The Maidu Indians are native to central and northern California, around the Sacramento area east into the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Four groups of Native American tribes formed after the area was settled around 7,000 B.C., and the Maidu language distinguished itself from other groups around 100 A.D. Nisenan Maidu, who settled around Roseville, Calif., became expert gardeners who created expansive gardens full of fruits, vegetables and flowers.
Acorns were the staple foods of the Nisenan Maidu. Valley, blue and black acorns were plentiful in the Maidu's region, and black acorns were often traded as money. Fish that swam in the Sacramento, American, Feather and Bear Rivers were caught by the Maidu and eaten fresh, traded, dried and stored. Salmon and steelhead were staple fish.
The four language groups and bands of the Maidu were the Nisenan, Mountain, Konkow and Mechoopda. The Mechoopda band lived near Chico, Calif. Mechoopda creation stories include a tale of a raft that carried Kodoyampeh, or Earth Maker, and a turtle that came ashore and created soft, fertile soil. A large depression in the Earth marked this traditional spot until agricultural processes destroyed the site in the 20th century.
European fur trappers and settlements began in the 1820s and continued to grow into the 1850s after John Sutter discovered gold in Sacramento. Diseases brought by European settlers reduced Maidu populations, although many tribespeople still live around Roseville and Chico, Calif.