American Indian Heritage

 
A map of northern California showing tribal areas in colored areas and a grey shape for the the park.
Map of American Indian tribes in the Lassen region.

The Lassen area was a meeting point for at least four American Indian groups: Atsugewi, Yana, Yahi, and Maidu. Because of its weather and snow conditions, generally high elevation, and seasonally-mobile deer populations, the Lassen area was not conducive to year-round living. These Native American groups camped here in warmer months for hunting and gathering.

  • Atsugewi wintered along Hat Creek and Hat Creek Valley and moved into the north and northwest areas of the present-day park along the Hat Creek and Lost Creek drainages in spring and summer.
  • Yana and related Yahi spent the majority of the year in the foothills along Mill Creek and west-flowing waters and followed the deer herds to higher elevations of the park in the summer months.
  • Mountain Maidu made the southern and eastern portion of the Lassen region their home, including Warner Valley and Juniper Lake.
 
A woman in American Indian clothing gives a demonstration to a group of people.
Selena LaMarr, the park's first female naturalist and a member of the Astugewi tribe, gives a traditional ways demonstration outside the Loomis Museum circa 1960.

Sharing through Story

Tribal descendants in the Lassen region work with the National Park Service to help visitors understand both modern and historical tribal culture. In 1952, Selena LaMarr began demonstrations of Atsugewi traditional and cultural activities for park visitors outside the Loomis Museum. LaMarr, a member of the Astugewi tribe, was the park's first woman naturalist. She was later joined by another cultural demonstrator, Dessie Snooks. In the 1980s, two additional Atsugewi women, Lillian Snooks and LaVerna Jenkins, served as summer interpreters in the Manzanita Lake Area. Tribal members have worked with the park to document park collections, including baskets and other objects like those on display in the Loomis Museum. Tribal members also provide input on and review park exhibits and publications. In 2008, the Kohm Yah-mah-nee Visitor Center―meaning Snow Mountain in Mountain Maidu―became the first park facility to receive its name from an American Indian language.

 
Two women hold large bundles of green fern fronds
Park naturalists and members of the Atsugewi tribe, Lillian Snooks and Laverna Jenkins, prepare bundles of fern fronds for basket making.

Atsugewi

Hat Creek was an important thread in the lives of the Atsugewi. This creek was an important fishing ground for the industrious Atsugewi, who spent much of their lives food-gathering to survive in what was often a harsh environment. The Atsugewi were split into two distinct bands, the Atsuge and the Apwaruge. The Atsuge lived, hunted, and fished here in the Hat Creek Valley, while the Apwaruge used valley areas farther eastward. The Atsuge were known as the pine-tree people because their homes and hunting grounds were largely within pine forests. The Apwaruge lived in the dryer juniper-covered landscape.

Present-day Pit River Tribe

The Pit River Tribe is comprised of eleven autonomous bands: Ajumawi, Atsugewi, Atwamsini, Ilmawi, Astarawi, Hammawi, Hewisedawi, Itsatawi, Aporige, Kosalektawi, and Madesi, that since time immemorial have resided in the area known as the 100-mile square, located in parts of Shasta, Siskiyou, Modoc, and Lassen Counties in the State of California.The Pit River Indians have a varied material culture in response to great variation in elevation, climate, and vegetation of their homeland.

Present-day Susanville Indian Rancheria

The anthropological tribes associated with the Rancheria are: Maidu, Paiute, Pit River, and Washoe. The Susanville Indian Rancheria is acknowledged as the recognized tribe for the Rancheria although there are four anthropological tribes involved, each of which is recognized as political entities. The eleven small bands’ of the Pit River Indians have formed and is recognized by the Federal Government as the Pit River Nation. The Maidu Tribes are in the process of forming under the recognition process through the Bureau of Indian Affairs.

 
A woman in American Indian clothing holds a baby on a board backed by a lake and mountain.

Greenville Rancheria

Maidu

The ancient people that have lived at the foot of Kohm Yah-mah-nee’s (Lassen Peak) southeasterns slopes in the lush mountain meadows and deep evergreen forests call themselves Nah-Kan-Koyom Maidum. This tribe of American Indians was part of a larger tribal complex of the Northeastern Mountain Maidu People. The Mountain Maidu People are part of even larger complex of indigenous Maidu people that includes tribes in an aboriginal territory encompassing lands from Lassen Peak to the edge of the high desert great basin, down the Sierra Mountains, along the foothills of the Sacramento Valley, up the river canyons, and into the mountain meadows. The descendants of the ancient Nah-Kan Koyom People continue to live in their ancestral territory despite the decimation of their people and culture as a result of the conquest and settlement of tribal lands by the non-Indians.

Present Day Mountain Maidu

Greenville Rancheria | Enterprise Rancheria | Susanville Indian Rancheria
The Maidu Tribes are in the process of forming under the recognition process through the Bureau of Indian Affairs.

 
A group of kids and a woman stand in presentation attire at a POW WOW
Dancers at Stillwater Pow Wow

Redding Rancheria

Yana & Yahi

Under the watchful gaze of the towering sisters Mt. Shasta and Lassen Peak, tribes such as the Pit River, Wintu, and Yana have lived in harmony with their ancestral lands. The land was bountiful, with a great supply of deer, salmon, and acorns. Each tribe was distinctive, with their own traditions, beliefs, art, and language. They also had their own government and established relationships with other tribes, ensuring respect for tribal boundaries and hunting grounds.

Present day Redding Rancheria

View a documentary about the history of the Redding Rancheria Tribe: With the Strength of our Ancestors.

 
A man with short, dark hair in a dark jacket and pants sits in a chair.
Portrait of Ishi

Hearst Museum

Ishi

The Yahi man known to us today as Ishi is one of the most famous Native Americans of all time. Books, plays, movies, and contemporary art exhibits have explored his life. Yet, we do not even know his true name. Following custom, Ishi refused to speak his name to outsiders without introduction by someone from his tribe. Instead, he was referred to by the word that means “man” in the language of his people, the Yahi.

On August 29, 1911, after the death of his family and other remaining Yahi, Ishi was cornered by dogs outside the town of Oroville, CA. Publicized as “the last wild Indian in California,” Ishi was employed at the Hearst Museum, then known as the University of California Museum of Anthropology, to demonstrate Yahi culture. He spent much of his time on display for white museum audiences, fashioning obsidian and colored glass projectile points and recording Yahi songs and stories. The Museum collected still cares for the objects and recordings that Ishi made. In summer 1914, Ishi reluctantly traveled with anthropologists back to his home and site of his family’s massacre, the Deer Creek Valley area of Tehama County, to document Yahi culture.

In 2000, as the result of tireless work by Maidu, Redding, and Pit River tribes in California, Ishi is now buried in a secret location near Deer Creek, his homeland.

Read more about the story of Ishi from the University of California San Francisco.

 

Last updated: November 30, 2020

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