Peering into the past |

Peering into the past

A Maidu village is growing on a hillside outside of Nevada City, just in time for a four-day celebration of indigenous peoples.

A large cedar bark house rises 16 feet from a pit in the ground, a site where ancestors of the Tsi-Akim Maidu lived for thousands of years. It is the second bark house constructed on Nevada County Land Trust property in recent years.

“This is how it looked probably 5,000 years ago. We worked pretty feverishly to finish it before the four-day celebration,” said Don Ryberg, chairman of the local Tsi-Akim Maidu, while standing before the front entrance of the traditional bark house on a cold autumn morning. Ryberg’s ancestors are Nisenan and Mountain Maidu.

Ryberg and cultural director Grayson Coney spent 140 hours laboring on the bark house that required 10 grown men to hoist the support poles. The two searched lumber mill scrap piles where they found 200 boards of cedar bark for the second house at the “living” cultural village called Pata-Panaka, meaning baby woodpecker.

Beginning Friday, tribal members and the community will honor indigenous history and culture during the celebration called Indigenous Peoples Days.

On Friday, two land owners will give some property to the tribe. At sunrise on Saturday, a salmon will be speared and then carried by spirit runners to the South Fork of the Yuba River at Bridgeport for a “Calling Back the Salmon ceremony.” On Sunday, the community is invited to the village site for drumming circles, dancing and food. The celebration will conclude on Monday with children’s activities and deep discussions and healing at the Miners Foundry.

“I think the community has evolved. Twenty years ago, this would have never happened,” Ryberg said.

During the Gold Rush, Ryberg’s great-greatgrandfather “was chased out” of Nevada County before he took refuge in the remote, less populated forest lands of Plumas County.

The Tsi-Akim Maidu population reached near extinction during the mid-1850s when the rivers were choked with debris from hydraulic mining and miners destroyed historic village sites and took possession of ancestral gathering grounds.

“What happened to Indian people this many years ago needs to be looked at, otherwise it’s going to haunt this country,” Ryberg said. The bark house and a proposed monument on Nevada City land to be deeded to the tribe will start the healing process for tribal members and the community as a whole, Ryberg said.

“The European community needs to apologize for their ancestors. The Indigenous people need to accept the apology. That’s when the healing starts,” Ryberg said.

For more information and a schedule of events for the four-day celebration, go online to or call 265-0711.


To contact Staff Writer Laura Brown, e-mail laurab@the or call 477-4231.

Know and go

The Indigenous Peoples Days take place in and around Nevada City from Friday, Oct. 5 through Monday, Oct. 8. The Tsi-Akim Maidu Tribe and the Colfax-Todds Valley-Colfax Consolidated Tribe are hosting the event.

– Friday: The opening ceremony starts at 4 p.m. honoring the ancestors of the Maidu Indians and their culture that lives on.

– Saturday Sunrise ceremony near Parks Bar Bridge, followed by a traditional ceremony known as “Calling Back the Salmon,” at the Bridgeport Crossing at the south fork of the Yuba River.

– Sunday: Sunrise ceremony at the Tsi-Akim Active Cultural Center at Burton Park, outside Nevada City. The public is invited to a day of fun, celebration, food and healing from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.

– Monday: Sunrise ceremony at the Tsi-Akim Active Cultural Center. Children’s program at the Miners Foundry from 10 a.m. to noon. Music and discussions in the afternoon. A memorial dinner serving traditional American Indian foods in the evening accompanied by song and dance.

The events on Sunday and Monday will be broadcast live on KVMR Community Radio, 89.5 FM/105.1 FM, and online at

For more information, call the Tsi Akim Tribal office at 265-0711 or go online to

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