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Tsi-Akim visit parcel

Dan BurkhartMaidu tribal chairman Don Ryberg stands on a rock used by his ancestors to grind acorns, on land that was signed over to the tribe by an arrangement though the Nevada County Historical Society. Ryberg led seven tribe members to visit the land Friday.
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Being careful not to step on the wildflowers, descendants of western Nevada County’s native people followed Tsi-Akim Maidu tribal leader Don Ryberg through the tall grass while hawks turned overhead.

“This land links us to our ancestors,” tribal member Louella Giordano said Friday, when the band came to the grinding stone outcropping where the Tsi-Akim ground acorns into flour thousands of years ago.

Designated as “Bear Hollow” on county parcel maps, the property slopes down from Perimeter Road in the southwest corner of the county.



The 0.9-acre parcel represents a small part of the land promised the tribe in a treaty signed in 1851 at Camp Union along the Bear River, not far to the south.

From there, Ryberg said, the original 35-square-mile territory ran north to the South Yuba River, included the Penn Valley and Lake Wildwood areas to the south, and bordered Rough and Ready to the east.




Ryberg said the United States government went so far as to survey the land, but never ratified the treaty.

Then in 1855, Ryberg said, California’s Indian Removal Policy outlawed the tribe’s culture, language and religion, and all but drove the Tsi-Akim from the Gold Country.

Earlier Friday at the Mackey Real Estate office in Nevada City, Paul Hinshelwood, president of the Nevada County Historical Society, and Tony Smeaton, a member of the society’s board of directors, signed the parcel over to the tribe.

Finally, the Tsi-Akim Maidu are no longer a tribe without land, Hinshelwood said.

“I want to thank the Nevada County Historical Society for this gift,” Ryberg said. “It’s a small piece of land that means so much to the tribe and the community.”

Ryberg said the historical society was the first to support and endorse the tribe. That endorsement was taken to the Nevada County Board of Supervisors, which officially recognized the tribe by resolution in January 2001 and pledged to support the tribe’s effort to preserve its culture and heritage.

“This is a wonderful thing for the tribe,” said tribal member Clara Deluca, who took her 4-year-old son Anthony to see the Bear Hollow property, toting him across a wet bog and pointing out holes worn in the grinding stone by perhaps a thousand years of pounding pestles.

“Our elders struggled for this, but the youth nowadays don’t relate to that struggle, except through the stories they’ve heard,” Deluca said. “I’m glad that my son can witness this. You can’t put into words what it means to be able to share this with our children.”

“I think we’re watching history in the making and witnessing something very special,” said Nevada City resident Dana Brown, who attended Friday’s deed signing ceremony.

“I think this is the start of a healing process that needs to happen in Nevada County,” Deluca said.

Ryberg said the Bear Hollow parcel is too small to build on, but there will be tribal gatherings there.

There was talk at the property Friday about making a trail leading to the grinding stone outcropping and a bridge across the bog, and maybe a sweat lodge.

“I would like to see a sweat lodge out here,” Giordano said. “This would be a perfect spot for some spiritual cleansing.”

Ryberg said the tribe is still working to secure a land base in the Grass Valley or Nevada City area for a Tsi-Akim cultural and educational center.

“But gaming is still not an option, and actually it’s not an issue either,” he said. “We’re concerned about preserving our culture and heritage.”


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