Who We Are
The Maidu Summit is a non-profit 501(c)3 organization composed of representatives from nine Mountain Maidu groups. We have a vision of site protection and stewardship throughout the Maidu homeland. The Maidu Summit is seeking funds for strategic development, including supporting a part-time staff person to pursue grants, finalize MOUs with partners, and continue to build the Summit’s infrastructure to successfully reclaim alienated lands through the Pacific Watershed Lands Stewardship Council process.
The Maidu Summit was initiated in 2003 in response to increased national homeland security. Noting the need for Maidu homeland security, the MCDG and Susanville Rancheria convened a Summit of Maidu groups to respond to activities of federal and private landowners that were threatening Maidu sites. Since so many Maidu people were decimated in the Indian wars (the Plumas County area’s Maidu population was 20,000 in 1800, by 1900 it was 250, and today it is around 700); it is only by gathering across our territory that we can have a voice.
At issue is the ability of a federally unrecognized tribe (Mountain Maidu), with neither a centralized governing body nor a common land base, to protect, perpetuate and enhance culturally important natural resources, as well as the unique Maidu knowledge that is linked to the traditional use and management of these resources. The Summit links cultural preservation with resource management and social justice, as Summit members convene against the odds of attempted genocide to re-assert our ties to place, culture, and one another.
Over three meetings 2003-2004, Summit participants created a 10-point resolution to protect Homer Lake, a site that used by Maidu for training Indian doctors. The site had been degraded by irresponsible recreation, including four-wheeling over riparian habitat and abandoning machinery in the lake. The Summit groups’ resolution was given to land management agencies, and the Lassen National Forest scheduled implementation of the resolution (including the erection of a gate to stop vehicular traffic into the lake basin) beginning in 2004. As of October 2005, the Forest had placed barriers across the road.
In 2005, Summit participants also led the way in drafting a resolution to oppose the construction of a thermal curtain in Lake Almanor. The curtain was an alternative under the Rock Creek Cresta Settlement Agreement to lower the water temperature in the lower reaches of the Feather River. The construction of the curtain threatens Maidu burial sites currently protected by immersion under Lake Almanor. At a 2005 meeting with Representative Doolittle, numerous Lake Almanor constituents opposing the thermal curtain thanked the Maidu for their early action against the curtain.
In 2006, Summit participants passed a resolution to support the Maidu Culture and Development Group to seek land for all Maidu people from the PG&E Stewardship Council. Currently, the Maidu do not have a collective land base, and the Stewardship Council will be divesting a portion of 141,000 acres of PG&E lands for public benefit. With the support of Summit groups, the MCDG began advocating for land as restitution for the ongoing cultural disruption posed by the presence of Lake Almanor over what was Big Meadows. If the Maidu were to receive land from the Stewardship Council, MCDG has proposed seeking funding to build a Maidu cultural center and implement traditional land stewardship on the site. When it became clear that the Stewardship Council would prefer to work with coalitions, the Summit itself, as an umbrella organization that includes MCDG, began working in 2006 to build the partnerships and capacity to obtain the former PG&E lands. In 2007, the Summit submitted a Land Management Plan (with support from 7th Generation); also in 2009, the Summit submitted a formal Statement of Qualifications for the lands; and, in 2009-2010, the Summit pursued and obtained non-profit status.
The nine Maidu organizations involved include non-profit organizations, unincorporated community groups, federally recognized rancherias, and petitioning aboriginal tribal governments: Greenville Rancheria, Roundhouse Council Indian Education Center, Mountain Maidu Preservation Association, Susanville Indian Rancheria, Maiduk We’ye, Tasmam Koyom Cultural Foundation, Tsi-akim Maidu, United Maidu Nation, and the Maidu Culture & Development Group. Funds will be used to reimburse representatives from participating groups for their mileage to and from Summit meetings, to pay for meeting facilities and materials, to pay postage for mailings to Summit members and our target groups (private and public landowners), to provide staff support to organize Summit activities and meetings, and to develop and disseminate a newsletter for Summit members and to a newly forming group of “Friends of the Maidu Summit.”
Success of the Maidu Summit will be measured through: participation (numbers and diversity of groups attending meetings); resolutions adopted; the creation of a replicable governance structure that brings interests together while maintaining a comfortable level of individual group autonomy; a newsletter distributed to Summit participants; and progress on issues. When we work together, we can protect all Maidu territory, not just the areas each group is familiar with.
II. Specific Concerns: Stewardship Council Land Divestiture
The fate of the land and resources is also the fate of the Maidu as a cultural group. Of all the people now living in and deciding upon the future of these lands through management decisions, Maidu direct descendents may be the only group that will still be living in these exact same lands in the future. Thus, the decisions made regarding these lands now will, absolutely, have a direct affect upon future Maidu generations.
Lands in the second round of PG&E parcels up for Stewardship Council divestiture include Humbug Valley, Lake Almanor, and Butt Valley. All of these lands are within the Mountain Maidu homeland, and in use by contemporary Maidu. These lands include areas where resources such as medicinal plants and basketry materials are stewarded and gathered. The lands also include ceremonial and religious sites, important geographic formations, and cemeteries.
