July 14, 2012

Berry Creek Rancheria of Maidu Indians of California


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Who are the Tyme Maidu Tribe of the Berry Creek Rancheria?

Berry Creek Rancheria of Maidu Indians of California is a federally recognized Maidu tribe in Southern California.

Official Tribal Name: Berry Creek Rancheria of Maidu Indians of California

Address: 5 Tyme Way, Oroville, CA 95966
Phone: 530-534-3859
Fax: 530-534-1151

Official Website: – (No information there yet as of Oct 2015.)

Recognition Status: Federally Recognized

Traditional Name / Traditional Meaning:

Maidu comes from their self-designation and means “person.”
Konkow comes from the Anglicization of their word for “meadowland.”
Nisenan comes from their self-designation and means “among us” or “village.”

Common Name: Maidu

Alternate names / Alternate spellings / Misspellings:

Berry Creek Rancheria of Tyme Maidu Indians, Tyme Maidu Tribe, formerly Dick Harry Band

Name in other languages:

Region: California

State(s) Today: California

Traditional Territory:

In the early 19th century,they were located on the eastern tributaries of the Sacramento River, south of Lasen Peak. Prior to about 1700, when they abandoned it to the Paiutes, Maidus also controlled territory east of Honey Lake into present-day Nevada.Of the three divisions of the Maidu — valley, foothill, and mountain groups — the valley group, or Nisenan, were the most prosperous and culturally developed.

Confederacy: Maidu


Although some groups signed a treaty in 1851, it was never ratified; each Maidu received a land claims settlement payment of about $660 in 1971.

Maidu Indians-California Red T-Shirt
Buy this Berry Creek Rancheria of Maidu Indians T-ShirtReservation: Berry Creek Rancheria and Off-Reservation Trust Land

The Konkow Reservation was established as Nome Lackee in 1854, but its residents were forced nine years later to abandon it and march to the Round Valley Reservation. The few surviving Nisenan lived near foothill towns and worked in local low-paying industries at that time. Many Maidu children attended assimilationist boarding schools around the turn of the century. Maidu culture underwent a brief revival in the 1870s under the influence of the Ghost Dance. All rancherias were purchased between 1906 and 1937 under legislation providing for “homeless” California Indians. Following the death in 1906 of the last hereditary headman, much of the people’s ceremonial regalia was sold to a local museum.
Land Area: 65 acres (260,000 m2), located in two geographically separate sites: one near Oroville, California in the community of Oroville East, and the other at the eastern edge of the community of Berry Creek, within a mile of the Feather River.
Tribal Headquarters:
Time Zone: 

Population at Contact:

The Maidu numbered about 9,000 collectively in the late 18th century.

Registered Population Today: 304 enrolled members

Tribal Enrollment Requirements:

Genealogy Resources:


Name of Governing Body:
Number of Council members:
Dates of Constitutional amendments:
Number of Executive Officers:


Language Classification: Penutian -> Maiduan

Language Dialects:

Maiduan is a Penutian language. Its three divisions—northeastern or mountain (Maidu), northwestern or foothill (Konkow), and southern or valley (Nisenan)—were probably mutually unintelligible.

Number of fluent Speakers: The Berry Creek Rancheria has two Maidu language speakers.



Bands, Gens, and Clans

Maidu – 3 Divisions: Nisenan (Southern or Valley Maidu), Konkow (Northwestern or foothills), and Maidu proper (Northeastern or Mountain).

Related Tribes:

Traditional Allies:

Traditional Enemies: Achumawi 

Ceremonies / Dances:

The Nisenan observed an annual fall mourning ceremony and other ritual dances.

Modern Day Events & Tourism:

The Maidu hold an annual bear dance in Janesville, California.


Legends / Oral Stories: 

Art & Crafts:

Fine arts include baskets; necklaces; shell, bone, and feather earrings; and other bead and feather work. Petroglyphs, mostly circles and dots, with a few people or animals, were created perhaps as early as 1000 B.C.E.



Dress was minimal year-round. In summer, men wore nothing or a buckskin breechclout. Women wore apron skirts of buckskin, bark, or grass. Bear, deer (bird and fowl feather to the south), and mountain lion fur robes and blankets were added in cold weather. Only the northeastern group wore moccasins and snowshoes.

