Nisenan event raises money for Nisenan Heritage Day, continues push for federal recognition (VIDEO) |

Nisenan event raises money for Nisenan Heritage Day, continues push for federal recognition (VIDEO)

Sam Corey
Staff Writer


What: Nisenan Heritage Day event

Where: Sierra College, 250 Sierra College Drive, Grass Valley

When: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Nov. 2

Losing federal recognition status in 1964 has brought much hardship to the Nisenan tribe.

Recently, its members have been doing everything in their power to regain it.

The California Heritage: Indigenous Research Project, a nonprofit supporting the Nisenan tribe, has been collecting hundreds of signatures from Nevada County residents to support federal recognition for the Nisenan people.

Tuesday was another step forward in the process toward recognition.

An estimated 120 people were in attendance at The Stone House in Nevada City to donate money to the research project, which in turn supports the push toward federal recognition and helps the tribe host Nisenan Heritage Day on Nov. 2 this year.

“It’s the biggest fundraiser that we do,” said Ember Amador, executive assistant of the nonprofit.

Most everything related to the event, said Amador, was donated, meaning that the vast majority of the proceeds went to support the nonprofit and tribe.

Tribal chairman Richard Johnson and Shelly Covert, spokesperson for the Nisenan Tribe of the Nevada City Rancheria, were at the event discussing the history of the Nisenan tribe and how their tribal status became terminated. They also described the importance of getting recognition.

“It wasn’t a good thing to let people know you were an Indian,” said Johnson, referring to life when he was young.

Johnson recently wrote the book, “History of Us,” describing the history and culture of the tribe and the advance toward recognition.

Covert said she’s drafted resolutions regarding recognition to be distributed to, and signed by, the Nevada County Historical Society, Grass Valley and Nevada City councils, and Nevada County Board of Supervisors, as well as by state representatives.

Covert said Judith Lowry, a Native American artist and co-founder of the local nonprofit, helped jump start the Nisenan’s efforts to regain its status.

The push for federal recognition is so important, said Covert, because it will provide the tribe access to federal programming, and will also allow the opportunity to emphasize the significance of Nisenan people in America — historically and contemporaneously. Recognition, said Covert, will mean access to Indian revenue sharing dollars in addition to existing federal Native American programs, like clean energy projects as well as the possibility of establishing an official reservation.

“There are so many things that could happen,” said Covert.

Current donations to the tribe are converted into efforts that help the tribe push for federal recognition, like meeting with state and local representatives and policy advisors, and conduct outreach projects.

It’s Covert’s hope that the money and eventual recognition will lead to protected land, better housing and health care for the tribe in addition to a healthier body politic in the country.

“I love the country,” Covert said, noting that all her ancestors have fought in American wars. And because of that, she said, “I know what America could be.”

To contact Staff Writer Sam Corey at or call 530-477-4219.

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