The indigenous people of Western Nevada County, the Nisenan, lived harmoniously with the environment for thousands of years before the Gold Rush in the late1800’s. The new settlers forcing the Nisenan from the land, killing thousands in the process, and imposing western civilization upon them. The process included taking the land, forcing children into Indian Boarding schools, eventually leading to the Nisenan were wrongfully terminated by Congress in 1964. Today, less than 150 members of the Nevada City Rancheria Nisenan Tribe still remain and are seeking re-recognition by the US Government.
The California Heritage: Indigenous Research Project-CHIRP is assisting the Nisenan and for the past 5 years has sponsored the Visibility Through Art exhibit to raise awareness and support for the Nevada City Rancheria Nisenan Tribe. On Indigenous People’s Day Tribal Spokesperson Shelly Covert led a tour of this year’s exhibit- Perspectives on Erasure. Almost half of the exhibit is art from tribal members- who are also Shelly’s family- and do not necessarily consider themselves artists. But Shelly proudly, and with emotion, pointed out each of the artists contributions.
The stories Covert shares of her grandfather, who was forced into boarding school, and some of her other family members depicted in the art are too personal to adequately re-tell; but she does share a story her grandmother used to tell about when authorities came to take her way to boarding school – the art piece, is of a Nisenan woman with a child hiding beneath her skirt.
She also shares another piece from her family showing an image of modern Nevada City built over top of the Nisenan life.
Other artwork showing the struggle to assimilate yet maintain traditional values.
The remaining pieces on display in the gallery are from non-Nisenan artists who partnered with tribal members to retell stories of the tribe.
The Uba Seo Gallery is located on Broad Street in Nevada City and is open Thursday through Sunday.
Visibility Through Art- Perspectives on Erasure is on display through March.