The Maidu are a native people from North America. They are from northern California and Nevada.
Maidu are split into three groups based on their languages. The three main groups are Maidu, Nisenan, and Konkow.
Each Maidu group lived in their own areas along the Sacramento River. The Nisenan were the largest of the three groups.
Maidu Life Prior to the 19th Century
The Maidu lived in villages as hunter-gatherers.
The three Maidu groups lived in different areas around the Sacramento River. The Maidu lived in the northeastern mountains. The Konkow lived in the northwestern foothills. The Nisenan lived in the southern valleys.
The Maidu clustered their villages together. The center and largest village was where the leader or headman lived.
The Maidu built a variety of homes. The type of home they built would change by the season. In the valleys, Nisenan built earth-covered domes during the winter and brush covered homes in the summer.
The Maidu groups living in the mountains stayed close to their villages in the winter. They stopped traveling to hunt and trade with other groups.
The Western Frontier and The Settlers Effects on the Maidu
The Maidu were able to avoid encounters with settlers until the early 1800s. In 1831, the Maidu faced a disease outbreak. It may have been from Malaria. This caused the deaths of many of their people.
In the 1840s, gold was discovered in California. This started the gold rush. Many settlers came from the East. These settlers stole most of the Maidu land. Without their lands, the Maidu people struggled to live as hunter-gatherers.
The Maidu suffered disease outbreaks, violence, and mass murder. Those who survived were sent to work on farms, on ranches, and to live on reservations.
The settlers sent Maidu children to schools. There, they were taught to let go of their Maidu culture and become more like the settlers.
Today, the Maidu people live in and around reservations. They remain in the Northern California area.
Sources & Resources
Books & Journal Articles
- Johnson, J. R., & Lorenz, J. G. (2006). Genetics, linguistics, and prehistoric migrations: An analysis of California Indian mitochondrial DNA lineages. Journal of California and Great Basin Anthropology, 33-64.
- Johnson, K. L. (2005). Archaeological Identification of the Valley Maidu in Northern California. Onward and Upward, 57-74.
- Schroeder, K. B., Villa JR, G., Malhi, R. S., Rode, A. R., & Smith, D. G. (2011). Biological continuity in the Central Valley: Evidence from ancient and modern mitochondrial DNA. Journal of California and Great Basin Anthropology, 39-58.
Author: Abigail L. – 5 Feb 2018