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Indigenous People’s Day canceled in Nevada City

Lawrence Laughing, left., Rowen White and Maizie White of the Mohawk of Akwesasnei perform the opening song during last year's Indigenous People's Day celebration in Nevada City. "Coyote" Fred Downey, spiritual elder, sitting in the back.
John Hart/jhart@theunion.com | The Union

Though the Tsi Akim Maidu will host its annual Salmon Ceremony, there will not be a celebration of the more public Indigenous People’s Day this year in Nevada City.

“Nobody is really wanting to celebrate because of the losses we suffered this year,” said tribal councilman Jason Ryberg. “But the (salmon) ceremony is something that has to happen.”

Ryberg would not mention the names of the people who died this year, citing a cultural practice not to do so, but a statement on the Tsi Akim website mentions “the recent passing of an honored elder tribal supporter and the sudden loss of a much loved and valued tribal member” in a September announcement of the Tsi Akim council’s decision to cancel the 2013 Indigenous People’s Days.



“We’ll be doing it again,” Ryberg said in response to a question about whether the cessation of the celebration would be permanent. “We just scaled it back for this year.”

Hosted in Nevada City since its inception nearly a decade ago, Indigenous People’s Day was aimed at fostering communal relations with the Maidu and the area’s current residents and would have been this weekend in Nevada City.




Last year’s incarnation took place Oct. 5 and began with a Round Dance on Union Street in Nevada City. Following the round dance, renaissance man and activist John Trudell led a musical performance, according to The Union’s archives.

But Indigenous People’s Day has always been a component of a larger weekend of festivities, some of which will occur Saturday.

“The Calling Back the Salmon Ceremony will be the only activity of the weekend,” Ryberg said in a weekend email.

On Saturday, the public is invited to attend and participate in the Salmon Ceremony on the Yuba River at Sycamore Ranch.

The ceremony begins this year with the Sunrise Ceremony and continues with a potluck dinner in the afternoon and a sharing circle. The Tsi Akim will be providing salmon and rice, according to the website.

The Tsi Akim revived the ancient tradition in 2006 for the first time in more than 150 years, Ryberg told The Union. The Salmon Ceremony is a tribute to the creation story of the Maidu creator, who when creating humans did not give them a voice, Ryberg explained. Without a voice, other animals were called upon to give their voice to humans, but none would, except the salmon.

“They gave their voice to speak for them to continue our relationships since time immortal,” Ryberg said. “We’re supposed to be their voice so they are protected.”

Additionally, the hunter and gatherers of the various native tribes of the Sierra Nevada relied heavily on the acorn as a staple of their diet, supplementing it with protein supplied by the salmon that navigated the unbridled free-flowing Yuba, along with deer and other native creatures, according to Robert Bettinger, a professor of anthropology at University of California, Davis.

“We’re still holding the ceremony. That is the most important thing,” Ryberg said. “As a native, that is something that is part of our culture.”

Anyone interested in helping with the Salmon Ceremony by volunteering, being a spirit or support runner or helping to prepare the salmon feast on Thursday can email ipdmaidu@gmail.com or call 530-845-5133.

Nisenan Heritage Day still planned

Members of the Nisenan Tribe of the Nevada City Rancheria are warning people not to confuse the cancellation of the Tsi Akim’s Indigenous People’s Day with their own event.

Nisenan Heritage Day will be Nov. 2, said Shelly Covert, tribal council secretary for the Nevada City Rancheria.

“This is our fourth event. This year we’re holding it at Sierra College, who is co-hosting,” Covert said. “We’re bringing the academics and trying to get the Nisenan perspective of history in the education system here.”

Nisenan Heritage Day will feature artisans, presentations, speaker lineups, panel discussions, demonstrations, merchandise, information booths and food and music. It will also feature ceremonial dancers.

“Some of those dancers are direct descendants of old Chief Kelly,” Covert said. “That’s huge that they can come here and dance on our homelands.”

Chief Louis “Laloak” Kelly was the Nisenan’s last patriarch, who died in 1964.

This year’s Heritage Day theme is “Rekindling the Spirit of Community,” Covert said. Students from Grass Valley and Nevada City are expected to attend.

“We’re trying to rekindle the spirit with the community and the kids are real important with that,” Covert said.

Anyone interested in Nisenan Heritage Day can call 530-570-0846 or visit nevadacityrancheria.org.

To contact Staff Writer Christopher Rosacker, email crosacker@theunion.com or call 530-477-4236.


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