Maidu seeking to learn about these resources and places are challenged by their ability to access them. The continuation of our dances is threatened because we do not own the land upon which these dances have been performed for generations. Basketry, one of our central arts, is threatened because we don’t not have access to the quantity and quality of materials that we need. As such, the Stewardship Council divestiture process represents a rate opportunity for the Maidu to openly interact with their landscape.
1. Plans for the Land
The chance to dedicate sizeable portions of land to the demonstration of a landscape management methodology and philosophy that was created within that same landscape over untold amounts of time is extremely rare and will make these lands unique in the northern Sierra Nevada Mountains. Educational and cultural exchange opportunities are numerous. Demonstrating Maidu traditional management will increase the knowledge base of all land managers. The Maidu, being the ‘people of this land’ are able to offer knowledge, understandings, and perspectives not otherwise available. By emphasizing this cultural background, these lands will become interest areas for people from around the world.
From the practical point of view a Maidu managed landscape will include the following components: Streamside areas will have differentiated willow stands relatively free of disease and dead wood; Open spaces will be preserved as hunting and foraging habitat for riparian bird and animal species, and as habitat for sun-loving riparian plant species; Beneath the pines and oaks around the valley edges and on the mountainsides there will be patches of healthy vegetation such as pennyroyal, wiled celery, yampa, brodiaea, mules ear, and an abundant mix of native grasses; In wooded areas, health and abundant understory vegetation will allow for the maintenance of a larger herbivore (deer) population within a smaller land area, and will also provide fuel for periodic low intensity under-burning and resultant rapid nutrient recycling; Fire will be used judiciously as a tool, to reduce fuels and to create a pre-European contact forest ecosystem; Our land stewardship and restoration projects will emphasize hiring local people, thereby improving the local economy in the long-term; Protection of culturally-affiliated areas, including but not limited to, sacred sites, burials, gathering sites, village sites, and ceremonial sites.
All in all, a Maidu system of living with the land, and understanding of understory vegetation, allows for maximization of ecosystem diversity, health, and population sustainability, while also enabling the ecosystem/human relationship to be interactive, reciprocal, and sacred.
The Maidu Summit has developed partnerships with local, regional, and national groups that support the Summit receiving these lands. Locally, we are developing an MOU and perhaps a joint staff position with the Feather River Land Trust. We also have the stated support of the Plumas Corporation, the Almanor Basin Watershed Advisory Committee, Feather River College, Plumas County, and other groups. Regionally, we are finalizing an MOU with the Native American Lands Conservancy, a premier Native land protection organization. We welcome other partnerships in the arenas of education, fundraising, and sustainable ecosystem management.
3. Social Justice
The availability of this land to the Maidu represents a key opportunity for social justice. The Stewardship Council lands available for divestiture are composed of Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) company lands. All of these lands were Maidu lands and taken from Maidu people. As PG&E and its predecessor companies, including Great Western Power, developed and expanded their hydroelectric projects between 1902 and 1922, Maidu people were displaced, and the resources vital to our survival were destroyed. During the Indian Allotment Period alone, 2,429 acres of the total 5,390 acres of former Maidu allotment lands in the Humbug, Almanor, and Butt valleys were quickly cancelled to make room for the Hydroelectric projects, with little or no restitution to Maidu allottees. An additional 1,321 acres were sold to Great Western Power, and 1,600 acres were sold to the Red River Lumber Company, which often cleared the land of timber and then sold it to the power company. Indian allottees often had difficulty accessing their Individual Indian Monetary accounts where the proceeds of the sales were stored.
Of the nearly 5,400 acres of allotments in the project area, only one 40-acre parcel seems to have remained in trust for an individual Indian allottee during the era of hydroelectric development. In sum, these lands are part of hydroelectric projects that displaced Maidu, causing ongoing cultural disruption. As such, the Stewardship Council’s land divestiture process is a chance to right past wrongs.
If the Maidu are able to acquire this land, it will demonstrate that groups that have been politically disenfranchised by the federal government can manage their homelands according to their thought patterns, including traditional ecology, reconnecting indigenous people to their landscapes, and demonstrating techniques and methodologies of land management that have not been demonstrated before.
The Maidu Summit envisions these lands as a vast and unique park dedicated to the purposes of education, healing, protection, and ecosystem management based upon the Maidu cultural and philosophic perspectives, as expressed through traditional ecology. These goals are achieved through the use of these lands as places for the demonstration of Maidu traditional ecology and for the perpetuation of the unique culture from which that traditional ecology was derived. We also envision these lands as an opportunity for education about social justice through their use to demonstrate a process toward building greater social harmony and the on-the-ground application of the idea of ‘celebrating cultural diversity’ through real empowerment of a minority cultural population. Healing can begin through the process of righting past wrongs. The healing will be on the part of the Maidu who can begin to rebuild their cultural lives, and on the part of society in general through restoration of faith in national ideals and the basic enactment of justice.
As we continue to struggle to ensure that these lands return to Maidu hands, we request your support for our organizational development and capacity building. We have laid the groundwork for the return of these lands, in terms of our successful track record of resolutions and partnerships with agencies and private parties to protect Maidu sites; our research on the histories of these lands; and our agreements with partners to support us in acquiring these lands. We require seed money to support staff to continue to build our infrastructure, and to expand our network of supporters so that we may raise further funds for the Summit’s support.