Shelly Covert at Rice’s Crossing Preserve. Photo by Laura Petersen

September 12, 2017 – BYLT will hold the next in a series of Fireside Chats at Inn Town Campground this week, from 6 to 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 13 with special guest, Shelly Covert of the Nevada City Rancheria, Nisenan tribe.

Always an engaging storyteller, Shelly will share stories of Nisenan history and efforts currently underway on ancestral lands in the watersheds of Deer Creek, Yuba River and Bear River. This event is appropriate for all ages, kids 12 and under are free. This is a great opportunity to pitch a tent or go “glamping” at the Inn Town Campground with family and friends at a reduced price.

BYLT sat down with Shelly Covert for a Q & A:

Who are the Nisenan? What is Nevada City Rancheria and what is your role with the group?

The Nisenan are the indigenous people who were here before the coming of the Gold Rush. We have been lumped under the label “Maidu” for decades but that is an oversimplification of four distinct tribes, cultures and languages. Nisenan, for example, is a separate language that has 13 dialects!

The Nevada City Rancheria is an illegally terminated, tribal entity and reservation that was created for the Nisenan and was located on Cement Hill just outside of ‘Ustomah (the Nisenan word for what we now know as Nevada City). My role is spokesperson and Tribal Council member for the Nevada City Rancheria Nisenan Tribe. Our members are all direct, lineal descendants of the Native Americans who lived here on the Bear and Yuba River watersheds for millennia.

What is the Nevada City Rancheria connection with Bear Yuba Land Trust? 

Well, the Nevada City Rancheria is in a process of building partnership with Bear Yuba Land Trust as the lands they hold are all within the Nisenan ancestral homelands. It is important to the tribal community that the cultural integrity of these sites remains intact and the way that can happen is through direct partnership with the descendants of the original people of these same lands. We are still here and in many cases remember the old histories of these places and landscapes.

What will you be talking about at BYLT’s Fireside Chat at Inn Town Campground on Sept.13? 

I’m going to talk about the history of the Nisenan locally, the creation and termination of our reservation, our tribal boundaries and neighboring tribes, what we are doing to regain our federal status as Indians and stories of place that remain within the tribal memory.

As a Native American woman with ties to this land, what have you learned about yourself since you began your journey of exploring your cultural heritage? 

I’ve learned that there is a lot of responsibility that comes with protecting a culture that is in critical danger of existing. It’s a lot of work but it is very rewarding as we begin to see ourselves reflected within the local community. It’s not easy; there are a lot of people who don’t really care about the “Indian” conversation. But, luckily where we live, a lot of people do. We are beginning a conversation that hasn’t happened before in our homelands and it is well worth the time it took to bring it about. And, women seem to be at the forefront of a large piece of social and environmental justice work so I find myself in good company.

What path are you on currently and what would you like to share with your community? 

If you come to the Fireside Chat I’d love to share more about our path toward federal recognition and where we are in that process. I’d also like to talk about the past – What was it like here when we were stewards of this place?

Nevada City Rancheria will present Nisenan Heritage Day 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. November 11 at Sierra College, Grass Valley campus.

Register for the Fireside Chat today:

Photos of past Fireside and campfire at campground amphitheater by
Erin Thiem,

Learn more about camping opportunities:

Learn more about Nevada City Rancheria:  for more information about the Nevada City Rancheria.

What: BYLT Fireside Chat – Stories of Place with Shelly Covert of Nevada City Rancheria, Nisenan

When: 6 to 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 13

Where: Inn Town Campground, 9 Kidder Court, Nevada City

Cost: Suggested $10 donation