‘Preserve, protect and perpetuate’: Nevada City Rancheria Nisenan Tribe to hold 12th Annual Nisenan Heritage Day
Special to Prospector
November is Native American Heritage Month, a time to celebrate and to acknowledge the important contributions of Native people. To that end, the Nevada City Rancheria Nisenan Tribe invite you to a virtual fundraiser and education event, the 12th Annual Nisenan Heritage Day on Friday, Nov. 26, from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m.
The event is a fundraiser for California Heritage: Indigenous Research Project (CHIRP) whose mission is to “Preserve, protect and perpetuate Nisenan culture.” The evening is meant to serve as a way to teach the past, honor the present, and prepare for the future, said CHIRP Executive Director and Rancheria Nisenan Tribe Spokesperson Shelly Covert.
“The reason we have Nisenan Heritage Day is to bring visibility and awareness of the tribe today and to educate the community about the tribe and our long history here, but the big thing here is we are really reinserting the entire history back into the history books.”
Covert pointed out they have been erased — from the history of the tribe to the contributions the native people made to the region. “If you looked us up online ten years ago, there was nothing there,” Covert said.
She said the work of the tribe is really to make sure the history is recorded. “Getting it there for future, so it is never forgotten again and teaching the past. There is a big missing piece to the story here.”
In past years (prior to COVID-19), the tribe partnered with Sierra College to hold the event on the Grass Valley campus. Covert said that has been a great partnership. “We want to affect academia. We want to affect what is taught. Of course, with COVID, that is not possible this year, so we are doing a virtual event.”
Covert said they are using the event as a fundraiser. Typically they are able to hold four events each year to raise money, but had to condense it to the one day this year due to COVID. The Friday virtual event will will include music and a guided tour of Uba Seo Gallery. (Uba is the Niesenan word for Yuba and Seo is River, so Uba Seo is the original name for the Yuba River.)
“Our guest musicians, who donate their time, and totally volunteer because they want to support us, is MaMuse. They are amazing. They have quite a following and are so gracious to give all that time and energy to our event,” said Covert.
Following the performance, there will be a talk on “Erased,” which is the current exhibit hanging in the new art gallery at 225 Broad Street in Nevada City. This is the third exhibit in the gallery and is Covert’s vision of what she hopes will make the conversation and education easier as well as raise visibility, she chided, “One stone, 27,000 things hitting all at once!”
Covert explained the exhibit is a timeline, taking people through the legislative erasure of the tribe. “What it is doing is assisting conversations, like the word genocide. There was a genocide of the California Indians. Most people don’t know that. When it is brought up, sometimes people will debate it. And so, I just wanted it all to be in one room so people could just see it for themselves.”
Covert said it is not about blame, but rather recreating the history that is missing from view. She admits it is a hard topic. “It’s a little heavy, but we have been getting incredible feedback. There’s some really heavy stuff there that it feels like only the tribe remembered or only the tribe knew about, so I wanted to bring it all together in a pretty way, so people can engage and not feel bad.”
She said people may feel bad about the content but there is no blame being placed.
The virtual tour is a live stream and will go into depth of the content of the exhibit. As noted on the webpage, “The event will focus the critical components in strengthening our community’s relationships and capacity for change.” Covert will be discussing a number of topics including “Land Justice and the Land Back Movement, Ancestral Homelands Reciprocity Program, Nisenan Curriculum in local schools, and more.”
“It is a big deal,” said Covert. “There are some pieces where I know this history from my family, but now that there is Google and Wikipedia, you can go and see where people have researched these things.” She said it is hard to believe how there are national events most people would know about such as the Donner Party or the Civil War or the Mexican American War for example, but the Nisenan are not mentioned in these histories.
She will also give an update on the decades-long battle for tribal recognition. “People do want to know what is going on,” she said.
The gallery is also open for tours and Covert said she hopes people will come more than once, “I hope people will come a few times if they need to digest. But it’s important.”
There are several levels of pricing so as not to price anyone out. Covert feels that while raising funds is important, the content is what matters most. “The connections, the content, people’s ideas and enthusiasm around it is so much more important than the actual — though necessary — money.”
Go to Nisenan.org or through The Center for the Arts box office at thecenterforthearts.org.
Hollie Grimaldi Flores is a Nevada County resident and freelance writer for hire, as well as a podcaster at HollieGrams. You can hear her episodes at https://www.buzzsprout.com/1332253. She can be reached at email@example.com
KNOW & GO
WHO: Nevada City Rancheria Nisenan Tribe
WHAT: 12th Annual Nisenan Heritage Day
WHEN: Friday, Nov. 26, from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m.
WHERE: Virtual, go to Nisenan.org or through The Center for the Arts box office at thecenterforthearts.org
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