‘The History of Us’: Nisenan book a plea for recognition | TheUnion.com

‘The History of Us’: Nisenan book a plea for recognition

The North Columbia Schoolhouse was all ears Saturday afternoon as Nisenan Tribal Chairman Richard B. Johnson gave an intimate talk about how life used to be for the local Nisenan, outlined in his book “History of Us: Nisenan Tribe of the Nevada City Rancheria.”

The book — released late last year — serves as an important glimpse into the life of the tribe that had their federal recognition terminated in 1964, a decision the Nisenan are currently working to have reversed through legislation.

“Sugarloaf Mountain right here in Nevada City used to be a mountain… but our main village had a warrior up there observing for smoke signals,” Johnson said to the gathered crowd.

“Based upon the pattern, the message might be ‘Wasso Indians are headed our way’. Nobody would enter somebody’s territory unless they were invited in, or unless they were traveling in peace with white feathers on top. And we had borders, we had people watching our borders.

“Even now if the Auburn Rancheria wants to do something in our territory, they contact me”

“And some Indians ­— they do not respect that. There is a small tribe in Nevada City now that does not respect that, and they are not our people.”

Johnson’s talk also touched on the harsh brutality of the laws against natives at the time.

“You could relocate the Indians off the land — you could never be charged for a crime by the testimony of an Indian or Indians.

“That was challenged once in Nevada City and went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, and it was ruled that was correct, you could not convict a white man on the testimony of an Indian or a Chinese person.”

But what happened as a result of that law, people like Sutter who built Sutter’s Fort, would put militia people together that he would hire and he would go up in our territory and if he just needed money, his people would kill all of the adults in the village and run all the children down to the Bay Area and sell them.”

“At one point in time you could get as much as $60 for a boy, but for a pretty young girl or a women you could get as much as $200, so that was all legalized.”

Johnson’s book can be found on Amazon.com.

To contact Multimedia Reporter Elias Funez, email efunez@theunion.com or call 530-477-4230.

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