Prout family sets sights on return to Colfax

Native Americans have longtime roots in town
By: Carol Feineman, Gold Country News Service
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The Prout family will return to Colfax. That's what the 275-member family, living between Foresthill and Roseville, wants to tell residents. Colfax was home to the Prouts beginning in the Gold Rush era. Now, the Prouts' immediate family members, which include 10 grown siblings, hope to move back. Of Maidu and Miwok descent, the family belongs to the Colfax-Todds Valley Consolidated Tribe that was formed in 2000 as a way to become a federally recognized Indian tribe, said Tribal Chairman Richard Prout. While most of the Prouts no longer live in Colfax, family members visit the Colfax Indian Cemetery monthly to clean, mow and rake around the graves. The cemetery is on the corner of Canyon Way and Iowa Hill Road. Lola Gilbert Prout, a Colfax native and the family's matriarch living in Auburn, said her ancestors were vital Colfax residents. "During the Gold Rush, the Prouts held odds-and-ends jobs. They picked fruit in the orchards, did lots of hunting, were guides," she said. "They did logging, my dad worked for PG&E. They were well respected." Helen Wayland, the former Colfax Pharmacy co-owner, has fond memories of the Prouts. "They were customers of ours from the '50s to when we closed the pharmacy," Wayland said. "The Prout family had a lot of members. We got to know them." She always considered them Colfax residents. "I never gave a thought they were different. They lived in Colfax and were our friends. They were just an important part of Colfax," Wayland added. But Lola Prout's children don't think other residents share Wayland's view. Steven Prout, Richard Prout's younger brother, believes today's residents are unaware of his family's history here. His brother agrees. "Our goal is to educate people of Colfax about us and work with the city," Richard Prout said. "We want to support Colfax and get the message out there at community events, try to help through educating the general public about Native Americans. They don't realize there were Indians here or that there was a reservation or rancheria in Colfax." The 40-acre rancheria Prout is referring to was off Highway 174 in Colfax. According to Todds Valley Maidu-Miwok Cultural Foundation documents, the Colfax Rancheria was sold in December 1965 by the Secretary of the Interior. * * * Several Prout members are in the traditional drum group Niki-Esko, which stands for "My Family, My People." The group performed during the annual Founder's Day on Nov. 5 outside the Colfax Depot. "This was our first time performing here," Lola Prout said. "It felt good because this is where our people, our family, comes from." "We want to come home. We can do something for the community," she added. Bob Perrault, Colfax city manager, would welcome their participation. "It's important to recognize Native American heritage. It has been an important part of Colfax's history," Perrault said. For the Prouts, that's good news. The Prout brothers see the city as a stepping stone for the Colfax-Todds Valley Consolidated Tribe's efforts to receive federal recognition. "I hope the city recognizes us as a tribe. Then maybe the county, then the state, and then the federal government will follow," Richard Prout said. Nedra Darling, the public affairs spokesperson for the U.S. Department of the Interior's Indian Affairs office, says becoming federally acknowledged "is a pretty intense process" that could take between two and three years to complete. Prout said he wants recognition so that his grandchildren receive benefits. "We're not seeking a casino. We want better housing, improved health care and scholarships for our children," he stressed. Since the creation of the Federal Acknowledgement law in 1978, 302 groups have stated their intent to seek acknowledgment through Darling's office. Only a small percentage of those groups have been granted acknowledgement. "I know it will be a long process to receive recognition," Prout said. "But I believe it's possible. I want to start with the city and maybe go before the city for a resolution. Then we'd have some acknowledgement that we're here and we exist and we are an important part."