trace their ancestry to these Nisenan indigenous people. For those who did survive, from the mid-1800s to 1900, invading Europeans – fueled by the search for gold – easily managed to abscond all of their human rights, including any right of property ownership. Some survivors found refuge at seven military reservations created, supposedly to protect them, between 1853 and 1862. In the 1870s, the United States began purchasing or reserving small tracts of land for landless Indians. These were called "rancherias" or village homes. The Colfax Indian village existed on the hill near the Colfax Indian Cemetery, off Iowa Hill Road. The property belonged primarily to Jacob Keck and his descendants. This was not a government-mandated tract, but rather a space under the protection of the landowner. Keep in mind that women still did not have the right to vote. Yet groups, like the suffragettes, began bringing attention to the inhumanities of man. However, it was not until 1915 that a place was established for this region and it was, to those who know the lay of the land, a sham. The 40 acres were located to the northwest of town, on a ridge above the Bear River. Highway 174 runs through a northern corner of the tract. Even though the Bureau of Indian Affairs officially described it as having “a limited area open for grazing, but the greater portion of the tract is in brush and trees,” anyone who has hiked the area, or currently owns property there, knows it to be one big basalt rock outcropping. Access to the river is steep and treacherous and is blocked by the Bear River Canal. A Bureau field report in 1951 called the grazing and the timber value “negligible.” The owner, C.W. Haffy, was probably happy to oblige the U.S. Government when they offered him $800 for a “useless piece of land.” Although there was no readily available source of food and the land was basically uninhabitable, there were two known attempts at habitation. In December 1927, L.W. Stevenson, a local tribal member, requested authority for his and other Indian families to occupy the Colfax reservation. He told the Bureau that the Rancheria was unoccupied. BIA Superintendent L.A. Darrington replied by letter authorizing Indians to “occupy the land and construct houses thereon.” They evidently never did. A few years later, in 1933, Russell Enos requested to occupy and asked the Bureau to develop a domestic water supply by drilling wells. He also inquired as to the legal status of the Rancheria. Superintendent O.H. Lipps responded that the land was owned by the United States government for the benefit of homeless Indians and granted Enos authority for temporary occupancy to the whole tract, since there were no other occupants at the time. He would be restricted to four or five acres when and if others of the tribe wished to inhabit the property. However, he advised Enos that funds were not available to drill any wells. A survey completed in the 1950s logged 41 rancherias as occupied within the state and all others – including the Colfax Rancheria – as unused federal land in California. To state authorities this translated to lost revenue in the form of property taxes and requested the land be privatized. In 1965, the Colfax Rancheria was put up for auction; Red Simpson bid on and acquired the tract from the Bureau of Indian Affairs. He started excavating the Rio Osos Ranchos and eventually sold to a group that renamed the subdivision White Oak (see Dec. 1, 2011 Colfax Record). During the activism of the 1970s, upon learning what had transpired, the local Nisenan attempted to get the land turned over for their use. This included sending a petition to then-U.S. Senator John Tunney. It was to no avail. It is of interest to note that, according to Lorraine Simpson, the widow of Red Simpson, the water from the wells that were ultimately installed turned out to be very high in sulfur content and would have to be filtered, an expensive operation. In 1923, Lucy Wallace, the last resident of the Colfax village, died and her roundhouse and belongings were burned in the traditional way. Today, for the local Nisenan descendants, the only vestige of a once-numerous people are the burial grounds at the Colfax Indian Cemetery on Iowa Hill Road."
By: Carol Feineman, Gold Country News Service; Friday Nov 18 2005 Prout family sets sights on return to Colfax-
Native Americans have longtime roots in town
The Prout family will return to Colfax. That's what the 275-member family, living between Foresthill and Roseville, wants to tell residents. Colfax was home to the Prouts beginning in the Gold Rush era. Now, the Prouts' immediate family members, which include 10 grown siblings, hope to move back. Of Maidu and Miwok descent, the family belongs to the Colfax-Todds Valley Consolidated Tribe that was formed in 2000 as a way to become a federally recognized Indian tribe, said Tribal Chairman Richard Prout. While most of the Prouts no longer live in Colfax, family members visit the Colfax Indian Cemetery monthly to clean, mow and rake around the graves. The cemetery is on the corner of Canyon Way and Iowa Hill Road. Lola Gilbert Prout, a Colfax native and the family's matriarch living in Auburn, said her ancestors were vital Colfax residents. "During the Gold Rush, the Prouts held odds-and-ends jobs. They picked fruit in the orchards, did lots of hunting, were guides," she said. "They did logging, my dad worked for PG&E. They were well respected." Helen Wayland, the former Colfax Pharmacy co-owner, has fond memories of the Prouts. "They were customers of ours from the '50s to when we closed the pharmacy," Wayland said. "The Prout family had a lot of members. We got to know them." She always considered them Colfax residents. "I never gave a thought they were different. They lived in Colfax and were our friends. They were just an important part of Colfax," Wayland added. But Lola Prout's children don't think other residents share Wayland's view. Steven Prout, Richard Prout's younger brother, believes today's residents are unaware of his family's history here. His brother agrees. "Our goal is to educate people of Colfax about us and work with the city," Richard Prout said. "We want to support Colfax and get the message out there at community events, try to help through educating the general public about Native Americans. They don't realize there were Indians here or that there was a reservation or rancheria in Colfax." The 40-acre rancheria Prout is referring to was off Highway 174 in Colfax. According to Todds Valley Maidu-Miwok Cultural Foundation documents, the Colfax Rancheria was sold in December 1965 by the Secretary of the Interior. * * * Several Prout members are in the traditional drum group Niki-Esko, which stands for "My Family, My People." The group performed during the annual Founder's Day on Nov. 5 outside the Colfax Depot. "This was our first time performing here," Lola Prout said. "It felt good because this is where our people, our family, comes from." "We want to come home. We can do something for the community," she added. Bob Perrault, Colfax city manager, would welcome their participation. "It's important to recognize Native American heritage. It has been an important part of Colfax's history," Perrault said. For the Prouts, that's good news. The Prout brothers see the city as a stepping stone for the Colfax-Todds Valley Consolidated Tribe's efforts to receive federal recognition. "I hope the city recognizes us as a tribe. Then maybe the county, then the state, and then the federal government will follow," Richard Prout said. Nedra Darling, the public affairs spokesperson for the U.S. Department of the Interior's Indian Affairs office, says becoming federally acknowledged "is a pretty intense process" that could take between two and three years to complete. Prout said he wants recognition so that his grandchildren receive benefits. "We're not seeking a casino. We want better housing, improved health care and scholarships for our children," he stressed. Since the creation of the Federal Acknowledgement law in 1978, 302 groups have stated their intent to seek acknowledgment through Darling's office. Only a small percentage of those groups have been granted acknowledgement. "I know it will be a long process to receive recognition," Prout said. "But I believe it's possible. I want to start with the city and maybe go before the city for a resolution. Then we'd have some acknowledgement that we're here and we exist and we are an important part."
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