Adornment: Both sexes wore tattoos and shell, bone, feather, and wood ornaments.


Games include hoop-and-pole, tossing games, dice games, and hand games and often contained wagering, music, and song.

Musical Instruments:

The Maidu had no drum with head of deerskin. Instead, they used a foot-drum (ki’le) made of a huge log. The‘preparation of this log was a serious matter and the men entrusted with the task spent some time in the sweathouse before going down to the river where the drum was made.

Sycamore, the hardest wood obtainable in the region, was used for this drum. A tree was felled and a section, about five or six feet long and two feet in diameter, was cut from the trunk. It was split lengthwise, and the workers selected the best side, which had the fewest knots in it.

The center of this section was burned and scraped out, leaving a half-cylinder open at both ends. No one was allowed to see the process of making a drum, but there was a great feast when it was brought to the village. A shallow trench was dug in the ground, and the half-cylinder of wood was placed over the trench, with the hollow side downward.

The Maidu drum was “played” in two ways. Sometimes two or three men stood on top of the drum and “danced,” or stamped their feet in time with the singing. Sometimes two or three men stood beside the drum and pounded on it with heavy sticks or clubs. These sticks were four feet or more in length and were moved vertically, like pestles. The men stood side by side and lowered these heavy sticks in time with the singing. The sticks had no padding at the ends, like ordinary drumsticks, and they were used with “all sorts of dances.

A short board was used as a drum with many Maidu dances. The board was of suitable length to be held in the left hand, resting on the lower arm in a horizontal position, and was struck with any convenient stick.

The Maidu name for rattle is W U S ~ O ’ S ~ O said to suggest the “sound of swishing pebbles.” The instrument was used with the “night singing’’ of doctors. One doctor might give up a patient and they would send for another. Probably that man might use a rattle. From this it might appear that a rattle was used by the more expert doctors, called when others were unable to effect a cure.

A split-stick rattle or clapper (puk’pupu) was made only of green elder wood. A straight stick about a foot and a half in length was cut and allowed to dry, then split for a portion of its length. The pith was removed and the instrument “played” by holding it in the right hand and striking it against the palm of the left hand.

Kroeber designates an instrument called a mawu, or mawuwi, a sort of musical bow, as “a sort of jew’s harp,” the only stringed instrument of California. It was tapped as a restful amusement, and sometimes used to converse with spirits.

The bow was held by the left hand, with the string uppermost. It was held almost directly outward from the body-not forward as a violinis held, and the head of the player was turned slightly toward the left. The tip of the bow was against the player’s closed lips, pressed rather tightly, and the sound “ran out over the bow.” In his right hand the player held an arrow which he tapped against the string, producing a rhythmic accompaniment to the vocalization, which may bedescribed as humming with the lips closed.

It was said that “people could play any song on the flute, or they just played it.” This was intended as a love song and it was different from any other kind of singing. It is made of thin box-elder and is about eleven inches in length, with six holes burned in the wood, the group being equidistant from the ends of the flute. The holes are seven-eighths of an inch apart, closer than in a majority of Indian flutes.

Short whistles made of a crane’s wing-bone were used at dances, but the use of a whistle made of a swan’s bone was limited to the Hesi ceremony. Whistles were not used in connection with the treatment of the sick, as in many tribes.

The women blew whistles made of the leg-bone of the crane and blue heron during the AKi when a man climbed to the top of a pole, hung head downward, and descended slowly in that position. The women danced hard and blew the whistles, “making a pretty sound.”

Some of these were long and some were short, and the men blew them alternately high and low in a simple rhythm to make a tune. Often five or six men blew these at a time, at a social dance. If a number of men were performing together, these would be an understanding as to the pitch of the whistle that each man would use. This would produce the desired alternation of high, medium, and low tones.

A man might own several whistles of different lengths and blow them alternately if he were alone to achieve the high-low rhythm produced by a group.

In such a set of whistles we have a rudimentary panpipe, an instrument of great antiquity widely distributed throughout the world. There seems a possibility of oriental influence in the use of this set of whistles in northern California.


Of the three main Maidu divisions, the valley people, or Nisenan, had the largest population and the most number of tribelets (permanent villages). Village communities (consisting of several villages, with size in inverse proportion to elevation) were autonomous. The central village had the largest dance or ceremonial chamber, which doubled as a home to the headman. This office, which was inheritable only among the Nisenan, was chosen by a shaman. He or she (women might become chiefs among Nisenan) was generally wealthy and served primarily as adviser and spokesperson.

