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PSU Anthropologist Facilitates Annual Event that Brings Tribes and Federal Agencies Together
Author: Jeremy Spoon, Portland State University, The Mountain Institute
Posted: October 1, 2013

On September 20-22, 2013, more than 100 representatives from Nuwuvi (Southern Paiute) Nations, the U.S. ForestService and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service gathered at the Spring Mountains National Recreation Area (SMNRA) for two nights to harvest pine nuts, demonstrate cultural skills, share stories and sing traditional songs. This third annual Gathering for Our Mountains event was co-sponsored by federal agencies and Nuwuvi Nations and facilitated by PSU Assistant Professor of Anthropology Jeremy Spoon and his research team from Portland State University and The Mountain Institute.

The Gathering For Our Mountains event reunited Nuwuvi with their ancestral lands and created new pathways for communication between the federal agencies and the tribes. Multiple generations came together to renew familial ties and to make new connections with their friends and partners. Both Nuwuvi and federal agency volunteers exchanged common knowledge about the culture, such as constructing a bow and arrow, knapping stone tools and throwing the atlatl. Select attendees included: the Forest Supervisor of the SMNRA, the Refuge Manager of the SNWRC, Tribal leadership from various Nuwuvi Nations and the Chairman of the State of Nevada Indian Commission.

Nuwuvi ancestral territory spans portions of four states in Nevada, Utah, Arizona and California. The Spring Mountains landscape, located within the SMNRA, and other areas in the Desert National Wildlife Refuge Complex (DNWRC), are known to be sites of Nuwuvi creation. Accordingly, it is told that when the world was new the Creator placed Nuwuvi throughout their ancestral territory and charged them with stewarding the land with respect in a culturally appropriate manner. This environmental relationship is not passive; rather, it requires Nuwuvi interaction to bring the land into a state of balance for future generations, depending on what the land needs. Nuwuvi consider plants, animals, rocks, water, air and other natural features to be sentient, and most importantly, their relatives. From this perspective, the land needs Nuwuvi and Nuwuvi need the land in order for both to be healthy.