Nevada Stories is an online video series focusing on folk and traditional artists, local traditions, and Nevada’s landscape. An outreach activity of the NAC Folklife Program, it supports the Nevada Arts Council’s mission to provide folklife education to all age groups and to highlight the folk artists, traditional communities, and cultural sites that make Nevada distinctive. Filming and production have been funded through Folk and Traditional Arts grants from the National Endowment for the Arts. The videos can be viewed on the Nevada Arts Council’s YouTube.
For this workshop, some of Elko County’s finest Basque cooks came together at the Basque Clubhouse to share stories and their favorite Dutch-oven meals. Under the guidance of Basque chef and restauranteur Ramon Zugazaga, the group demonstrates multiple dishes that can be cooked in seasoned cast iron cookware, including stews made with beef, lamb, rabbit, and beef tongue; lamb shanks; roast boneless lamb; meatballs; and sheepherder’s bread. In this video, we feature the stews.
The Elko Basque Club is famous for creating traditional sheep camp feasts at their clubhouse. During the 2018 National Cowboy Poetry Gathering, members presented a workshop on Dutch oven cooking. This video shows the method of baking bread in a traditional Basque sheepherders’ wood-fired oven. Join host baker Jess Lopategui as he guides us through the process, including two dough risings and heating the outdoor oven. The recipe is included and guaranteed delicious! Thanks to the Elko Basque cooks Zach Arbillaga, Kathy Lemich, Jess Lopategui, Choch Zaga, and Ramon Zugazaga, and program host folklorist Andrea Graham.
Visitors to the 34th National Cowboy Poetry Gathering in Elko (2018)–themed “Basques and Buckaroos”–saw firsthand that Basques know how to have fun! A popular social pastime in the Basque Country involves bar hopping while sampling the pintxo (pronounced “peen-show”) or bite-sized snack specialties of the house. Guest chef Asier Garcia hails from Bizkaia and is now a resident of Boise. Asier leads a workshop group through the intricacies of creating a dozen different pintxos, deconstructing this artful tradition to enhance their culinary repertoires and satisfy their appetites.
Fifth generation Ruby Valley rancher Pam Morrison is known in the valley and beyond for the meals she cooks for brandings, cattle-working family get-togethers, and holidays. For this workshop, presented at the 2018 National Cowboy Poetry Gathering in Elko, Pam highlights family recipes from her grandmothers, her own adaptations, and recipes from her daughter, Julie Irish. Ably assisted by long-time friend Val Wines (Ruby Valley), daughter Julie, workshop facilitator Andrea Graham, and workshop participants, Pam leads the group through a typical meal that she would prepare for a branding crew. All recipes are included and guaranteed delicious!
Utah bandleader, contractor, Basque personality and cook Jean Flesher presents Basque cuisine in traditional fashion with a northern Basque country (French influenced) flavor. The workshop features classic dishes and cooking techniques. Participants learned new recipes (included in the video) and left with satisfied appetites and a full serving of Basque joi de vivre. This film was made possible by a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts and partnerships between the Western Folklife Center, Nevada’s Department of Tourism and Cultural Affairs, and the Nevada Arts Council.
Hilman Tobey, a Northern Paiute living at Reno Sparks Indian Colony, makes stone-bowled pipes for use in traditional ceremonies. This short film captures master artist Tobey teaching pipe-making skills to apprentice Norman Zuniga under the auspices of a Nevada Arts Council Folklife Apprenticeship Grant. Mr. Tobey talks about the materials and tools used to make pipes as well as the origins and uses of ceremonial pipes in prayer. Filmed by Gabe Lopez Shaw for the Folklife Program of the Nevada Arts Council with support from the National Endowment for the Arts.
Native American tribes have played versions of the Hand Game (or Stick Game) since before recorded history. Oral tradition and historical documentation indicate that the gambling games were once played for high stakes such as land use. Today they are played for money or prizes. The game is played with two pairs of “bones” (traditionally made from deer shin bones), each consisting of one plain and one striped bone, and ten to twelve counting sticks divided equally between two opposing teams. Nevada Stories drops in on a Northern Paiute Handgame Tournament in Yerington, NV
For more than half a century, Jean and Phillip Earl of Reno have used clues from old maps, letters, and books to hunt for and document “Mountain Picassos,” distinctive figures carved into aspen trees found in the high country meadows of the Great Basin. These figures– along with names, dates, and sayings– were carved by Basque sheepherders in the early to mid-20th century.
