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.

By 1900, federal officials had designated a number of Indian reservations in Nevada, including Duck Valley, Pyramid Lake, and Walker River. Tribal members also lived in communities resembling reservations at Fallon, Fort McDermitt, and elsewhere, and additional Indian “colonies” were established between 1910 and 1920.

In the same period, the state and federal government spearheaded efforts to assimilate Indian children into mainstream American culture. The Stewart Indian School opened in 1890 just south of the state capital of Carson City with an initial emphasis on vocational training. Although this focus on manual skills initially was intended as a pathway toward cultural assimilation, many graduates of the school were able to capitalize on the expertise they had gained there in carpentry, masonry, blacksmithing, and other valuable trades.

See below for articles and other materials related to this topic.


People of the Marsh -- University of Nevada Oral History Program documentary, 2005
People of the Marsh was filmed with the participation and cooperation of members of the Fallon Paiute Shoshone Tribe. The video addresses life in the Stillwater area of northern Nevada. The marshy terrain of the Carson Sink was long inhabited by a band of Northern Paiute people who were joined by a small number of Western Shoshones early in the twentieth century. People of the Marsh features stories and recollections by four tribal members who share their knowledge of a vibrant past and the lifeways that sustained the people. Filmed on location in the Carson Sink, the documentary also uses archival film footage and photographs to provide context for understanding the changes and adaptations caused by the intrusion of thousands of Euro-American emigrants and settlers into their territory.

The Red Mountain Dwellers -- University of Nevada Oral History Program documentary, 2006
This documentary explores the life and experiences of Native Americans in the Fort McDermitt area since the reservation was established in 1936, documenting connections between the people, their natural environment, and traditional culture. Narrator Betty Crutcher introduces the history of her people after Euro-Americans began moving into this lonely region on the Nevada-Oregon border. The film opens with memories of a U.S. military post being built there that was later abandoned, and it comes full circle to how this land is today used as part of the Fort McDermitt Reservation. Sections focus on seasonal subsistence gathering (including the digging and processing of yapa, or wild potatoes), the impact of Euro-American settlement in the region, the emphasis on language education in the schools, and the newer cultural traditions of rodeos and pow wows.

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.


Albina Redner: A Shoshone Life
A member of the Western Shoshone tribe, Albina Redner was born around 1924 in Austin, Nevada and grew up on a ranch where her stepfather worked as a buckaroo. She attended Stewart Indian School in the mid-1930s. Later enlisting in the Army Medical Corps during World War II, she worked for years as an “Indian doctor” in hospitals and nursing homes, and eventually settled on the Fallon Reservation.

John Dressler: Recollections of a Washoe Statesmen
John Dressler, a Washoe, was born in 1916, entered Stewart Indian School around 1922, and graduated around 1935. He became a leader of the Washoe in Nevada, working in leadership positions for the Reno-Sparks Indian Colony, Inter Tribal Council of Nevada, and Nevada Indian Affairs Commission. Interviewed in 1970, he discusses the lives of his grandparents and parents and his own experiences working as a ranch hand, welder, and iron worker, and as a leader in the Boy Scouts and Baptist Church.

Articles reprinted with permission from the Nevada Historical Society. Select a link to open a pdf copy of the article.

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