“I hope they get a real-life experience of things that we have taught them,” said Agnes Risley Elementary School teacher Linda Taylor. “They get to feel the bone and touch the hides.”
According to Taylor, the students are studying Nevada history and culture in the classroom this month.
The third grade students from both Risley and Kate Smith elementary schools got a preview of a one-day museum exhibit, “Trembling Leaves: a Native American Culture Day,” which will be open to the public today from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.
In one corner of the exhibit, Wesley Dick, a Northern Paiute, unfolded a tanned deer hide. The smell of the fire that the hide had just been stretched over floated through the room and around the group of students.
“I would pull this over a post in my front yard,” Dick said as he stretched the hide over a small post he had brought with him. “I would do this all through the summer for months.”
The now soft and pliable hide lay on a table among a scattering of antlers, traditional dresses, old photos, feather headdresses and fragrant tree bark.
“I am excited to share,” Dick said. “My culture is dying out really badly and … children are our future.”
Around the corner, Darlene Graham rubbed a doza root through her fingers and pointed to a fragrant spread of native brush plants and roots from across Nevada.
“The doza is good for upper respiratory problems,” said Graham, a Shoshone who grew up near Shurz, Nev. “Dad used to give us the doza to chew on when we had a sore throat.”
With her herbs spread in front of her, Graham taught the students about how the Native Americans in Nevada used plants to make medicines, lotions and salves.
After the presentation, Graham led the groups of students to another corner of the museum where they knelt on blankets and learned how to grind grain with a mortar and pestle.
One. Two. Three. Four. The woman counted to a steady beat as she taught the children to gently roll the grist between the stones without slamming the instruments together.
“One thing that I always hear about is that we need to go back to being natural,” Graham said. “When you read the labels on medicines these days, you don’t even know what this stuff is.”
While Graham wanted to communicate the natural remedies of Shoshone culture, Lois Kane waited in another room, hoping to teach the school children about cultural respect.
“I want to teach respect for all people regardless of race … we all have different ways,” Kane said before joining fellow dancers from her group, the Eagles Wings Pageant Dancers.
The group’s members come from across three of Nevada’s tribes, the Shoshone, Paiute and Washoe. The dance group performs in schools, libraries and for community gatherings across Nevada.
“I think they do walk away with a greater appreciation and understanding,” Kane said.
The Wilbur D. May Museum is located in Rancho San Rafael Regional Park at 1595 N. Sierra St. in Reno. Admission is $6 for children and seniors and $7 for adults.
• Make your own Talking Stick decorated with beads and yarn of different colors to represent the sky, water, and earth with Tia Flores
• Bow-making demonstrations by Native American artist and weapon maker Burton Pete
• Basketry demonstrations by award-winning basket maker Norma Smokey
• Buckskin and duck decoy making demonstration by Wesley Dick
• Learn Native American drum songs, dance and languages with Lois Kane
• Traditional Native American stories told in Paiute and English by Ralph Burns
• History of the Pyramid Lake Tribe with Ben Aleck
• Traditional dances performed by the Eagle Wings Dancers at 1 p.m. Guests will be invited to join the dancers
• Display of Native American artifacts and photographs from the Nevada State Museum and Nevada Historical Society