About This Selection of Oral History Interviews
This selection of oral history interviews represents a cross-section of Paiute and Shoshone members’ recollections recorded by Margaret (Peg) Wheat during her ethnographic work in the 1950s and 1960s. Using a crude wire recorder and a box camera, Peg started recording what she saw on her visits with the Paiute tribes, switching to reel-to-reel tape recorders and 35-mm cameras when they became available. She was always respectful and sensitive as an interviewer.
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.
The initial selection of interviews was part of a Collaborative Digitization Program entitled the “Sound Model Grant” undertaken by the Special Collections Department in 2006. As part of the requirements for this grant, photographs were also selected to accompany the audio. The images selected to accompany these interviews were taken from the Margaret Wheat Photo Collection. While some consideration was made to try to match person or subject covered in the interview, please note that a one-to-one match was not always possible.