Maidu Tribe

Maidu Native Indian

This article contains interesting facts, pictures and information about the life of the Maidu Native American Indian Tribe of the California cultural group.

The Maidu Tribe
Summary and Definition: The Maidu tribe were a California tribe of Native American Indians who were hunter-gatherers and fishers. The Maidu tribe inhabited the Sierra Nevada and the adjacent valleys of northern California. The Maidu were a semi-nomadic people who hunted in the summer, building wigwams (wikiups) as temporary shelters. In the winter lived in semi-subterranean pit houses or earth lodges.

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Facts about the Maidu Native Indian Tribe
This article contains fast, fun facts and interesting information about the Maidu Native American Indian tribe. Find answers to questions like where did the Maidu tribe live, what did they wear and what food did they eat? Discover what happened to the Maidu tribe with facts about their wars and history.

What was the lifestyle and culture of the Maidu tribe?
The Maidu tribe inhabited Sierra Nevada and the adjacent valleys of northern California. They were neighbors to the Wintun tribe, with whom they were frequently traded. The opening of the Oregon and California trail brought white settlers, travelling in wagon trains, who invaded their lands. The discovery of gold in California increased the number strangers and gold rush settlers inundated their homeland. The Maidu were fierce defenders of their diminishing territory but the numbers of their people swiftly diminished as they succumbed to European diseases such as malaria, smallpox, measles and influenza.

The white settlers encroached their lands building using natural resources to build fences and settlements. Oak trees were cut down and acorns, a staple element of their diet, became very difficult to obtain as were roots, bulbs, fruits and other nuts. Mining activities interfered with the salmon runs. Wild game was depleted as more people hunted for food. The lifestyle of the Maidu was ruined and many suffered from starvation. In 1863 the Maidu people were forced onto the Round Valley Reservation.

What language did the Maidu tribe speak?
The Maidu tribe spoke in the Penutian language The Maidu people were comprised of three groups. The Northeastern or Mountain Maidu lived on the upper North and middle forks of the Feather River. The Northwestern or Konkow lived below the high Sierra and in the Sacramento Valley. The Southern Maidu or Nisenan occupied the American, Bear, and Yuba Rivers.


Where did the Maidu tribe live?
The Maidu are people of the California Native American cultural group. The location of their tribal homelands are shown on the map.  The geography of the region in which they lived dictated the lifestyle and culture of the Maidu tribe.

  • Location of the Maidu:  Northeastern California (Plumas County and southern Lassen County

  • Land: Mountains, valleys rivers and lakes

  • Climate: Mild temperate climate

  • Natural Resources: Oak trees, acorns, buckeye nuts, mushrooms, hazel nuts, bulbs, roots and grasses

  • Types of Maidu housing or shelters: Cedar bark tepees and pit houses

  • Land animals: The  animals included deer, elk, chipmunks, rabbits, squirrels, quail, mountain sheep and bear

  • Insects: Crickets, grasshoppers, caterpillars and dried locusts were all eaten to supplement the diet

Map showing location of the Maidu tribe of California


Cedar bark shelter

What did the Maidu tribe live in?
Cedar Bark Tepees: During the summer the semi-nomadic California Maidu tribe lived in temporary temporary pointed, conical cedar bark shelters, constructed using several poles tied together that were covered with bark, sticks over the framework.

Winter Pit Houses: The more permanent winter homes of the Maidu consisted of villages of semi-subterranean winter homes that were built up to 15 feet into the ground. The Californian pit house was constructed of earth and brush sidewalls, wood end walls and a pitched roof that was completely covered in earth. The Maidu winter houses had a central fire pit. An opening in the roof allowed the smoke to escape and also let light and air in. Entrance was accessed via ladder on top of the roof. 

What clothes did the Maidu men wear?
The clothes worn by the men of the Maidu tribe varied according to the seasons and the weather. During the summer months the men wore a breech cloth or simply went naked. In the winter months warm clothing was needed. Their clothes were made from the hides of animals such as deer (buckskin), elk, squirrel, rabbit and wildcats. The items of Maidu clothing included warm fur robes and cloaks, shirts, wrap-around kilts, mitts and leggings that were decorated with fringes. They wore one-piece moccasins with a front seam whilst hunting or traveling, but went barefoot in the warm weather.

