The Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe of Nixon, Nevada, was one of 24 American Indian organizations and tribal youth programs to receive funding from First Nations Development Institute (First Nations) through its Native Youth and Culture Fund (NYCF) for the 2016-17 funding cycle. First Nations launched the NYCF in 2002 with generous support from the Kalliopeia Foundation and other foundations and tribal, corporate and individual supporters.
Pyramid Lake Paiute Chairman Vinton Hawley is pleased that by investing in its youth and giving them a sense of community and tradition, the Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe is ensuring that it will have strong future leaders. The tribe commended First Nations for support of the much-needed “Cultural Summer Day Camp.”
The tribe received a $20,000 grant that supported the camp where elementary school-aged youth learned the Paiute culture and heritage through a language-immersion unit. The sharing of the Paiute culture, language and history included hands-on learning and classroom activities. Tribal high school and college students served as peer mentors to their younger, fellow tribal members.
Through the NYCF grant, the cultural camp was able to provide transportation for all three of the tribe’s communities. The Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe (PLPT) Reservation is located 45 miles northeast of Reno, Nevada, in Washoe County. PLPT has three communities, Nixon, Wadsworth and Sutcliffe. The communities of Wadsworth and Sutcliffe are located approximately 15 miles from Nixon, which was the location of the Cultural Summer Day Camp.
The cultural camp’s ability to provide transportation sparked an interest from many families, and supported an increase in attendance. Over the four weeks in July 2016 there was an average daily attendance of 73 students, which was an increase from the previous year of an average daily attendance of anywhere from 60 to 65 students.
Tribal elders were key to the success of the cultural camp and they served as consultants to the program. One of the elders who served as one of the language teachers was Flora Greene.
“We were very fortunate that one of our oldest elders, who is 100 years old, came and worked with and spoke to the students. Parents also came and watched as the students learned,” said Janet Davis, Tribal Recreation Coordinator.
The youth were taught traditional Paiute dances and songs and they learned to make their own traditional clothing. The tribal museum directors spoke to the students and showed them the different parts of the regalia such as the moccasins, collars, beaded belts, headbands, cloth and buckskin dresses. Tribal members who sew traditional clothing also came together to measure each and every student for their own traditional Paiute cloth dress or shirt. They also helped cut the fabric as well.
The key to the language-immersion program was the learning of the “NUMU” language by playing traditional games and songs. The students also learned to make hand-game pieces to use when playing hand games such as the Bamboo Game. The students learned NUMU words by repeating simple words, phrases and body parts. Elders and community members played bingo games with the children using NUMU words. They also told stories in both Paiute and English.
A short film entitled, “Pyramid Lake Recreation: Summer Culture Program” documents the Cultural Camp. The almost 13-minute video can be found on YouTube and was produced by Robert Hicks Jr. of Nokwsi Films.
Hicks is a student at Haskell Indian Nations University, majoring in health, sport and exercise science. His experience as a videographer and audio engineer lead him to serve as the film’s producer, videographer and editor. A Pyramid Lake Paiute tribal member, Hicks knows the importance of the camp.
The video includes interviews with the tribal community members, and footage of the youth wearing their traditional clothing and participating in their traditional dances such as the Antelope Dance, the Bear Dance and the Owl Dance.
Davis said the impact of the camp is ongoing.
“With the First Nations grant funding, the Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe was able to successfully serve youth and community members from all three of our tribal communities. This increased the access and sharing of our Paiute cultural customs and beliefs, and renewed our culture in the ways of our ancestors in order to promote our identity for future generations. The Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe is very thankful to the First Nations Native Youth and Cultural Fund for the support of this project.”
By Mary K. Bowannie, First Nations Communications Officer