Nisenan Language - Part of the "Maiduan Language Family"

I was very happy to see this writing talking about the Maiduan languages and the completely separate and unique Tribal groups that spoke them; Konkow, Nisenan and Maidu. Again, no mention of the Mechoopda which is now considered to be, not just a dialect of Konkow, but a completely separate language in and of itself.

It's said that there were 13 dialects of Nisenan, possibly more. Grandpa said they used hand language to communicate among the different groups because they couldn't understand each other.

It's important to know who we are, where we come from, and do our very best.... to keep what pure Nisenan Culture that is left... as undiluted as possible. Understanding who spoke what - and where... is a really good place to start. You then see what families were there and which language and dialect was spoken. ~ Shelly Covert


The territory in which Nisenan was spoken lies to the south of that of Konkow, in the American, Yuba and Bear river drainage basins. The language's name comes from nisena-n, a plural ablative pronoun meaning 'from among us'.

Nisenan has several dialectal variants, namely Valley (including the Yukulme and Pusune subdialects), Southern Hill (including the Forest Home and Placerville subdialects), Central Hill (including the Auburn, Colfax and Nevada City subdialects) and Northern Hill (also known as Oregon House).

Maidu, Nisenan and Konkow, the languages of the Maiduan family, were spoken in the Sacramento Valley and the Sierra Nevada valleys in northeastern California.

While very similar phonologically, Maidu, Nisenan and Konkow differ considerably in grammatical terms and are consequently mutually unintelligible. All three are on the brink of extinction.

A number of measures have been taken in recent years with a view to reviving the languages of the Maiduan family.