The Mechoopda Indian Tribe of Chico Rancheria are a federally recognized tribe of Maidu people located in California. Their federal recognition was terminated in 1967, but reinstated in 1992.
Official Tribal Name: Mechoopda Indian Tribe of Chico Rancheria
Address: 125 Mission Ranch Blvd, Chico, CA 95926
Phone: (530) 899-8922 or Toll Free (888) 472-9118
Fax: (530) 899-8517
Email: Contact Form
Official Website: www.mechoopda-nsn.gov
Recognition Status: Federally Recognized
Traditional Name / Traditional Meaning:
Common Name / Meaning of Common Name:
Alternate names / Alternate spellings / Mispellings:
Name in other languages:
State(s) Today: California
Mechoopda was a village community formerly located on Little Butte Creek, about 3 ½ miles south of today’s downtown Chico.
By 1850, following John Bidwell’s acquisition of the Spanish Land Grant, Rancho Arroyo Chico, the Mechoopda moved to a former summer camp site located on the south side of Chico Creek near First and Flume Streets in what is now downtown Chico. A few years later the village was moved downstream, closer to Bidwell’s residence. In 1868, the village was moved ½ mile west to its final location, eventually becoming the Chico Rancheria.
The people called this last settlement Bahapki (“unsifted”), rather than Mechoopda, because Indians from several different villages, and neighboring tribes, resided there as members of the Rancho Arroyo Chico work force.
Reservation: Chico Rancheria
Population at Contact:
Registered Population Today: Approximately 560 enrolled members.
Tribal Enrollment Requirements:
Name of Governing Body: Tribal Council
Number of Council members: 3 Members-at-Large, plus executive officers
Dates of Constitutional amendments:
Number of Executive Officers: Chairman, Vice-Chairman, Secretary, Treasurer
Language Classification: Maiduan => Konkow (AKA Northwestern Maidu)
Maiduan is often considered in various Penutian phylum proposals. It was one of the original members of California Penutian (the Penutian “core”).
Language Dialects: Konkow
Number of fluent Speakers:
This language is extremely endangered and nearing extinct, with only 1 or 2 fluent speakers remaining.
Mechoopda oral tradition does not include a story of migration, but rather makes reference to the beginnings of this world at a place known as Tadoiko, a few miles south of the village. It was here that a raft carrying Kodoyampeh (Earth Maker) and Turtle first came ashore on the soft, newly created earth. A large depression was visible there for centuries until leveled for agriculture in the early 20th century.
Bands, Gens, and Clans
- Berry Creek Rancheria of Maidu Indians (F)
- Enterprise Rancheria of Maidu Indians of California (F)
- Greenville Rancheria of Maidu Indians of California (F)
- Mechoopda Indian Tribe of Chico Rancheria (F)
- Mooretown Rancheria of Maidu Indians of California (F)
- Round Valley Indian Tribes (F)
- Shingle Springs Band of Miwok Indians, Shingle Springs Rancheria (Verona Tract) (F)
- Susanville Indian Rancheria (F)
- United Auburn Indian Community of the Auburn Rancheria (F)
- Honey Lake Maidu Tribe (U)
- KonKow Valley Band of Maidu Indians (Koyom’kawi/Concow) (U)
- Nevada City Rancheria (T)
- Maidu Band of Strawberry Valley Rancheria (aka Strawberry Valley Rancheria or Strawberry Valley Band of Pakan’yani Maidu ) (T)
- Tsi Akim Maidu Tribe of Taylorsville Rancheria (U)
- United Maidu Nation (U)
- Colfax-Todds Valley Consolidated Tribe of the Colfax Rancheria (T)
- Ninsenan (U)
Ceremonies / Dances:
Yupukato – Girls Puberty Ceremony and Dance
Kumeh -the men’s sacred dance society. As with the girl’s puberty observance, initiation into the Kumeh symbolized the transformation of a male child to adult, and usually included receipt of an adult name, as well as a ritual name known only to other members of the Kumeh. It was the responsibility of the Kumeh to pass on the religious history of its organization, and all the knowledge necessary to maintain the ceremonial life of the tribe, as well as performance of the ceremonials.
After the creation of people, Kodoyampeh (the Creator God) established the four great feasts, or Weda, to be held at each season. The weda expressed a sense of reciprocity, an appreciation for the abundance of seasonal foods, and acknowledged Kodoyampeh as creator of these life-sustaining gifts.
Another feature of Mechoopda religious life was a series of ceremonial dances that began in the early fall and continued until late spring.
Modern Day Events & Tourism:
Legends / Oral Stories:
Kodoyampeh (Earth Maker) and Coyote (a trickster diety) featured in many of the Mechoopda’s legends.
Art & Crafts:
Like all California tribes, basketry was and is their finest art. Mechoopda basketry traditions included both coiling and twining techniques. Baskets were made for collecting grass seeds, winnowing, sifting acorn flour, cooking, storage, transporting burdens, and carrying infants. Many were watertight. Local plants, such as the roots of sedge grass and briar, and the shoots of redbud provided weaving material.
The Mechoopda people relied heavily on the annual salmon runs. They also hunted deer, elk, antelope, waterfowl, and rabbits.
The ancestral village of Mechoopda averaged about 20 homes (150-175 people), and a large ceremonial roundhouse. Dwellings were primarily round, earth-covered structures, and averaging 20 feet in diameter, excavated to about three feet in depth. Entry was through a central opening in the roof, via a ladder. Additional features of the village would have included numerous granaries for the storage of foods such as acorns, brush covered armadas to provide shade for working outdoors in summer, and at least one menstrual house.
Mechoopda women, like native women throughout most of North America, retreated to a specific dwelling set somewhat apart from the main cluster of houses during their monthly menstrual cycle.
The people of Mechoopda were a hunter-gatherer society. Elk, antelope, and deer were hunted with bow and arrows and rabbits were herded into nets. Salmon were a principal food source, along with acorns, and waterfowl were abundant. The variety of the Mechoopda diet was impressive, and protected them from single crop failures, which plagued some agricultural societies who became overly dependent on one or two foods. They harvested many grass seeds, greens, berries, bulbs, and roots.
Religion & Spiritual Beliefs:
The soul of the dead traveled to a particular cave in the Sutter Buttes where it was washed by spirits before ascending to Hipinigkoyo, the Above Meadow.
Held in the late summer before the dance cycle began, people gathered on a ceremonial burning grounds to mourn and remember those who had passed during the previous year. Significant amounts of personal property, attached to several tall poles, were destroyed or given away in honor of the deceased, often reflecting the wealth and status of the individual and their family.
A Mechoopda village typically recognized a headman, a Hukbe, whose opinion and direction was generally respected. While providing leadership, the Hukbe lacked the absolute power to rule. His position was often hereditary.
In the News: