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History of the

ConCow

Maidu

The "ConCow Maidu " as Euro-Americans call us, are the descendants of "Indians" located in the Feather River drainage. All the tribes of the Feather River drainage spoke variations of the Penution language and are culturally and socially akin. We lived in family groups up and down our water ways, amid great natural beauty. We are a stable and highly social people. We participate in the annual gatherings with other tribes for social events, games, and to fish for salmon.

To begin the story of the ConCow Maidu we travel back in time to the year 1828. Summer was coming to an end and the ConCow peoples were returning from their summer camps around Grassy Lake. Grassy Lake is about twenty-five miles northeast of their more permanent winter home in the KonKow Valley and surrounding foothills. The KonKow Valley is about twenty miles north of present day Oroville, in Butte County, California.

The ConCow migrated with the water up the hills in the summer and back down in the fall of the year. That is when, in the year 1828 that Jedediah Smith first met the ConCow. Jedediah and a party of trappers stayed the six months of winter with our people. In 1833, trappers Michael Lafromboise and John Work spent the winter in the ConCow territory. And between 1828 and 1836 the Hudson Bay Company sent more trappers to the ConCow territory.

As a result of the contact with the Euro-Americans, a malaria epidemic swept through the ConCow villages in 1833 killing an estimated 800 people.

In the year 1848 gold was discovered and by the year 1849 the ConCow territory was overrun by gold seekers and accompanying settlers. Traditional food sources quickly became scarce and conflicts broke out between the Euro-Americans and the native population.

In the year 1850, the government attempted to end the the conflicts between the Indians and the Euro-Americans by creating treaties to place the natives on reservations. During 1850-51, Indian Agent Oliver Wozencraft was sent to negotiate with all the Maiduan groups.

On August 1, 1851, the headmen of the nearby ConCow territories were called to gather at the Bidwell Rancho on Chico Creek to conclude a treaty of " Peace and Friendship " with O.M. Wozencraft, U.S. Indian agent. The treaties promised the Indians approximately 227 square miles of land roughly from Chico to Nimshew to Oroville.

Almost immediately after the federal Treaty of 1851, the California State Senate appointed a committee to look into the treaties and the Governor decided to oppose any law that gave Indians exclusive right to foothill land that was high in gold bearing quartz or to valley land that was valuable to the settlers and farmers.

One year later, 1852, the U.S. Senate secretly rejected all the treaties.

In 1853 the Government authorized the Nome Lackie Reserve.

In 1854 Indians from Marysville, the foothills near Chico and Yuba City were rounded up and driven to the Nome Lackie Reservation and forced to stay there.

During the 1850s diseases continued to decimate the ConCow peoples. It was estimated that by 1853 over 800 more ConCow died of pneumonia, influenza, tuberculosis, small pox, malaria or cholera.

 

The ConCow Maidu Trail of Tears.

In the fall of 1862, a large number of Indians were on the Round Valley Reservation. Because of over crowding, lack of food, and unsanitary conditions, disease spread rapidly. Winter was approaching, and the swollen streams surrounding the valley would isolate it from the rest of the world until spring. The ConCow Maidu Indians realized what their fate would be. So one morning in September, a large number, from three to five hundred, packed their meager valuables and said good bye to Supervisor Short, and started for their old home in the Sacramento Valley. They were stopped at the Sacramento River near Chico. Headman Tome-ya-nem told the soldiers that his people were starving and asked for work to earn food for the winter. The ConCow were granted permission to camp about five miles from Chico for the winter.

During the next almost one year, more ConCow Maidu Indians were rounded up and corralled with the group from the Round Valley Reservation. The remaining ConCow were ordered to be at the Bidwell Rancheria on August 28,1863 to be taken to the Round Valley Reservation at Covelo in Mendocino County. If any Indians were found after that date, they would be shot on sight. And they were. Agents collected 435 Indians and placed them under Major Hooker's control in Chico, as prisoners of war.

Captain Augustus W. Starr, Co F., 2nd Infantry, California Volunteers, in command of twenty-three mounted infantrymen, was assigned as escort to assist sub-agent Eddy in the removal of the Indians. Fourteen wagons were commandeered from valley ranchers to carry supplies and many of the Indians as far as Thomas Creek. This ill-starred trip has gone down in Indian history as an inhumane drive to a strange and inhospitable valley over a long, hot, dry trail through the Sacramento Valley and through the steep, rocky route of the Coast Range. Many of the Indians already were sick from being rounded up, marched, and corralled.

Leaving Camp Bidwell, about four miles north of Chico, on September 4, 1863, the group spent the first night at Colby's Ferry. On the following nights, stops were made at the Kirpatrick Ranch and the James Ranch. On September 8, they reached the Laycock Ranch on Thomas Creek and the wagons were returned to Chico as planned. When the pack train from Round Valley did not arrive at Thomas Creek four days later, Captain Starr ordered all the Indians to walk approximately three miles to Mountain House where they met the pack train. On September 14, the few who were well enough to travel were put on mule back, their children into one big wagon, and the rest had to go on foot. One hundred and fifty Indians who were too sick from poor drinking water, unaccustomed food, fever, and exhaustion were left with sub-agent Eddy at Mountain House.

On September 16, 1863, the wagon was left at Log Springs. Some of the women and children were put on mules or on the soldiers' horses, but most had to walk the rest of the way to Round Valley Reservation. Making one-night stops at government camps and on the middle fork of the Eel River, they reached Round Valley on September 18, 1863. 461 Indians started the treck, 277 finished.

When Captain Douglas at Fort Wright heard that the sick ConCow Indians were dying along the mountain trail on their way back to the Round Valley Reservation, he appointed Supervisor James Short to bring them in. Short took a pack train with food and some teams and wagons to carry the sick Indians. For thirteen days he worked to bring in a " portion of them." He later commented that " about 150 sick Indians were scattered along the trail for 50 miles... dying at the rate of 2 or 3 per day. They had nothing to eat... and the wild hogs were eating them up either before or after they were dead."

 

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