For the last 50 years, Basque families from throughout the American West have gathered in Elko, Nevada on 4th of July weekend to celebrate their culture and the opportunities afforded them in the USA. Filmed over the three days of the 2013 National Basque Festival in Elko, “Euskal Jaiak: Celebrating Basque Culture” offers the viewer an all-embracing view of this multi-faceted event.
The celebration of Chinese New Year is significant in many Asian cultures. Las Vegas has a large resident Chinese population and is a destination of choice for Chinese and other Asian tourists during their New Year. With the assistance of Feng Shui consultant Peter Lung, we learn how Chinese traditions are observed in Las Vegas – both in Chinese homes and in the casino!
The Day of the Dead is an important holiday in Mexican and Mexican-American culture. We join the celebration at the Winchester Cultural Center in Las Vegas to learn about some of the traditions.
A visit with Taiko drumming Master Rieko Shimbo and her Reno-based multicultural performing group at a rehearsal. Shimbo was honored with the 2011 Governor’s Arts Award for Folk Arts.
A visit with Curator of Anthropology Eugene Hattori and anthropologist Kay Fowler at the Nevada State Museum in Carson City to see some of the incredible baskets in the museum collection and to learn about Northern Nevada’s Paiute, Shoshone, and Washo basketry traditions.
The 20th Annual Nevada State Old Time Fiddlers’ Contest was held in Eureka (2017), having moved from Wells the previous year. In a standard Old Time fiddle contest, each fiddler plays a set (or ’round’) of three tunes, which must include a hoedown (a tune in fast 2/4 time), a waltz, and a tune of choice. The fiddlers with the highest scores move on to the next round of competition. Contestants may perform with up to three accompanists. No contestant may play the same tune twice. There is a time limit of four minutes per round. No sheet music is allowed on stage and there is no “trick” or “fancy fiddling,” nor can there be any cross tuning on stage. Anyone may enter the contest.
The contest is divided into five divisions: Junior-Junior, for contestants less than 13 years of age; Junior, for contestants 13 to 17 years; Adult, ages 18–59; Senior, ages 60 and above; and finally, Grand Champion, which is open to competitors of any age. Nevada State Champions are eligible to represent the state in other fiddle contests throughout the country.
Filmed on location at the Yerington Paiute Tribal Headquarters and the Pyramid Lake Museum, Northern Paiute Powwow Regalia presents interviews with tribal members about their traditional dance outfits. The distinctive styles of clothing worn by dancers during a Powwow are called regalia or outfits. Powwow outfits are not worn casually, but for events that have personal, spiritual, cultural, and/or community significance, as do the individual elements of the outfits themselves.
Dane Ngahuka grew up in a village known for traditional Maori ceremonies and performers. Oral tradition traces the origins of the Maori to ancient migrations of seafaring people who voyaged across the South Pacific to make their homes in Aotearoa, Land of the Long White Cloud, today known as New Zealand. A Las Vegas resident, Dane performs and teaches Maori songs and dances, explains their meanings and cultural significance, and shares the history and language of the Maori. In this film he introduces Kapa Haka – the Maori name for traditional Maori performing arts. Kapa Haka integrates singing, dancing, facial expressions, and other elements to tell stories. The modern haka is a familiar Maori dance form popularized by sports teams such as the Las Vegas Maori Rugby Team, who perform it before each game to challenge their opponents. This haka is designed to show confidence, display physical strength, promote team spirit, and intimidate the other team. This Nevada Story was created by storyteller Karla Huntsman and film maker Sean M. Carter.
Young John Rupert, a Carson City elementary school student, is engaged in learning as much as he can about local tribal tradtions. We follow him to two different sites that have significance for him and hear him talk about some of the things that he has been learning from various elders.
Working dogs have been an important part of ranch life and work since the late 19th and early 20th centuries in the West. This Nevada Story takes us to the Haase Ranch in the Carson Valley to see how the dogs are trained.
Ralph Burns is an accomplished language teacher and knowledgeable about the oral traditions of Northern Paiute culture. He tells traditional stories, myths and legends in both Paiute and in English. Here he tells a mythological tale about the Stone Mother that explains the origins of his people. He tells the story at the actual site of the dramatic Stone Mother figure, a tufa formation on the shores of Pyramid Lake. The Stone Mother is an important figure in the storytelling of several tribes. Burns is the 2010 Nevada Heritage Award Winner and recipient of a 2013 National Heritage Fellowship.
