Dr. Alicia Barber

A Story of Encounters: Contemporary Arts and Folklife

The diversity of Nevada’s native cultures is expressed vividly through folklife, including traditional stories, foodways, music, basketry, pow-wows, and more. A wide range of contemporary arts also complement and extend from these folk practices.

Beginning around 1914, Washoe basket weaver Louisa Keyser (Dat So La Lee) gained the patronage of Abe and Amy Cohn, who brokered the sale of her exquisite baskets to tourists and collectors, many of whom paid thousands of dollars for a single piece.

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.

A Story of Encounters: Rock Art

Many forms of visual representation made on natural rocky surfaces are classified as rock art, including pictographs, petroglyphs, geoglyphs, and intaglios. Sometimes created thousands of years ago, this imagery is significant not just for its visual interest, but for what it can convey about the cultures and lifestyles of those who produced it.

A Story of Encounters: Political and Legal Efforts

The establishment of Indian reservations and colonies in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries gave some of Nevada’s tribes greater autonomy, but did not resolve many longstanding inequities. Circumstances improved with the advent of voting rights and citizenship for tribal members, the passage of the federal Indian Reorganization Act of 1934, and the broader recognition of Nevada’s tribes as sovereign nations.

A Story of Encounters: Work and Community Life

Many of Nevada’s native and non-native residents developed closer familiarity and genuine friendships by working alongside each other. From the time of the Comstock Lode, indigenous residents of the areas settled by Euro-Americans sought out roles in the new economy that had quickly overtaken their region.

A Story of Encounters: Archeological Sites

From L.L. Loud’s excavation of Lovelock Cave in 1912 to the present day, archaeologists have gravitated to sites throughout the state of Nevada. Excavations that started in the mid-1920s at the Pueblo Grande de Nevada (Lost City) in Southern Nevada’s Moapa Valley accelerated in the 1930s with the imminent completion of Boulder (Hoover) Dam, which submerged the site under the waters of Lake Mead.

A Story of Encounters: Topics of Archeological and Anthropological Study

Beginning in the early decades of the twentieth century, researchers produced an extraordinary amount of knowledge about Nevada’s indigenous cultures. Archeological excavations explored ancient housing in caves and Pueblo (Anasazi) ruins and uncovered artifacts including ancient clothing, tools, and weapons like the atlatl.

A Story of Encounters: Anthropologists, Archeologists, and Other Researchers

Anthropological study is generally divided into four sub-disciplines: cultural anthropology, physical anthropology, linguistics, and archaeology (sometimes considered a separate field). The discipline itself was a product of the late nineteenth century, inspired by the introduction of new ideas including Franz Boas’ principle of cultural relativism, which argued against inherent hierarchies of culture.

A Story of Encounters: Reservations and Indian Schools

Nevada’s indigenous communities did not share the same traditional notions of property as those of American and European backgrounds. Native inhabitants were accustomed to movement, accessing resources when needed and changing locations with the seasons. As the non-native population of Nevada grew, so did pressure to determine permanent ownership of desirable lands.

A Story of Encounters: Colonization and Settlement

Early Euro-American fur trappers, scouts, and emigrants passing through the Great Basin understandably raised concerns among the region’s native inhabitants like Sarah Winnemucca and her family. Confrontations between settlers and Nevada tribes increased in the 1850s with the establishment of trading posts and stations by Mormons and others in the north and south.


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