The Maidu Headdress
The ceremonial crown-style headdress of the Maidu, as seen in the above picture, consisted of a flicker quill headband that covered the forehead and was tied at the back. (The flicker bird is a member of the woodpecker family). The Flicker headbands were made from flicker the longest and narrowest wing feathers. These dark pink or yellow feathers were placed side by side and sewn together to form a long headband. These were bordered by dark brown feathers and attached to the head with twined string. Feather hair plumes were added as a separate form of decoration to complete the headdress.

California Indian Headdress - Flicker Headband

What clothes did the Maidu women wear?
The type of clothes worn by the women of the Maidu tribe included blouses and front and back aprons made of shredded willow bark. Their dress fell to calf length and were belted, fringed. Special clothes were strung with ornaments, tassels and porcupine quills. Twined tule sandals or moccasins covered their feet and in the winter they wore fur robes to keep out the cold.

What food did the Maidu tribe eat?
A staple food of the Maidu were the acorns from the oak trees that provided an abundance of these nuts. The acorns were gathered from the Californian white, black and tan oak trees and the huckleberry oak and the bush chinquapin that grow in the northeastern mountain region. The acorns which were soaked in water or left until they turned black in order to remove the taste of bitter tannic acid. The acorns were then roasted and eaten whole or ground into acorn meal which was used to make bread. Salmon and trout were the main types of fish eaten by the people and hunters supplied meat from deer (venison) and small game such as geese, duck, quail, rabbit and small rodents. Their protein diet was supplements by eating fruits, seeds, nuts, bulbs and roots. Insects such as crickets, grasshoppers, caterpillars and locusts were baked when fresh meat was scarce. Manzanita berries were used to make a type of cider and wild mint was used to make a type of tea.

What weapons did the Maidu use?
The traditional weapons used by the Maidu tribe included spears, stone ball clubs, knives and bows and arrows.

What transportation did the Maidu use?
Maidu men made rafts and dugout canoes. They made rafts by tying logs together with plant fiber ropes and their canoes were made from hollowed logs.

What was the religion and beliefs of the Maidu tribe?
The religion and beliefs of the Maidu tribe was based on Animism that encompassed the spiritual idea that all natural objects including animals, plants, trees, rivers, mountains and rocks have souls or spirits.

Maidu History Timeline: What happened to the Maidu tribe?
The following history timeline details facts, dates and famous landmarks of the people. The Maidu timeline explains what happened to the people of their tribe.  

Maidu History Timeline

  • 1830: The first contact of the Maidu with the white Europeans was with fur traders who trapped in their territory working for the Hudson's Bay Company. These men included trappers and explorers such as Peter Skene Ogden, John Work Alexander Roderick McLeod, Michel Laframboise and Francis Ermatinger

  • 1832: Many Maidu people die due to a influenza and malaria epidemics spread by the fur traders

  • 1841: The California Trail opens

  • 1843: The first major migration along the Oregon Trail took place as white settlers traveled west in wagon trains

  • 1846: South Emigrant Road aka the Applegate Trail opens

  • 1848: California is passed to the US with the Treaty of Guadalupe

  • 1848: January 24, 1848: Gold is discovered at Sutter's timber Mill starting the California Gold rush. The Maidu tribal lands were inundated with white gold rush settlers

  • 1848: The white settlers and gold prospectors bring various diseases to the Native Indians who lived in the surrounding areas of the westward trails

  • 1850: California was admitted into the Union

  • 1859: The Chico Creek massacre when white settlers attacked a Maidu camp near Chico Creek in California, killing 40 men, women and children

  • 1863: The Maidu tribe were forced onto the Round Valley Reservation

  • 1870: The Bole-Maru and the Earth Lodge Religion were religious revitalization movements of tribes in north-central California that grew out of the Ghost Dance movement. 'Bole' is a Wintun word and 'Maru' is a Pomo word both referring to the dreams of medicine people.

Maidu History Timeline


  • Interesting Facts and information about the way the Maidu people lived
  • The clothes worn by men and women
  • Description of the homes and the type of food the Maidu would eat
  • Fast Facts and info about the Maidu Californian Indian tribe
  • Interesting Homework resource for kids on the history of the Maidu Native American Indians

Pictures and Videos of Native American Indians and their Tribes
The Maidu Tribe was one of the most famous tribes of Native American Indians. Discover the vast selection of pictures on the subject of the tribes of Famous Native Americans such as the Maidu nation. The pictures show the clothing, war paint, weapons and decorations of various Native Indian tribes, such as the Maidu tribe, that can be used as a really useful educational resource for kids and children of all ages. We hope you enjoy watching the video - just click and play - a great social studies homework resource for kids .


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