Excavations Disturb Sacred Maidu Land

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photo by Jennifer MacDonald

Wayne Nine, a member of the Konkow Valley Band of Maidu, analyzes stone tools that were used by Native peoples, possibly thousands of years ago, that were uncovered recently at an Oroville dig site. 

by Jennifer MacDonald
The hike to the archeological dig site is long, dusty and steep.

Scaling down the embankment on this winter afternoon, we see a dozen scientists hard at work hundreds of feet below, digging at what was once a thriving Native American village. The site is usually under the water of Lake Oroville, but the water level drops at this time of year, helping to uncover artifacts from a civilization lost long ago.

Anthropologists and archaeologists use shovels to sculpt deep but perfectly rectangular holes. Then they screen the dirt looking for artifacts. Arrowheads and stone tools lie just below the ground’s surface. The items they find are placed in plastic bags, tagged and shipped away.

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Maidu leader seeks stronger tribe Patsy Seek fights for culture, unity

Patsy Seek and teepee

photo by Jennifer MacDonald

Konkow Maidu leader Patsy Seek shows one of the traditional huts she’s built out of tree bark along the Feather River in Oroville.

by Jennifer MacDonald

Patsy Seek combed the banks of Northern California’s Feather River, scoured the foothills of the Sierra Nevada, and made house calls in Oroville searching for Native American children skipping school.

“I’d drag ’em out of bed,” she says. “They’d hide in the mountains and I’d go find them.”

Seek could relate to the troubled students. Herself a Maidu woman, Seek dropped out of high school during her first year.

In Oroville and surrounding Butte County, the Native American population is mostly Maidu. The Maidu were among the largest of the California tribes, occupying large parts of Northern and Central California before white settlers came. 

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