Margaret Wheat Collection - University of Nevada, Reno

Peg Wheat's work was devoted to recording the traditional arts and sacred beliefs of the northern Nevada Paiute tribes. Starting in the 1940s, she spent the next twenty years interviewing and photographing Paiute elders, gaining their trust and persuading them to recount their old ways before they were lost in time.

About This Selection of Oral History Interviews


This selection of oral history interviews represents a cross-section of Paiute and Shoshone ...

Using a crude wire recorder and a box camera, Margaret (Peg) Wheat started recording what she saw on her visits with the Paiute tribes, switching to tape recorders and 35-mm cameras when they became available. She was always respectful and sensitive as an interviewer.

Peg Wheat

Her relaxed interviewing style was the key to the information she received. Her transcripts reveal her concentration on specific topics and a determination to get information without dominating the conversations or alienating her American Indian friends. Studying the era and the events she wanted to cover, she was well prepared with questions, but seldom interjected her own views. This free-form technique worked well with elder Indians whose personal memories extended back to early settlement days. To stimulate conversation, Peg sometimes drove around the state with one of her Paiute acquaintances, recorder in hand, letting geographic features stir memory and association. Many of the images used in this collection came from Peg's book, Survival Arts of the Primitive Paiutes.

As part of a Fleischmann/Foresta grant, Margaret Wheat shot several thousand feet of film and interviewed tribal elders. Film shot between 1964 and 1979 depicts Paiute lifeways and was compiled into a movie which was released in 1983. The film "Tule Technology: Northern Paiute Uses of Marsh Resources in Western Nevada" was narrated by the granddaughter and grandson of Wuzzie and Jimmie George. Wuzzie George was an important Paiute contact for Peg. Wuzzie and her husband Jimmie shared Peg's passion for preserving Paiute culture. Although Margaret Wheat dropped out of the university, she later found herself frequently lecturing at university classes. In 1980, she received an honorary doctorate of science degree from the University of Nevada.

More Information

University of Nevada, Reno LibrariesSpecial CollectionsContact: Jacquelyn Sundstrand