Sacramento's Hometown Tourists Visit Maidu Museum & Historic Site

Exterior of Maidu Museum and Historic SiteThe Sacramento area was home to several Native American tribes, and while the California State Indian Museum is located next to Sutter's Fort in Midtown Sacramento, nearby Roseville has preserved some of the original lands on which they lived. At Maidu Regional Park, visitors can see the evidence of their way of life both in the museum and on the park grounds.

Maidu Regional Park was recently the site of a large grass fire, but city of Rosevile spokesman Brian Jacobson said the museum and the grounds remain open and none of the historically significant locations were damaged.

by Carol Dabrowiak

The Maidu Museum and Historic Site is located in Roseville, a 20-minute drive from Downtown Sacramento. The museum is housed in a brand-new building that beautifully depicts an ancient population of native people. It is built in a circular shape to honor the Indian roundhouses that were used for spiritual ceremonies. The displays tell the story of the Maidu people's strong heritage and love of family. It also shows an honest depiction of the challenges faced by the native tribes when the Army tried to Americanize them and force them to a reservation.

My favorite part of the visit was the Historic Site Trail and guided tour of the habitat. Our knowledgeable docent, Heidi, obviously loved her job and loved sharing the trail with us. She has an Anthropology background and gave us a historical perspective to the site. If you visit, make it a scavenger hunt and look for these five unique things along the path:
 

1.      Petroglyphs are carvings in rocks made by people who lived here before us - possibly 5,000 to 10,000 years before us.  As you walk along the trail, you will see large rock outcroppings of petroglyphs with symbols and stories left on the sandstone for us to interpret.

2.      Soap root plant is a native plant that was roasted and eaten.  The bulb fibers were made into brushes.  The liquid was used as shampoo.  And when the pulp was put in the stream, it temporarily stunned the fish so they would be easier to catch.

3.      Mortars or grinding holes were chiseled into the rocks. Then a handheld oblong stone or pestle was used to grind acorns, seeds and nuts into flour. There are hundreds of these grinding holes on the site indicating a fairly large population lived here.

4.      Horsetail, or rattlesnake grass, is another native plant that has been around since dinosaur times. Its bamboo-like stalk is rough and was used for sanding and polishing objects. But the Maidu people also used it to make a medicinal tea to cure stomachaches.

5.      Ochre or yellow clay is found in the stream beds. It was used as a face painting pigment for traditional celebrations. The day we were touring, there was a school group that had found the ochre and painted their faces. It was fun to see.

You will also see streams, ravines, seasonal vernal pools, giant oak trees, native plants and grasses. This is a relaxing, almost spiritual place to spend a morning and learn about the people who lived in harmony with nature. And this is also a city park with family activities like campfires and marshmallow roasts. Janet, Cynthia and I truly enjoyed the visit. It is worth the short drive to Roseville.

Maidu Site Petroglyph RockMaidu Site Willow House FrameMaidu Site Soaproot Brush

EDITOR'S NOTE: Our Hometown Tourists visited the Maidu Museum and Historic Site on their most recent excursion.  The above blog includes an account by Carol Dabrowiak and photos by Cynthia Gibbs detailing their visit to this Sacramento area attraction.