You may have heard of the Trail of Tears located in the Southeastern US, but did you know that California has its own Trail of Tears. As the westward expanse continued during the mid-1800s, many native people were forcibly moved away from new pioneer settlements. The story of the Nome Cult Trail is one of devastation to the Konkow Maidu Tribe.
Where Was The Nome Cult Trail?
The Nome Cult Trail started at the Bidwell Ranch in Chico and extended east to the Round Valley Reservation at Covelo in Mendocino County, California. The trip was over 100 miles and lasted 14 days, from September 4, 1863, to September 18, 1863.
Who Are The Konkow Maidu Tribe?
The Maidu are Native American peoples of Northern California. In the early days, these tribes were hunter-gatherers and experts in farming and cultivating acorns for food. Their women are known for their beautiful, intricate weaving techniques.
Why Were The Konkow Maidu Removed?
On July 5, 1863, two children of Sam and Mary Lewis were murdered. Their gravestone reads “killed by Mill Creek Indians.” Settlers in the area blamed Native Americans living on John Bidwell’s Ranch. Bidwell vouched for the accused tribal members, but the settlers refused to believe him. As a result, 461 members of the Konkow Maidu Tribe, aka Concow Maidu, were rounded up and forced through military escort to the Round Valley Indian Reservation.
A Weary Walk To Round Valley
The group traveled west from Chico to their first stop at Colby’s Ferry on the Sacramento River. After ferrying across the Sacramento River, they walked to Stoney Creek but were forced to continue to Kirkpatrick Ranch, where nine Native Americans died of the heat and thirst.
More died of illness or malnutrition along the next stretch of their journey, from Kirkpatrick Ranch to James Ranch. The party traveled to Lacock Ranch from James Ranch, where a wagon carrying the young, elderly, and sick was taken back and returned to Chico. One wagon and a mule train saw the company the rest of the way to Round Valley, but most of the journey was on foot.
Mountain House Camp — 150 Maidu Are Left Behind
Two days before reaching their final destination, 150 sick and malnourished Maidu were left behind at Mountain House Camp with enough food for a month. When news of the abandonment reached Fort Wright, Superintendent James Short was sent to bring them food and bring them to the fort. What short found was very different from the news that had reached the fort.
“… about 150 sick Indians were scattered along the trail for 50 miles … dying at the rate of 2 or 3 a day. They had nothing to eat … and the wild hogs were eating them up either before or after they were dead.” — James Short
Why It’s Called The Konkow Trail of Tears
The Maidu were forced to march over 100 miles, mostly by foot, in just two weeks. The trip was hard, including difficult terrain, hot nights, not enough food, and no time to mourn those lost along the trail. Descendants of tribal members who were forced to travel to Round Valley describe whippings, shootings, and the beatings of children to speed up their mothers.
Of the 461 Konkow Maidu that left Chico for Round Valley, only 277 arrived.
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