A Natural, Raw Diet

Maidu Grinding StoneNuts, Berries, Meat & Insects

In summer, the Maidu people traveled about their territory in search of all the food and materials necessary to their way of life. Roots were gathered by means of a digging stick. These were eaten raw, roasted, boiled or sometimes dried, pounded fine, mixed with berries, and baked into a small flat cake. Seeds and underground parts of plants were important, as well as greens which were a part of the seasonal diet, both fresh and dried.

Black Oak Acorn Diet

The chief dependence of the Maidu was upon the acorn, particularly from the black oak. The acorns were ground with stone mortars and pestles, and then rinsed repeatedly to remove the harsh tannic acid. The meal was then cooked in numerous ways, often using tightly woven baskets into which water and hot rocks were placed. It took almost 2,000 pounds of acorns annually to feed one adult. Acorn meal provides more calories per serving than either wheat or corn, an important factor in a hunting / gathering society's diet.

Meat & Insects

Animal food resources were varied as well. The Maidu didn't have far to travel for good hunting and used every part of the animals they obtained. In addition to deer, elk, mountain sheep, rabbits, raccoons, squirrels, and fish, the Maidu knew how to prepare yellow-jacket larvae, worms, grasshoppers, locusts, and crickets. Grasshoppers were caught by digging a large shallow pit in a meadow and setting fire to the grass on all sides to drive the insects into the pit. As the fire burned off their wings they were easily collected and prepared for food by drying. Salmon were split and dried by hanging them over a pole after which they were pounded into small pieces, somewhat like coarse flour, and stored in baskets. Deer and other meat was cut into strips and dried.

Source: Excerpts are from Mary Dunn and James McMillan, "The Northeastern Maidu (Plumas Memories No. 8)"; Kenneth Kolb, "The Maidu Indians of Plumas County"; and Marie Potts, "The Northern Maidu."

Resources Available on Northern Maidu

Numerous publications, photos, a video, and displays are available at the Plumas County Museum. If you have any questions or would like to learn more about the Northern Maidu of Plumas County, please call the Plumas County Museum at (530) 283-6320.