Mountain Maidu by Trina Cunningham by Donna Wood 

 

Trina Cunningham, a member of the Mountain Maidu tribe, greeted us with the traditional tribal greeting which translated is “Hello my friends,” because in their tradition everyone is a friend. 

But not everyone has been a friend to the Maidu.  In 1851, for example, the Governor of California placed a bounty on each native person which resulted in genocide of native people.  Trina pointed out that in high school she learned about the Jewish holocaust but nothing was ever mentioned about the death of so many native persons. 

 

The Mountain Maidu Indians of Genesee Valley are a federally unrecognized tribe. During the Gold Rush, land reservation treaties were left unratified, leaving the Maidu landless and in danger of losing cultural knowledge and practices. Over the years the language, which is unwritten, has almost been lost.  Currently there are six people who speak the language fluently.  Of those six one is a trained teacher, Trina’s brother.  They are working to expand this language into schools as part of the language arts departments’ options.  But first they must train teachers. 

 

The Feather River Land Trust wanted to work with the Maidu people to help restore their culture.  They created cultural conservation easements to protect and promote Maidu engagement on the Heart K Ranch in perpetuity.  A partnership with the Feather River Land Trust, Plumas Audubon Society and the Mountain Maidu is enabling that to happen.  Ms. Cunningham periodically leads interpretive hikes through what is part of her family’s traditional home for several generations.

 

Ms. Cunningham also spoke about the Maidu Summit Consortium composed of representatives from nine Mountain Maidu groups, with a vision of site protection and stewardship throughout the Maidu homeland which is working to attain rights to “Tasman Koyom” or Humbug Valley as it is better known.  The consortium is negotiating with Pacific Gas & Electric to become the rightful stewards of the land.  The intent is to have a Maidu Cultural outdoor summer area with ongoing cultural and ecological programs throughout summer months, offering affordable seminars in traditional Maidu skills and knowledge as a way of preserving the rapidly dissolving knowledge of “the old ways” and culture of the Mountain Maidu people

 

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