American Indian Treasures

The Maidu Interpretive Center in Roseville, Calif., has a large museum filled with American Indian baskets, ceremonial regalia, toys, pipes, and jewelry.

grinding holes at Maidu Interpretive Center in Roseville, image

Grinding holes (also called bedrock mortars) were used by Maidu Indians for grinding acorns.


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Ancient history is alive and well on a peaceful 30-acre plot in Roseville, Calif. The land, currently home to the Maidu Interpretive Center, has been inhabited for thousands of years.

"The site is unique" Supervisor Kris Stevens says. "It dates back about 7,000 years as a sacred place where ceremonies were held."

The American Indians who performed those ceremonies were part of the Maidu tribe whose territory once stretched eastward from the Sacramento River to the peaks of the Sierra Nevada. The land where the center now lies was important because of its year-round stream and wealth of oak trees, which produced acorns, a vital part of the Maidu's food supply.

The center provides tours of the museum and grounds that give visitors a glimpse into Maidu culture. The 5,000-square-foot museum is filled with baskets, ceremonial regalia, tools such as bows and arrows, toys such as dolls and acorn dice, and rare soapstone pipes and jewelry. Although most of the items on display are Maiduan, some artifacts are from tribes across the United States. Outside, under the shade of oak trees, traces in the landscape help to tell the story of what a Maiduan's daily life might have been like. There are petroglyphs (rock carvings) and bedrock mortars (holes in boulders where acorns were ground for mush and bread)

"All of the exhibits illustrate the connection between the people, their culture, and nature," Stevens says.

The center emphasizes those connections with events like the monthly campfire, where docents tell traditional stories. The annual Taste of the Wild (February 25, 2006) includes a feast of quail, salmon, and venison and visitors can watch bead making and weaving demonstrations. The Maidu Spring Celebration heralds in spring with dance groups, storytelling, a native crafts sale, and demonstrations of such skills as basket weaving.

Photography courtesy of T71024/Wikipedia

This article was first published in November 2005. Some facts may have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.

If You're Going: 

Open Tuesday through Saturday from 9 a.m.– 4 p.m. Tours are offered Tuesday through Friday at 10 a.m. and Saturdays at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m.

Admission is $4 for adults, $3.50 for children, and $12 for a family of four.

1960 Johnson Ranch Dr., Roseville. (916) 774-5934.

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