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Oral history interview with Herbert Poncho and Mabel Wright Paulina

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TitleOral history interview with Herbert Poncho and Mabel Wright Paulina
MP3 file nameUNR47.sideA.mp3
Side B MP3 file nameUNR47.sideB.mp3
Oral History RecorderWheat, Margaret M., 1908-1988
Year Recorded1964-05
Summary/DescriptionCoverage includes Indian tobacco; Nevada's Pyramid Lake, harvesting guano from the caves behind the Pyramid, the lake level and the cui-ui fish. Images displayed may or may not have been altered from the originals for reference purposes. Fully described version of photo:, 7251
SubjectPaiute Indians
Paiute women
Indians of North America -- Nevada
Indians of North America -- Great Basin
Pyramid Lake (Nev.) -- History
Tobacco use
CollectionMargaret Wheat Papers
Electronic PublisherSpecial Collections Department, University of Nevada, Reno Libraries
Date Digital2006
Ordering and Permissions InformationCopyright to the audio resources in the Margaret Wheat Papers is held by the Special Collections Department, University of Nevada-Reno Libraries and is provided here for educational purposes only. They may not be downloaded, reproduced, or distributed in any format without written permission of the Special Collections Deprtment, University of Nevada-Reno Libraries. Any attempt to circumvent the access controls placed on the files is a violation of United States and international copyright laws, and is subject to criminal prosecution. Please see: To purchase copies of images and/or obtain permission information, please see
Digitization SpecificationsMaster file: audio/wav; 93,746,887 bytes; 59 minutes, 3 seconds.

