The Maidu people are native to the Central Valley and Foothills region of Northern California. Before the Gold Rush, they had a thriving society of interconnected villages, but violence and government repression decimated their population. As a result, some parts of the tribe are still struggling to gain federal recognition.
A new arts education project called Maidu Indépendant Theater is using music and theater to teach Maidu youth their ancestral language, Nisenan, which all but disappeared after the federal government forced Native American children into foster homes where they weren’t allowed to speak it. Organizer and artist Alan Wallace joins us with two of his young students to talk about resiliency and the urgent need to preserve their cultural heritage in 2019, which the UN has declared the International Year of Indigenous Languages.