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Tule Duck Decoy artist demonstration Friday at SENarts event in Nevada Legislative Building

04 13 15 William Tule Duck

April 13, 2015

A member of the Fallon Paiute-Shoshone tribe, Mike Williams is dedicated to creating accurate replicas of duck hunting tools in the Numu or Northern Paiute tradition. Williams will demonstrate how he creates tule duck decoys from 3:30 to 5 p.m. Friday, April 17 at the Nevada Legislative Building, in a free SENarts “Work of Artists” event co-sponsored by the Nevada Arts Council and Capital City Arts Initiative.

Williams will share the “Tule Duck Decoy Story” – the powerful role of the tule plant in the everyday lives of the Numu, and the symbolic significance of the duck decoy in recognizing a culture that has flourished and adapted to changes in the Great Basin for thousands of years.

The traditional Numu way of making duck decoys uses the stem of the tule reed, a member of the sedge family that is indigenous to Nevada. Williams gathers tule stems in the fall, before they are damaged by freezing temperatures. Stems are carefully cut, twisted, woven, and bound into the shape of a duck. He makes the binding string from Indian hemp, also harvested locally. He colors the decoys with natural red ochre from northern Nevada mountains and black shading from the resin of pinion pine trees. Feathers may be added for effect.

At the workshop, Williams will show visitors how he creates a tule duck decoy and tells the story of the object and what it represents in modern times. His audiences gain a better understanding of the powerful role this humble object had in the everyday lives of the Numu, and an appreciation for its symbolic significance in recognizing a culture that has flourished and adapted to changes in the Great Basin for many thousands of years, he said.

“It’s my purpose in life to teach this art and pass it on,” said Williams. In doing so, he preserves Northern Paiute art and culture for future generations. He was the recipient of the Nevada Governor’s Arts Award for Excellence in Folk Arts in 2008.

SENarts is a partnership between the Nevada Senate, Nevada Arts Council, Nevada Division of Museums and History and the Capital Arts Initiative. In a small and welcoming environment, the “Work of Artists” program lets each artist offer insight into the work they do, the art they make and the talent it takes to produce their treasures. For more information, contact the council at (775) 687-6680.