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Maidu Indian Fact Sheet

Native American Facts For Kids was written for young people learning about the Maidu tribe for school or home-schooling reports. We encourage students and teachers to visit our main Maidu website for in-depth information about the tribe, but here are our answers to the questions we are most often asked by children, with Maidu pictures and links we believe are suitable for all ages.

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    Maidu Tribe

How do you pronounce the word "Maidu"? What does it mean?
Maidu is pronounced "my-doo." That comes from the word for "people" in their own language. "Maidu" was originally just the name of one particular community, but in modern times, it has come to refer to the whole tribe.

Where do the Maidus live?
The Maidus are California Indians, located in Northern California. Most Maidu people still live there today.

How is the Maidu Indian nation organized?
Most Maidu people live on rancherias, which are parcels of land in the state of California that are similar to reservations. There are two Maidu rancherias, each with its own tribal leadership. Not all Maidu people today live on the Pit River rancherias, however. Some live in intertribal communities with members of other tribes, such as the Round Valley Reservation and the Susanville Indian Rancheria. Others live in Northern California towns.

In the past, each Maidu band was led by a chief or headman who was appointed by the medicine man. Today, each Maidu rancheria is governed by a tribal council elected by its residents.

What language do the Maidus speak?
The Maidu speak English today. In the past, they spoke their native Maidu language. Some Maidu elders still remember words from this language, and there are younger people who are interested in learning to speak their traditional language again. If you'd like to know an easy Maidu word, he'i, pronounced heh-ee, is a friendly greeting. here is a Maidu picture glossary you can look at.

What was Maidu culture like in the past? What is it like now?
Here's a link to the Konkow Maidu Cultural Preservation Association. On their site you can find information about the Maidu people in the past and today.

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How do Maidu Indian children live? What games and toys do the Maidus have?
They do the same things any children do--play with each other, go to school and help around the house. Many Maidu children like to go hunting and fishing with their fathers. In the past, Indian kids had more chores and less time to play, just like colonial children. But they did have toys and games. The hoop game, where players tried to throw long darts through a moving hoop, was a popular one with kids. Teens and adults played gambling games-- dice games for women and girls, and a game where players held marked sticks behind their backs and guessed their location for men and boys. Maidu girls also played with dolls. Like many California Indians, Maidu mothers traditionally carried their babis in baby baskets. Here is a website with baby basket pictures.

What were Maidu homes like in the past?
The Maidus lived in earthen houses. Usually these houses were made from a cone-shaped frame of wooden poles placed over a basement-like hole dug into the ground. Then the frame would be covered with bark and packed with a mound of earth to keep it well insulated. Because they were partially underground, Maidu houses appeared smaller than they really were. Here are some pictures of different types of Native American houses. Today, most Maidu live in modern houses and apartments, just like you.

What was Maidu clothing like? Did they wear feather headdresses and face paint?
Maidu people didn't wear much clothing. Maidu men usually went naked, and Maidu women wore grass skirts. In cold weather, Maidu people would sometimes wear rabbit-fur robes. The Maidus usually went barefoot, but when they were hunting or traveling, they wore deerskin moccasins on their feet. Here are some photos and links about the Native American fashion in general.

The Maidus didn't wear long headdresses like the Sioux tribes. For dances and religious rituals, Maidu men wore headbands made of flicker feathers and elaborate feathered caps, like this, but they did not wear these headdresses in ordinary life. Maidu women wore beaded headbands. The Maidus only painted their faces for dances and ceremonies, but they did wear tattoo patterns. Women tattooed lines on their chins, while men tattooed their arms and chests. Maidus of both genders wore long beaded necklaces and shell jewelry in their pierced ears and noses.

Today, some Maidu people still wear moccasins or beaded jewelry, but they wear modern clothes like jeans instead of grass skirts.

What was Maidu transportation like in the days before cars? Did they paddle canoes?
Yes--the Maidu tribe made dugout canoes by hollowing out pine logs. They used these canoes to travel and fish on the rivers. Here is a website with pictures of Indian dugout canoes. Canoeing is still popular among California Indians, though few people carve a canoe by hand anymore. Today, of course, Maidu people also use cars... and non-native people also use canoes.

What was Maidu food like in the days before supermarkets?
The Maidus were hunter-gatherers. Maidu men hunted for deer and small game, and fished in the rivers. Maidu women gathered acorns and ground them into meal to make bread and soups, as well as collecting berries, nuts, and other plants. Here is a website with more information about Native American cooking.

What were Maidu weapons and tools like in the past?
Maidu hunters used bows and arrows. Maidu fishermen used nets and basket fish traps. The Maidus didn't go to war very often, but they did sometimes raid each others' villages. During raids like these, warriors usually fired arrows at each other instead of fighting hand to hand. Here is a website with pictures and information about Indian archery.

What are Maidu arts and crafts like?
Maidu artists are known for their fine basketweaving. Here are pictures of some Maidu baskets.

What other Native Americans did the Maidu tribe interact with?
The Maidu primarily traded-- and fought-- amongst themselves. Each Maidu band had its own independent leadership, and they did not always cooperate with each other. Another tribe that the Maidu bands frequently interacted with was the Miwok tribe. Sometimes Miwok and Maidu people would marry each other.

What kinds of stories do the Maidus tell?
There are lots of traditional Maidu legends and fairy tales. Storytelling is very important to the Maidu Indian culture. Here is a story about the origin of fire. Here's a website where you can read more about Maidu myths.

What about Maidu religion?
Spirituality and religion were important parts of Maidu life, and some people continue to practice traditional beliefs today. It is respectful to avoid imitating religious rituals for school projects since some Maidu people care about them deeply. You can read and learn about them, however. You can visit this site to learn more about Maidu religious traditions, or this site about Native American beliefs and practices in general.

Can you recommend a good book for me to read?
If you want to know more about Maidu culture and history, one interesting source for kids is The Maidu. Older readers may enjoy The Northern Maidu, an oral history by a Maidu elder. Two good books for kids on California Indians in general are California Native Peoples and Native Ways; a more in-depth book for older readers is Tribes of California. You can also browse through our recommendations of Native American books in general. Disclaimer: we are an Amazon affiliate and our website earns a commission if you buy a book through one of these links. Most of them can also be found in a public library, though!

How do I cite your website in my bibliography?
You will need to ask your teacher for the format he or she wants you to use. The authors' names are Laura Redish and Orrin Lewis and the title of our site is Native Languages of the Americas. We are a nonprofit educational organization working to preserve and protect Native American languages and culture. You can learn more about our organization here. Our website was first created in 1998 and last updated in 2020.

Thanks for your interest in the Maidu Indian people and their language!

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Learn More About The Maidu Tribe

Maidu Indian Tribe
An overview of the Maidu tribe, their language and history.

Maidu Language Resources
Maidu Indian language samples, articles, and indexed links.

Maidu Culture and History Directory
Related links about the Maidu Native Americans past and present.

Maidu Words
Maidu Indian vocabulary lists.

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