The Maidu settled in small village groups, with the headman, dance hall, and ceremonial chamber in the central village. Hill dwellings were pole-framed, brush- or skin-covered houses in winter and brush shelters in summer. Most mountain people remained in their villages during the winter. In winter, valley people lived in earth-covered, domed pit houses, with door and smoke openings in the roof. They used brush shelters in summer.


The Maidu culture was typical of tribes living in California. Maidus were mainly hunters and gatherers. Their staple was the acorn, from which they made mush, bread, and soup. They also ate pine nuts, manzanita, roots, and insects. Game included deer (hunted in communal drives), elk, antelope, and bear (for hides).

Meat was baked, dried, or roasted. Fish included eel, salmon, and trout. Nets, weirs, and spears served a fishing equipment.

Maidus drank wild mint tea and manzanita cider.

Most fishing and hunting areas were held in common. Theft from a neighbor was severely punished, although theft from someone of another community was not punished by the home community. Murder and rape were dealt with by blood revenge (of the guilty party or a near friend or relative) or by payment. Lying was generally avoided. The community policed its boundaries against poachers.

Tobacco was their only cultivated plant. It was smoked in elderberry pipes at bedtime and during ceremonies.

The people hunted with bow and arrow and stone (basalt and obsidian) spears and knives. Other tools (stone, grass, and wood) included scrapers, arrow straighteners, pestles, mortars, and pipes. They used a buckeye drill to start fires and tule mats for seats, beds, roofs, doors, skirts, rafts, and beds. Musical instruments included drums, rattles, flutes, whistles, and a bow.

Little individual travel occurred between villages greater than 20 miles apart, but trade was widespread among nearby villages and groups. Goods also changed hands as a result of gambling games. The Nisenan traded acorns, nuts, berries, wood, and skins for fish, roots, grasses, shells, beads, salt, and feathers. Goods could also be purchased with shell and baked magnesite cylinder beads.

Economy Today:

Religion Today:

Traditional Religion & Spiritual Beliefs:

Maidu religion was closely related to their mythology. Konkows and Nisenans, but not the Maidu proper, practiced the Kuksu cult, a ceremonial and dance organization led by a powerful shaman. Only those properly initiated could join. Members followed a dance cycle in which dances represented different spirits.

Shamans trucked with the spirits, cured, interpreted dreams, and conducted ceremonies. Spirits were said to live in natural geographic sites. Shamans had at least one spirit as a guardian and source of power. Female shamans were assumed to be malevolent.

Religious specialists included religious shamans, poison shamans, singing shamans, and weather shamans. Doctors could be of either sex, although women were considered less likely to hurt a patient (doctors could also poison people).


The Maidu observed many life-cycle taboos and restrictions.  If a woman gave birth to twins, she and the babies were often killed. Taboo foods among the Maidu proper included coyote, dog, wolf, buzzard, lizard, snake, and frog. Konkows refused to eat bear and mountain lion. The Nisenan ate neither owl, condor, nor vulture.

Burial Customs:

The Nisenan practiced cremation; the other two groups buried their dead with food and gifts. All three burned the house and possessions after death and held annual mourning ceremonies for several years thereafter.

Wedding Customs

Gender roles were fairly rigidly defined. There was no formal marriage ceremony other than mutual gift-giving. Couples lived in the woman’s family home at first and later in a home of their own near the man’s family.



Famous Maidu Chiefs and Leaders

Catastrophic Events:

The Maidu were relatively successful in avoiding missions, but many were killed in 1833 by a severe epidemic, possibly malaria. The 1849 gold rush led directly to theft of their land, disruption of their ability to acquire food, more disease, violence, and mass murder. Most survivors were forced into ranch and farm work and onto reservations.

Tribe History:

Maidus first met Spanish and U.S. expeditions and trappers in the early nineteenth century. Initial contact was peaceful.

In the News:

Further Reading:

Maidu Indian Myths and Stories of Hanc’ibyjim
Maidu Tribe: For Kids
Mountain Maidu and Pioneers: A History of Indian Valley, Plumas County, California, 1850 – 1920

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