Nisenan Heritage

Learn about the Nisenan Tribe of the Nevada City Rancheria from the history of the Gold Rush to present times through the project "The Voice of the Nisenan: We are still here," in partnership with the Nevada County Community Library.

Who are the Nisenan?

Ani’to’o’pe belonged to the Nisenan Tribe, who have made their homes in the foothills of Nevada, Sierra, Yuba, Sutter, and Placer Counties in northern California for thousands of years. Before the Gold Rush, the Nisenan lived in villages made up of extended family groups of different sizes and lead by a Headman or Headwoman. They have been identified with many inaccurate names over the years, including “Maidu” or “Southern Maidu,” but they are a separate Tribe with their own cultural lifeways, different territory, and their own distinct language, showcased in this picture book:

’ANI’TO’O’PĔK BĔTĔYĬM PAĪYOM: Voice of the Nisenan by Shelly Covert and Sheri J. Tatsch

Nisenan Picture Book Page 1

Curriculum for Educators

Pine Nut Necklaces - Lesson Plan

Pine Nut Necklace 2

Students will learn that Nevada City, Grass Valley, and surrounding areas, reside upon the Ancestral and current homelands of the Nevada City Rancheria Nisenan Tribe, and they are the Indigenous Peoples of this land.

Pine Nut Necklace 1They will then make Gray Pine pine nut necklaces and give these necklaces as a gift to Nevada City Rancheria Nisenan Tribal Members.


About the Authors

Shelly Covert, one of the creators of this book, is Tribal Spokesperson for the Nevada City Rancheria Nisenan and Executive Director of the California Heritage Indigenous Research Project, or CHIRP, which is a nonprofit organization created to preserve, protect, and perpetuate Nisenan culture (

Dr. Sheri Tatsch, an expert in Native language revitalization, has been working with Shelly and other members of the Nisenan Tribe to preserve the Nisenan language.

Traditional-familial territories of the Nevada City Rancheria citizens

Nisenan Territory Map Nevada County

The massive influx of gold miners between 1848 and 1855 created competition for resources, the destruction of the environment, and the persecution of indigenous people. The Nisenan were forced into one area just outside Nevada City, California, which became the Nevada City Rancheria. (In California, Native American reservations are called rancherias.)

In 1958, the United States Congress passed the California Rancheria Termination Act, which removed the Nisenan’s status as a federally recognized Native American tribe. Although the terminations were identified as illegal in the 1970s, the Nevada City Rancheria Nisenan are still working towards the restoration of their federal recognition.

Nevada City Rancheria Nisenan Tribe 1826 - 2010

Nisenan Interactive Map

Take a guided tour of Nisenan cultural sites in the Sierra Nevada through the  Nisenan Interactive Map.

This project is supported by the U.S. Institute of Museum and Library Services under the provisions of the Library Services and Technology Act, administered in California by the State Librarian. Use the following link to learn more about the CALIFORNIA HERITAGE: INDIGENOUS RESEARCH PROJECT (CHIRP).

Nisenan Heritage Group including feather image

U.s. Institute Of Museum and Library Services Logo
nisenan of Nevada City Rancheria hawk flying

CHIRP Logo Opens in new window