The Walker River Paiute Tribe held their 89th Annual Pinenut Festival in Schurz over the past weekend. The festival is a time when family and friends come together to honor traditions, teach children about their ancestors and give thanks for the Pinenut, which is still a staple for the tribe.
Amber Torres, Chairman of the Walker River Paiute Tribe welcomed all those who joined the festival with these words, “I am honored to speak before you on our ancestral homelands of the Walker River Paiute Tribe. Please forgive me elders for speaking before you. It gives me great pleasure to say that we have honored our culture, our traditions and our values for many years and that say a lot to me about who we are. We are the first people and we are still here. One word comes to mind and that is resilience.”
The tradition of the Pinenut Festival dates back to when the simple food staple was the most important for the Paiute people. In August, a scout is sent out to find the best crop of nuts for the year. He would return with a branch of immature cones. Once the location was found, plans for the festival began.
This year, the pinenuts are abundant after a much needed wet winter in the Sierras. Just like those before then, the pinenut is gathered in the mountains, brought back and members of the tribe begin the tedious process of removing the nuts from the cones. Elders teach the young about the significance of the crop and the importance to the people which allows the young to learn more about their culture, in hopes that they will pass these traditions on.
The festival is centered around the blessing, on Saturday night. So all activities stop at 8 p.m. The blessing consists of a prayer by an elder of the community, the singing of four traditional Paiute songs while the people dance the traditional round dances and the blessing is done by a respected tribal elder. They are praying to the creator that a good crop will continue to nourish the people. After this is done, the Tribe hands out bags of roasted pinenuts for all to enjoy.
“This year we were blessed with an over-abundance of pinenuts, and this is a beautiful thing, so tonight, I ask you to dance hard and sing loud and proud for our ancestors to hear,” Chairman Torres told those that attended the blessing.
“I want to thank all of my staff for their hard work and dedication to the people. This is your Pinenut Festival. Take the time to enjoy each other’s company for we may not get this chance again. Always be kind, respectful and compassionate to one another because that is what our elders have taught us, we empower one another with good words. Please keep those who are sick and afflicted and those who have lost loved ones in your thoughts and prayers for healing and comfort,” she continued.
The festival also showcased a cradleboard contest, parade and traditional hand games amongst several other activities with a free barbecue for all that attended.
“We are Numu, Newe, and Wa-SheShu, we are community, we are family, we are one! Pesha U and Bonne. Pesha Nanamabets’eana,” Thank you, until we see each other again, treat each other well,” Torres concluded.