The Nisenan ~ Nishenam have made their homes in the foothills of Nevada County for thousands of years.The people of the 64-acre property where the Blue Oaks Center is now located would have referenced themselves as Nisem Ḱauwaḱ which roughly translates as 'our family lands'. This place was a residential site with many homes as attested to by the granite grinding mortars located along the creek bed.
The number of residents of each town ranged from the thousands to a few dozen dependent upon the landscape and resources within the parameters of that town site. Homes were semi-subterranean and housed several generations of a family. These homes were cool in the hot summer months and held the warmth of a fire in the cold of winter. A typical town would have acorn granaries and possibly a sweathouse. Large towns or those with headmen or headwomen with wealth had a ḱum or ceremonial house equivalent of today's churches, synagogues, and mosques. Other shelters were made of bark, brush and tule, to be used as temporary housing when fishing, hunting, or gathering.
The Nisenan ~ Nishenam, like all central and northern California indigenouspeople, made fine basketry and elaborate ceremonial regalia. There wasextensive trade between Nishenam towns as well as negotiations with otherNative peoples. This meant that many people were multilingual speaking not only their heritage language and the dialects of their neighbors, but also would have spoken Miwuk, Patwin, Koyongḱawi, Washo, or Maidu.
It was not a male-dominated society with women in subservient roles. In everyday life women were respected and each person fulfilled a life role to make their hometown a vital unit. Men and women were political leaders, medicine persons, and held equal roles in ceremonial and religious responsibilities. Many feasts and ceremonies were related to the seasons, harvesting of foods and rituals reflecting their cosmology. Law ruled both social behavior and kept order of the political arena as vital components Nisenan ~ Nishenam socio/political structure.