For thousands of years, dozens of Native American tribes settled throughout the Sacramento region and lived off the abundant resources of Northern California. Long before the Gold Rush, tribes such as the Miwok, Yahi, Patwin and Maidu prospered along the rivers and in the lush mountains of the Sierra Nevada. These California Elders are the original founding fathers of our region. Honor the rich history of Northern California’s Native Americans this November during Native American Heritage Month. The Sacramento area offers a variety of ways to learn about the lives and culture of the people that came before us.
Visit a Museum
California State Indian Museum
2618 K St.
Sacramento, CA 95816
Price: $3 adults/$2 youth ages 6 to 17/free children 5 and under
Hours: Wed to Sun – 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Since it opened in 1940, the California State Indian Museum has honored the thousands of Native Americans that called Northern California home. The museum depicts the three major themes of nature, spirit and family through exhibits of baskets, tools, beadwork and an exhibit dedicated to Ishi, the last remaining member of the Yahi tribe. There is also a special collection of photographs donated by family and friends, including photos of California Elders. The museum will feature special events during the month of November, including basket weaving demonstrations, a literature showcase and the Indian Arts & Crafts Holiday Fair.
Maidu Museum & Historic Site
1970 Johnson Ranch Drive
Roseville, CA 95661
Price: $4.50 adults/$4 child or senior/$16 family of four
Hours: Mon to Fri – 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., Sat – 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., Third Sat – 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.
The Nisenan Maidu tribe inhabited the Sierra Nevada along the Feather and American Rivers for 3,000 years. An ancient tribal village has been preserved in Roseville and is now the Maidu Museum and Historic Site. Visitors can view petroglyphs, bedrock mortars, wetlands and indigenous wildlife. The Maidu Indian Museum features interactive exhibits, tools, toys and baskets. The museum is currently showcasing artwork depicting Maidu legends and history by Frank Day and Jeremy Peconom. Visit the museum on December 1st for the All Nations Native Craft Fair to pick up handmade crafts, jewelry and baskets from local Native American artisans.
View Native American Art
Lilly Vigil Gallery
214 Broad St.
Nevada City, CA 95959
Hours: Mon to Sat – 10:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., Sun – 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., Tues – closed
Located about an hour’s drive north in Nevada City, the Lilly Vigil Gallery specializes in fine Native American art from local, regional and national artists. The gallery features high-quality graphic prints, pottery, sculptures and jewelry. At the Vigil Gallery, you can find energy catchers by Tim Murray, paintings by Doug Marsh, glass horses by Newy Fagan as well as a selection of beadwork, masks, kachinas and Cowgirl Classics purses, wallets and pillows. The gallery frequently hosts shows and special events. Be sure to check out the website for upcoming events and featured artists. Don’t miss “Evolving Traditions,” which showcases contemporary California Indian art and runs through November 10th.
Related: Best Art Galleries In Sacramento
Watch a Film
“The Last of His Tribe”
The story of Ishi has fascinated people throughout the region since the turn of the 20th century. Ishi was believed to be the last remaining member of the Yahi, a group of Yana people that inhabited Northern California. In 1911, Ishi emerged from the wild near Oroville, California and spent the remainder of his life with anthropologists at the University of California, Berkeley, who studied him and made him a research assistant. “The Last of His Tribe” is a made-for-television movie adaptation of Ishi’s life, starring Graham Greene as Ishi and Jon Voight as Professor Alfred Kroeber.
“California Indian: A Tribal Story”
The Pomo Indians have inhabited the area around Clear Lake in Northern California for over 11,000 years. As the west was settled, various Pomo Bands struggled to maintain control of the land. The current Big Valley Band of Pomo Indians is a self-governing tribe, finding ways to share the resources in Lake County with non-Indian neighbors, protect tribal life and maintain economic self-sufficiency. “California Indian: A Tribal Story” is a true-to-life drama that tells the story of the Pomo Indians saving the Tule Lake Rancheria from a casino investor. The film depicts true characters and events while telling the story of current tribal life and attacking the myths and stereotypes that persist about Native Americans.
Karen Boruff is a freelance writer living in Sacramento. Her work can be found at Examiner.com.