A Story of Encounters: Literature and Storytelling

Traditional storytelling is at the heart of Native American culture. Nevada’s tribes have always passed stories down through the generations in order to explain their origins, to illuminate the world around them, and to convey important lessons. The tradition continues today, both on an interpersonal level and captured for posterity in video and audio recordings.

Sarah Winnemucca, from Nevada’s Northern Paiute tribe, was the author of the first book published by an American Indian woman. Her early articles and especially her autobiographical work, Life Among the Piutes: Their Wrongs and Claims, published in 1883, heightened broader awareness of the plight of her tribe and others.

In the years since Winnemucca’s seminal achievement, the literature of Nevada’s native peoples has ranged from nonfiction and fiction to poetry, winning acclaim far beyond state borders. Some of these authors are featured here.

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Under One Sky -- University of Nevada Oral History Program documentary, 2006
As told by Northern Paiute, Western Shoshone, and Washoe people, Under One Sky presents "Origin Stories," "Life Ways," and memories of experiences at the Stewart Indian School in Carson City. "Origin Stories" explains the people's presence on the land and their relationship to it, while "Life Ways" illustrates some important changes that have occurred since non-Indian settlers first penetrated traditional Indian territories. These vignettes were filmed on site in spectacular Great Basin locales and on the eastern front of the Sierra Nevada. They incorporate historical photographs and footage from vintage home movies. Traditional tribal songs enrich the sound track, and English subtitles are provided for passages that are spoken in native tongues.

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