Graduation Date

Spring 2022

Document Type



Master of Arts degree with a major in Social Science, Environment and Community

Committee Chair Name

Kaitlin Reed

Committee Chair Affiliation

HSU Faculty or Staff

Second Committee Member Name

Janelle Adsit

Second Committee Member Affiliation

HSU Faculty or Staff

Third Committee Member Name

Shelly Covert

Third Committee Member Affiliation

Community Member or Outside Professional

Subject Categories

Environment and Community


Settler colonialism continues to shape present injustices of Indigenous Peoples. The settlers of Nevada County do not recognize the historical past of colonialism and how it has changed the Nisenan Tribes relationship to these lands/waters. Or how colonization still thrives in Nevada County through settler relationships with these lands/waters. Settler colonialism is ongoing, it is not an event that happened during the gold rush. I use the South 'Uba River (South Yuba River) as an example for how settler colonialism continues to perpetuate violence and genocide amongst the Nisenan Peoples. As we, settlers, occupy these lands and waters we must understand how our relationship is extractive from the Indigenous relationships to these lands and waters. By continuing to un-acknowledge Indigenous Peoples and their lands, white settlers continue to oppress Nisenan sovereignty and identity.

In this thesis, I argue that the use of Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK), in land management practices is how environmental organizations can acknowledge the Nisenan Tribe as stewards of the land with the goal of Indigenous sovereignty. I will also be looking at the heightened ‘localism’ in the ‘Uba River. Settlers calling the waterway “our river”, when it was never their river to claim. Using archival research, Participatory Action Research, settler colonial framework, and decolonizing methodologies as a framework, I hope to influence the settler community of Nevada County to acknowledge the Nisenan Tribe’s sovereignty that is deserved. The Nisenan Tribe of the Nevada City Rancheria continue to remain “terminated” from the federal recognition, whose borders flow through and past the 'Uba. The 'Uba is famous within Nevada County, where ‘'local's’ live and enjoy its waters. As a community member of Nevada County, I have seen the extreme 'local'ism that takes place around the 'Uba. Nonprofit organizations rally around the 'Uba to protect the waters without knowing whose waters these are, the Nisenan. I will attempt to uplift Nisenan voices by showcasing Indigenous relationships to water, art, and Traditional knowledge bases. Archival research allows me to give a historical background of the settler colonial beginnings of the gold rush in Nevada County. Some of the questions that I am focusing my thesis on is: How can Nevada County better acknowledge the Nisenan Tribe as stewards of the ‘Uba? How can we use TEK to create better coalitions between the community of Nevada County, the 'Uba, and the Nisenan Tribe? How can we use art as a tool for decolonization? I will use the art, poetry, and storytelling of the Nisenan Peoples to allow their voices to rewrite their own historical narrative of the 'Uba. A chance to show the community that these waters hold a connection to their cultural identity as a Nisenan person.

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