Wednesday Dec 15 2010
What became of Chief Weimah's kingdom?
By: Mike Maynard, Special to the Colfax Record
So you think you're a local
By Mike Maynard Special to the Colfax Record ?In this part of California there once existed a numerous people, who, adopting the conventionalities of modern aristocracy, were ruled by a man who was clothed with almost despotic power, but clothed generally with nothing else, unless it might be a hare skin robe in very cold weather.? -- Alonzo Delano Alonzo Delano, whose pen name was Old Block, was a grass Valley banker and humor writer. Mark Twain probably influenced his style. In the quote above, taken from an article in the Oct. 26, 1865 Sacramento Union, Delano describes Weimar, sometimes spelled Weimah, chief of the Maidu Indians whose ?conventionalities? pre-dated modern aristocracy by countless centuries. Weimah?s kingdom was bounded on the north by the South Fork of the Yuba River, on the east by the Sierra and on the south by English?s Bridge (later called Gautier?s Bridge) on the Bear River, and Johnson?s Crossing near present day Wheatland to the west. The population of Indians in Weimah?s territory dwindled greatly with the encroachment of the white settlers. Prior to the arrival of the white man, the local Indians had a cremation ground at the crest of the hill between the later locations of Illinoistown and Colfax. After settlers began arriving, the site was moved to the vicinity of what is now the Indian Cemetery. Annual ?cries? to mourn the dead were held at the site. When an Indian died, all his possessions were burned, buried with him or given away. This custom, called potlatch, is mentioned in the Colfax Record obituary of Maria Kennett, who died at Colfax on March 1, 1918. Forty years prior to her death Kennett had rescued a white man when he was pinned under a rock near the river. They married and when the widow was about to die a white man assisted her in the distribution of her possessions. Kennett was buried beside her husband in the Colfax Cemetery. Indians from Plumas, El Dorado and Nevada Counties came to the funeral. In a 1978 interview, Belle Barajas described the Suburban Pines area when she was a child and lived at Big Spring, just over the hill. The trail she followed to school led through tall pines and brush. ?Wild sweet peas were everywhere. It was so beautiful. There was also a stile over the fence that enclosed Siems Orchard,? she said. This is the hill now partially occupied by the Canyon View apartments and the restaurant complex. The trail continued across the site of the thrift store. Belle also described riding to Colfax in her grandfather?s wagon over an old road, part of which is now Fillmore Avenue in Suburban Pines. Her grandfather, Frank Suehead, was an Indian Chief born on the Foresthill Divide. He died Aug. 29, 1930 at age 76. On the knoll above the Indian Cemetery was the last Indian roundhouse in the Colfax settlement called Wallace?s Camp. Belle didn?t know who owned the property, but related that there were three houses on the property, including the roundhouse in which Mrs. Wallace lived. When she died the buildings were burned down. Another roundhouse that later stood on the property belonged to McFadden on the Iowa Hill road. ?They were used like social halls. There was a fire in the middle and people danced around it. Sometimes a person who had no other home stayed in them,? Belle explained. At one time she had lived in a roundhouse off Indian Hill Road in Auburn. Grinding rocks, used to make acorn flour, were found near the intersection of Iowa Hill Road and Fowler Street. They have since disappeared. White men used the derogatory term, ?Digger Indians,? because the Indians would dig for wild potatoes, onions and other edible roots. In Ione, the Indians burned a straw man dressed in a hat and clothing -- an effigy of a white man -- in protest of the use of the name ?Digger.? Around 1916, a 40-acre parcel along Highway 174 was set aside for an Indian reservation. Belle?s grandfather started building a cabin on the parcel, but none of the Indians actually lived there. In the 1960s the property was sold. When the Indians discovered the sale, they tried to get it back but were told not to make waves ? that it would take an act of Congress to get it back. Apparently the white man had gotten them again. More research is needed to find out the exact location of the acreage set aside for the Indians as well as who purchased the property. Do the Indians still own the property? If anyone has more information on this subject, please don?t hesitate to call me. The ?DIG? for information continues -- with your help.