Shelly Covert was born and raised in Grass Valley. Her family goes back long, long time – countless generations before the Gold Rush. We are from the original people who were here, the Nisenan Indians. Shelly is the Spokesperson and Tribal Council Secretary – Nevada City Rancheria Nisenan Tribe and Executive Director of the 501c3 non-profit organization, C.H.I.R.P or the California Heritage: Indigenous Research Project.

Photos by Lori Lachman

A sample of the interview of Shelly Covert with Ruth Chase, recorded by Radu Sava.

After meeting Shelly I decided to create the BELONGING project; about how people find a sense of belonging through the land. Their answers sit in a strange dichotomy as Tribal members feel a varying “personal” sense of belonging having lived here in their ancient tribal homelands never having been removed. Individuals have family, friends and community connections that help them to BELONG. But, when asked if the Tribe as a whole feels a sense of belonging, the answer was quite different; and how could it be any-other-way after their people were nearly annihilated during the Gold Rush.  The Tribe itself is invisible. The Tribe is “terminated”. The Tribe has no local value that can be seen by the community. This is in contrast to many of their personal feelings of home, community, and belonging. The Nisenan are a vital link to our own sense of belonging to the land, like the roots of our community tree; the relationship they have held with the land can teach us how to connect with it ourselves.

To learn more about the Nisenan and Shelly Covert click here.

Shelly is a featured participant of BELONGING, a community arts initiative led by Nevada County Arts Council, Artist-in-Residence Ruth Chase, generously funded in part by California Arts Council through its Artists Activating Communities Program.

#BelongingInNevadaCounty #IBelongHere