When most people think of Native Americans, their image is of the Plains peoples depicted in Western art and movies. Yet the indigenous peoples of North America are quite diverse, from the farming communities of the East Coast and the buffalo hunters of the Great Plains to the small bands in the West and all the variations in between.
The Monkeys and I recently visited the Maidu Museum and Historic Site in Roseville, California, with MuM, our local multicultural moms group. I was eager for my two California babies to begin to appreciate the culture and history of the indigenous peoples in our area.
The Maidu Museum and Historic Site opened in 2010 to share the culture and history of the Maidu people, who inhabited a large area in Northern California stretching from the Sacramento Valley into the Sierra foothills.
It is an elegant little museum, built next to an ancient Nisenan Maidu village. Visitors can see the village site as well as petroglyphs and other cultural features along the easy half-mile trail outside the museum.The museum offers a wealth of well-designed displays, including many hands-on features good for little ones. Monkey and his friends had fun making pencil rubbings of recreated petroglyphs and putting together a puzzle of a village scene. There was even a simulated campfire, where you can listen to a recording of a Maidu storyteller. (The museum also hosts real campfires in their outdoor amphitheater where you can sit under the stars and listen to stories from a local Elder!)
My favorite museum display was a panel where you could hear different words spoken in several of the Maidu languages.I also appreciated the emphasis not only on Maidu heritage but also on the Maidu people today. Too often Native Americans are treated as part of the past, instead of modern people living in today’s society. This museum, however, includes displays on present Maidu culture, including two galleries of contemporary art.
According to the Encyclopedia Britannica, today there are an estimated 4,000 people of Maidu descent. While a number of the Maidu tribes are federally recognized, many are not; several of these are now fighting to protect their heritage, including battling against threats to historic sites.
Resources on Maidu Culture
Below are resources you can use to explore Maidu culture with your family. Most of these are geared towards school age children or older:
The Maidu are included in several general works on native peoples of California, such as California Indians by C. L. Keyworth. They are also part of a wonderful series of books on the tribes of California put together by a former teacher, Mary Null Boulé, to fill the gap she saw in well-researched material for elementary school children.
I was especially pleased to find the book Ooti: A Child of the Nisenan at our local library. This gem of a book is a local publication, put out by the American River Natural History Association. It includes a story, games, and crafts for children.
For information specifically related to Maidu language, I recommend this page from the Linguistics Department at the University of California at Berkeley.
What cultures have you explored with your children lately?
Sunshine Kids California Blog Hop
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Thanks to Akane of Juggling With Kids for the beautiful photo!
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