From his earliest days on the remote Nevada ranches where his father worked, Waddie Mitchell was immersed in the cowboy way of entertaining, the art of spinnin’ tales in rhyme and meter that came to be called cowboy poetry, a Western tradition that is as rich as the lifestyle that gave birth to it. Waddie has become an icon of Nevada, of buckaroo culture (cowboys of the Great Basin), and of cowboy poetry itself.
Doris Howell of Carson City demonstrates the Norwegian tradition of making lefse, a potato-based flat bread, which has been passed down in her family for generations.
Born in Thailand, Supatra Chemprachum moved to Las Vegas in 1986. She learned folk and classical Thai dances and how to teach them from her mother, who was a well-known performer in Bangkok. Supatra founded the Thai Cultural Arts Association (TCAA) in 1993 to teach and share Thai traditions in Las Vegas. Her deep knowledge of Thai culture and traditions are evident in the elaborate costuming, intricate choreography, and informative explanations included in the dance productions she presents. She was honored with the 2010 Governor’s Arts Award for Folk Arts.
Mike Williams creates duck decoys in the ancient style that goes back to Nevada’s archaeological record. “The People of the Marsh” —ancestors of the Numu (Northern Paiute)— lived in proximity to lakes and wetlands where their lives were sustained by native vegetation and wildlife. The wetland reeds and grasses provided the raw materials for housing clothing, and equipment. Mike uses the materials and techniques of his ancient ancestors to make duck and goose decoys, egg bags, fish traps, boats, and tule houses. Mike was honored with the 2008 Governor’s Arts Award for Folk Arts.
When true artisanship takes the functional beyond necessity, craft becomes art. Doug Groves’ braided rawhide horse gear exemplifies this perfect marriage of beauty and utility. Groves started making horse tack—riatas, quirts, reins, buttons, and more—more than thirty years ago.
Each region of Mexico has its own style of costume, music, and dance that have been carried down for hundreds of years. One of the most popular and well-known types of performing groups in Mexico and in Mexican-American communities is the folklorico dance troupe. Ixela Gutierrez was honored with the 2007 Governor’s Arts Award for Folk Arts, and the 2010 Nevada Heritage Award.
Bill Maloy was a renowned saddle maker and silversmith. He opened his first saddle shop in Reno in 1959 at the age of 22, and continued to build hand-crafted saddles, prized and collected, as well as used by cowboys and celebrities up until a few months before his passing in March 2011.
Reno’s Sierra Nevada Balalaika Society orchestra has performed at numerous civic events, schools, public concerts, and private occasions. Now in its third decade, the SNBS provides quality music to the Reno area, and has become one of the region’s richest cultural resources.
Elizabeth Brady once sang Shoshone songs on a drive all the way from Phoenix to Las Vegas and did not repeat once. Her daughter Lois Whitney was amazed—she knew her mother came from a strongly traditional family, and that Elizabeth’s parents Jerry and Judy Jackson were renowned singers and storytellers, but she had not understood the depth of her mother’s knowledge until then.
Nevada Stories goes into the field to learn about harvesting and preparing plants for native crafts. Dogbane is a plant traditionally employed by the Northern Paiute people for making string used to weave nets and traps for small game such as rabbits and birds. Donna Cossette takes us to gather the plant in its natural habitat and demonstrates the beginning stages of processing it for cordage.
The story told here is an abbreviated version of a Thai fairytale that dates back to at least the 14th Century. Manohra, a princess who is half-woman, half-bird, lives in the Himapan forest with her parents and sisters. She is kidnapped and married to a human prince. The fairytale tells of jealousy, peril, separation, and final reuniting of the young lovers. The dance is the oldest surviving Thai dance drama. The portion shown in this film is but one part of a multi-character performance. It was filmed as part of a Living Traditions Grant to Las Vegas-based Thai master teacher Supatra Chemprachum, to document the choreography of this dance for teaching purposes and cultural preservation.
Las Vegas resident Junior Brantley was the recipient of the 2016 Nevada Heritage Award presented by the Nevada Arts Council. He is recognized for excellence in Blues piano; for his national and international performing career; for his steadfast and generous support of local Blues musicians; and for his teaching of piano technique and Blues heritage to young aspiring musicians. He is shown here performing and in an interview by Rebecca Snetselaar (NAC) and Ellis Rice (Blusoul Arts Continuum).