Pine nuts are The People
To the harsh rhythm of a hide drum and lilting voices of singers, four young women danced in a dusty arena. As they lithely floated across the packed dirt the strong wind whipped dust into their eyes, jingling the metal fasteners on their dresses, adding to the rising melodic din.
The young women, dressed in soft blues and deep reds, move carefully, each step carefully practiced, but executed with thoughtless precision. They danced the jingle dance, a dance of healing that came about in the 1900’s.
The dancers were surrounded by spectators in folding camping chairs. Even the gusting wind wasn’t enough to keep the riveted audience from enjoying the skill displayed in the arena at the pine nut festival in Schurz on Sept. 21.
The jingle dance was part of a Pow Wow of several local American Indian tribes, but primarily the Walker River Paiute Tribe of Schurz. The tribes have been gathering in Schurz for more than 80 years said Lorren Sammaripa, tribal chairman, to celebrate and bless the pine nut harvest.
“We have a number of people that have joined in with us, and the weather is not cooperating with us, but rain or shine this is going to happen,” Sammaripa said. “I appreciate these people being here to help celebrate.”
Each year near the beginning of autumn the Paiute go into the hills of Mineral and Churchill counties to gather pine nuts, as their people have done for centuries.
“We’re actually doing lots of blessings, and remembering The People, and remembering our connection to the land and the pine nut,” said K. Marie Quartz, a contemporary traditionalist and teacher of the children in the Walker River Paiute Tribe. “We go out in May and pray for them in the spring time, and then when we come here we celebrate.”
Like many American Indian tribes the Walker River Paiute Tribe refers to itself with a word that translates to “The People”.
Aleczander Guzman, Walker River Youth Activities Coordinator, said “a lot of hard work” and preparation went into planning the pow wow.
“It keeps our culture going,” Guzman said. “There’s a lot of other cultural [events] that we do, lots of other religious things. This is just part of it.”
Remembering and celebrating the ancient culture of the Paiute people was a theme frequently touched on by pow wow attendees.
“The purpose of the celebration is blessing of the pine nuts, blessing of the people, honoring the people, and remembering what we must not forget,” Quartz said.