The Maidu Indians are a tribe of the Penutian linguistic group, which was the language spoken by many Native Americans in the central valley of California (Heizer, 41). The area which the Maidu people occupied was the area from the Sacramento River east to the crest of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. The Maidu originally consisted of three groups: the Mountain Maidu, Concow, and Nissenan. Today, the name Maidu refers to all three groups (Malinowski,1061). It has been speculated that the Penutian speakers migrated to California, possibly from the Great Basin to escape climatic change (Heizer, 41).
The Maidu relied on native plants and animals for subsistence. However, plants and animals were also used for religious and material purposes. Acorns were the primary source of nut meats. Because of tannin, the acorns had to be leached in order to make them edible. The acorn flour was used to make soup, mush, or bread, which was tasteless (Heizer, 374).
The Maidu drank wild mint tea and also manzanita cider. The cider was prepared by crushing the manzanita berries and mixing the crushed berries with water to form a dough. Next, the dough was placed in sieve and water was poured over it. The cider is similar in color and taste to apple cider (Heizer, 374).
The Maidu hunted or captured animals for food. The only animals that were not eaten were wolves, coyotes, dogs, buzzards, reptiles, and amphibians. The Maidu considered the dog to be poisonous (Kroeber, 409).
Deer was occasionally hunted alone; however, it was more common to be hunted during deer drives. Deer drives involved great numbers of men. These drives lasted several days, and covered a large area of land. The deer were either driven over cliffs or past hunters hidden near trails. The deer drives were executed with prayers as well as magical observances (Kroeber, 410).
The grizzly bear was hunted for its hide. The hide was used in ritual dances.