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The Nisenan, also known as the Southern Maidu and Valley Maidu, are one of many native groups of the California Central Valley. While the label “Maidu” is still used widely in Native American academia, “Maidu” is actually a gross over simplification of a very complex division of smaller groups, Tribelets and Bands of Indians. The name Nisenan, derives from the ablative plural pronoun nisena·n, "from among us".[1] A few Nisenan people speak any of the Nisenan dialects. Some Nisenan people today are enrolled in the Shingle Springs Band of Miwok Indians, a federally recognized tribe.[2]

Nisenan, as with many of the tribes of central California, was never a true political distinction, but in fact is based on a 'common' language (in reality, a wide spectrum on similar dialects). There was no Nisenan Tribe, but instead a number of tribelets, which were small independent self-sufficient sovereign tribes. Each 'tribelet', or tribe, spoke a different variant of what is called the Nisenan language, which has led to some inconsistency among the linguistic data on the language.


The Nisenan lived in the Central Valley of California, between the Sacramento River to the west and the Sierra Mountains to the east. The southern reach went to about Cosumnes River but north of Elk Grove and the Meadowview and Pocket regions of Sacramento, and the northern reach somewhere between the northern fork of the Yuba River and the southern fork of the Feather River.

Neighboring tribes included the Valley and North Sierra Miwok to the south, the Washo to the east, the Konkow and Maidu to the north, and the Patwin to the west.


  1. ^ Mithun, Marianne (2001). The Languages of Native North America. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. p. 455. ISBN 978-0-521-29875-9. 
  2. ^ "Our Heritage." Shingle Springs Band of Miwok Indians. 2012. Retrieved 31 May 2012.

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