Maidu [key], Native North Americans belonging to the Penutian linguistic stock (see Native American languages). In the early 19th cent. they were located on the eastern tributaries of the Sacramento River. Maidu culture was typical of the California area: the people lived in brush shelters, gathered acorns, and practiced the spirit-impersonating Kuksu religion. Of the three divisions of the Maidu—valley, foothill, and mountain groups—the valley group, or Nisenan, were the most prosperous and culturally developed. The Maidu numbered about 9,000 in the late 18th cent. In 1990 there were some 2,000 Maidu in the United States, most of them living on several reservations in California with other Native American groups.
See A. L. Kroeber, Valley Nisenan (1929); R. L. Beals, Ethnology of the Nisenan (1933).
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