Nevada Stories Series (Folklife Program) Videos

Nevada Stories is an online video series focusing on folk and traditional artists, specific 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 individual folk artists, traditional communities, and cultural sites that make Nevada distinctive. Filming and production are funded through Folk and Traditional Arts grants from the National Endowment for the Arts.

Pipemakers of the Great Basin
pipe_makersHilman 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, who just celebrated his 100th birthday, 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.


Sticks and Bones – Paiute Handgames
paiutehandgamesNative American tribes have been playing versions of the Hand Game (or Stick Game) since before recorded history. Oral tradition and historic documentation indicate that the gambling games were once played for such high stakes as land use. Contemporary tribes usually play 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, which are divided equally between the two opposing teams. Nevada Stories drops in on a Northern Paiute Handgame Tournament, Yerington, NV

Hunting the Mountain Picassos
arborglyphsFor 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.


Euskal Jaiak: Celebrating Basque Culture – the 50th Annual National Basque Festival, Elko
basquefestivalFor 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, “Euskal Jaiak: Celebrating Basque Culture” offers the viewer an all-embracing view of this multi-faceted event.


Year of the Dragon: Chinese New Year Las Vegas Style
chinesenewyearicon_1578x1989The 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!


Vida en Muerte: The Life in Death Festival
dayofdeadiconThe Day of the Dead is an important holiday in Mexican and Mexican-American culture. We join the multi-day/night celebration at the Winchester Cultural Center in Las Vegas to learn about some of the enduring traditions.

Rieko Shimbo: Tsurunokai:Reno Taiko
rieko-shimbo-taiko-iconA visit with Taiko drumming Master Rieko Shimbo and her Reno-based multicultural performing group at a rehearsal.
2011 Governor’s Arts Award Winner


Tradition Behind the Scenes: The Nevada State Basketry Collection
basketiconA 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 something about Northern Nevada Paiute, Shoshone, and Washo basketry traditions.

A Young Face of Washo Tradition: John Rupert
johnrupert_washo_traditionYoung 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.


Training Stock Dogs
stockdogs_iconWorking 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: Telling Place: The Stone Mother at Pyramid Lake
ralphburnsstonemothericonRalph Burns is an accomplished language teacher and knowledgeable about the oral traditions of Paiute culture. He regularly 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.
2010 Nevada Heritage Award Winner
2013 National Heritage Fellowship Award


Waddie Mitchell: Cowboy Poet
wmitchellFrom 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.

Making Lefse, a Norwegian Food Tradition
lefse_iconDoris Howell of Carson City demonstrates the Norwegian tradition of making lefse, potato-based flat bread, which has been passed down in her family for generations.


Supatra Chemprachum and the Thai Cultural Arts Association
supatrathaidanceiconBorn 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 preserve and promote 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.
2010 Governor’s Arts Award Winner

Mike Williams: Duck Decoys and Tule Work
powwowregaliaNative artist 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)—were resident in Nevada many thousands of years before they encountred Euro-Americans. They lived in proximity to large lakes and wetlands where their lives were sustained by the native vegetation and wildlife. Fish and waterfowl were central to their diet, and the wetland reeds and grasses provided the materials for their housing and clothing, as well as their hunting, gathering, and fishing equipment. Mike Williams has studied the materials and techniques of his ancient ancestors and uses them to recreate their world – from duck and goose decoys to egg bags, fish traps, boats, and Tule houses.
2008 Governor’s Arts Award Winner


Doug Groves, Rawhider
douggrovesiconWhen 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—over thirty years ago.


Ixela Gutierrez and Mexico Vivo
ixelamvivoiconEach 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, both in Mexico and in Mexican-American communities, is the folklorico dance troupe, which performs dances of many regions. As a way to maintain a sense of cultural identity amid the frenzy of change in Las Vegas, folkloric dance plays an important role in the Mexican American community.
2007 Governor’s Arts Award Winner
2010 Nevada Heritage Award Winner


Bill Maloy, Master Saddle Maker
billmalloyiconBill 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.

Zeny Ocean: Reno Balalaika Orchestra
zenyoceaniconReno’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, Western Shoshone Songs
elizabeth_bradyiconElizabeth 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.


Tying our World Together: Gathering Dogbane
dogbaneiconNevada 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.


Manohra, the Kinaree: A Thai Folktale in Dance
thaidanceThe 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.

Junior Brantley: Blues Piano
juniorbrantleyicon-2Las Vegas resident Junior Brantley was the recipient of the 2016 Nevada Heritage Award presented by Folklife Program of 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).
The Nevada Heritage Award honors and recognizes Nevada master folk and traditional artists who, at the highest level of excellence and authenticity, carry forward the folk traditions of their families and communities through practice and teaching. A “community” can be defined as a group of people who share common cultural elements, such as ethnicity, tribal heritage, national origin, occupation, religious belief, geographic area, or traditional art form.


Dane Ngahuka: Maori Warrior of Light
maoriiconDane Ngahuka grew up in a village known for traditional Maori ceremonies and performers. His Whakapapa (the Maori tradition of genealogy) extends back before the Treaty of Waitanga (1840) when the Maori homeland became a British colony. Oral tradition traces the origins of the Maori to ancient migrations of seafaring people who voyaged thousands of miles 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 term used to refer to the traditional Maori performing arts. Kapa Haka integrates singing, dancing, facial expressions, and other elements to tell stories. Each movements in a Maori dance has meaning. 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 Las Vegas storyteller Karla Huntsman and film maker Sean M. Carter.

Northern Paiute Powwow Regalia: Personal and Community Meanings
powwowregaliaFilmed 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.
Nevada State Old Time Fiddlers’ Contest
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, which can neither be a waltz or a hoedown. 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.
Fiddling and fiddle contests have a long history in North America, dating back to the 18th century and immigration from the British Isles and Western Europe. The contests became more popular and wide-spread in the 20th century, thanks to sponsors such as Henry Ford and to radio broadcasts. There are now hundreds of contests each year and the National Old Time Fiddlers’ Contest, held in Weiser, Idaho, celebrated its 65th anniversary in June 2017.