One of the most fascinating and quickly disappearing Native American tribes in the world, the Maidu Indians are people rich in culture and history. Originally from the northern areas of California, this Native American tribe was once thought to number over one million, though more accepted figures propose a lesser amount. The history, traditions and sects of the Maidu Indian tribe are richly diverse and worthy of preserving in the recovering population – which numbers nearly 4,000 today.
There are several smaller groups within the Maidu tribes. Belonging to one group over another depended mainly on the tribe’s location. For example, the Mountain Maidu inhabited areas along the northern part of the Feather River, while others lived further south or along different river systems. Even Maidu languages varied greatly for such a small location; there are at least four known Maidu languages that have currently achieved an endangered status. Maidu lived close to rivers to sustain themselves, but unlike some other tribes, they did not farm.
For food and sustenance, Maidu Indians would hunt local game such as deer, elk and fish. They also ate a large variety of nuts, plants and roots, especially the acorn. Acorns were often made into mush or pancakes. Many Maidu Indians stored and carried food using hand-woven baskets that became famous amongst Native Americans. The Maidu typically used a wide assortment of grasses and plant stems to produce intricate, highly detailed baskets unrivaled by many other cultures.
A religious sect known as Kuksu heavily influenced Maidu culture. The religion was typically male-oriented and highly spiritual, so dances, ceremonies and rituals were held secretly and publicly to ensure good fortune for the coming year. Unlike other tribes, Maidu rarely had political arrangements, ad if leadership was needed they turned to their religious leaders. Families lived together in large, circular houses covered in pine bark with lowered floor levels. Some lighter, tent-like branch-built houses were also used during the summer.
One of the most interesting things about the Maidu was there rock art. In the areas of Maidu populations, dozens of rock art samples exist from previous dwellers. Such art plays an integral part in their religious rites and history, and the Maidu tribes have also produced a number of modern-day artists to carry on their ways. Overall, the Maidu are a rich, closely-knit tribe of Native Americans that struggled away from extinction and still respect their old beliefs and traditions today.