The Maidu language was traditionally spoken in valleys in the Sierra Nevada between Lassen Peak and Sierra Valley (Big Meadows, Mountain Meadows, Butt Valley, Indian Valley, Genesee Valley, American Valley) and on the high plateau to the northeast along the Susan River from Susanville to Honey Lake. In pre-contact times, there were approximately 9,000 speakers of Konkow, Maidu, and Nisenan together (Kroeber 1925). Today, there are only a few first-language speakers (Golla 2011).

Maidu (also known as Northeastern Maidu or Mountain Maidu) is a member of the Maiduan language family, the other members of which are Konkow and Nisenan. Together, the Maiduan languages form one branch of the hypothesized Penutian language family. This groups also includes Klamath-Modoc, the Miwokan languages (Central Sierra Miwok, Coast Miwok, Lake Miwok, Northern Sierra Miwok, Plains Miwok, Saclan, and Southern Sierra Miwok), the Ohlone languages (Awaswas, Chalon, Chochenyo, Karkin, Mutsun, Ramaytush, Rumsen, and Tamyen), the Wintuan languages (Nomlaki, Patwin, and Wintu), and the Yokuts languages.

Selected archival materials at Berkeley

Further reading

  • Dixon, Roland B. 1900. The language of the Maidu Indians of California. Ph.D. dissertation, Harvard University.
  • Dixon, Roland B. 1911. Maidu. In Franz Boas, ed. Handbook of American Indian Languages, Volume 1, pp. 679-734. (Bureau of American Ethnology, Bulletin 40.) Washington: Government Printing Office. [PDF]
  • Dixon, Roland B. 1912. Maidu texts. (Publications of the American Ethnological Society, Volume 4.) Leiden: Brill.
  • Golla, Victor. 2011. California Indian languages. Berkeley: University of California Press.
  • Shipley, William. 1963. Maidu texts and dictionary. Berkeley: University of California Press.
  • Shipley, William. 1964. Maidu grammar. Berkeley: University of California Press.