Computer Hardware: 3 Intel Celeron 1.8GHz/224 MB RAM PCs manufactured by PowerSpec, each with a Firewire hard drive (2 manufactured by MicroNet, and 1 by LaCie); M-Audio Delta Audiophile internal sound card; External Firewire Hard Drive; Analog to Digital Converter: Prism Sound Dream ADA-8XR; Prism Sound Dream AD-2; Analog Playback Equipment: Studer A-80, Studer B67, Otari MX-55, Revox A700; Operating System: Windows XP; Capture and editing software: Steinberg Wavelab 4.0; Formatting software: Sony Soundforge.
DonorMargaret Wheat
Resource TypeSound
BCR Resource Identifier;;
SourceOriginal version: Reel-to-reel tape in the Margaret Wheat Collection, Interview no. 47.
RelationRequires Windows Media Player
Contributing InstitutionUniversity of Nevada, Reno
TranscriptionHerbert Poncho (HP)
Mabel Wright Paulina (MWP)
Margaret Wheat (MW)
Nixon, Nevada. May 1964
Box 12 Meg Wheat Papers
Tape 47
HP = (Discussing tobacco) Indian doctors smoke special kind. Sometimes smoke Durham, Prince Albert. The real old doctors don't smoke white tobacco; for doctoring they use their own. The mix something that grows in mountain, round leaf. Call it tumayug. It grow in the mountain anywhere, grow low, can't go through. Red stem. (Manzanita?) Got strong smell to it. And they smoke herb called todza, root, shave it off. First dig 'em up, dry 'em out, string 'em out on wire or stick. Use that to smoke. Have them hanging inside their houses. They hang jerky in house, and fish and let them dry clothes-line-like. No willow shelves. Behind the Pyramid we were looking for bat guano, five or six years ago. When we start digging in a cave we could walk through when stooping down. We found guano, don't know how many tons. We had a man come in here, hired us to work it. We thought we could make money. Guano fertilizer is pretty expensive. We cleaned clear down to the floor. This guano about eight feet deep. That's where to start to find the old stuff -- old arrows, old mats. Wasn't made by Paiutes. There were fish in there, thousands of them, both big and little chub. They were stored, first grass mat, then willow mat, then they were covered up with grass mat. I had some mats here, big piece, big as this table, broken up. Man from California wanted to buy it. Say he fix it, put it together. Lot of stuff in there. Lot of broken baskets. Baby basket (hoope) look like snowshoes, fourteen to twenty inches long. First baby hoope (Baby's first hoope).
MWP = In cave in mountain we found about dozen little baby hoope way down deep. Different cave than Poncho talked about.
HP = No, we didn't get any money out of it. We were going to Pacific Guano Company. We didn't have much money. I had fifty dollars. My friend had one hundred dollars, and we blew out the tire, so there we were. So we had to get that this side of Fairfield. We had nine tons on there. This orchard man asked me, "Are you selling this stuff?" "Yes." "Where are you going with it?" "Guano Company." He says, "I'll get you a tire." It was an odd-sized tire, hard to get. He got a tire in Sacramento. He said, "Follow me." So followed him to a ranch, orchard.
[People arrive so we shut the recorder off.]
HP = (after interruption) I used to sing with Tippy Wadsworth when they first started the pageant dance here, I used to sing with him. When the ladies grind pinenuts, I used to sing that. (Herbert sings song, with MWP making motion of grinding.
MWP = Sings song of old woman walking alone (translated by HP)
This old lady was left behind. Everybody gone ahead of her. This old lady walked along the shore, humped up, walking along. She was carrying wood on her back. She was left behind going up the hill. She is singing this song, it is her song. (MWP sings the song again.)
MW = When this old lady was carrying this wood was it tied up in a bundle or in the pinenut basket?
MWP = It was tied up with a braided sagebrush rope, watsi-di-cuna, the two ends tied around the wood and a strap across her head, sometimes across their chests, too. The woman is carrying wood across the hills, and she never will catch up, she has to live wherever she goes, wherever she stops, way behind. (Poncho sings a bear dance song. Then Mabel sings while Poncho encourages her.) Then MWP talks about Pyramid Lake in a mixture of Paiute and English.)
MWP = It's pretty hard to interpret it. I am singing about my Lake. My beautiful lake used to be full, just plumb full long time ago. Lots fishes, lots cui-ui in it. People never get hungry in early days. Now my poor lake is getting dry, every year my poor lake getting dry. We Indians can't catch fish like we used to. Trouts, big trouts, my father used to catch in this lake. Oh, we never get hungry, plenty fishes to eat, dry them, save them for winter time. Now I feel sorry, I feel bad, when I see my lake going down. Oh, make me feel so bad. I feel like to cry. Sometimes when I see my lake going down, the rocks under the water coming out, sticking out all around the lake. That is what I was singing about. And was so pitiful. I sit around over there by the lake and sing. I take my drum, sing away about this lake and I say, "My beautiful lake that God made for us is going down. Everything going down. My poor lake. I feel like to cry all the time. I don't eat no fish any more like used to be. --What's wrong? What is happening to my lake? Where the water goes to? Which way the water goes to? White people they turn the water to their side. They use it for themself. They forget about us. They forget about our lake to fill 'em up again. That is why cui-ui is so scarce now, big trouts are scarce. Now I am hungry for fish, never get no fish for how many years, and I'm singing away, sitting down on the rock sticking out, singing about this lake which my old-timer people say, old-timer that died off long time ago, they say, "Don't give this lake up. Don't give it up. Hang on to it long as you live. Don't sell it to white man. Keep it for yourself, for your generation. You got lot generation coming yet. Save it for them". Now the law stops it. The law says don't waste no fish no more. What we Indians going to do. We going to go hungry, I s'pose. We going to go hungry. (Pause.) Our lake here used to have ducks, geese, all kinds of game. We never get hungry. Our old people catch fish out of the lake and we never get hungry long time ago. Now we never do these kind things any more. What's happening? What's going on? How long this going to go on? Tybo, white people, spoiling our country, making funny kind of laws, can't do this, can't do that. Lot of times I go hungry. If it wasn't for relief, what we Indians do? The relief people save us, give us money to live on. I wish they keep on doing it. Give us money as long as we live, as long as the green grass and the sun come up. As long as the sun is on the white people, I wish they treat us good, treat us better. I wish they would hurry up and look into our future. Sometimes I don't know how we manage to get along. Some way we get by and I am so glad now the relief give us little money to live on so I am happy about it. I think the rest of the Paiute Indians feel the same way. But only thing, I feel sorry for my lake, my precious lake, used to be plumb full, now drying up. Rocks sticking out. Oh, it makes me feel so bad. That's all I got to say.

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