Burns Paiute Tribe Oral History Project Brings Language to Life

The Native Arts and Cultures Foundation (NACF) partnered with the Burns Paiute Tribe over the past year to fund the Growing Our Wadatika Yaduan Nobi Oral History Project through a Native Nation Partnerships (NNP) award. The NNP award is part of the NACF’s Community Inspiration Program that awards projects designed to connect Native and non-Native people in community conversations that address pressing social, cultural, and environmental concerns to create positive change.

The arts have always been part of Native societies, imbedded into cultural life, and connecting communities through a creative process. The Growing Our Wadatika Yaduan Nobi Oral History project honors this tradition by sharing the community’s oral history and exposing Native youth to the importance of protecting and revitalizing Burns Paiute’s Wadatika Yaduan (language). The project produced several oral history narrative skits and plays for the community to establish an environment more conducive to language learning through storytelling.

In addition to producing skits and plays, the community met regularly to create props for the productions providing more opportunities to bring elders, parents, and children together to thrive in artmaking and learning their Wadatika Yaduan in a cultural and traditional way.

NACF Director of Programs Francene Blythe recently visited Burns Paiute and was able to enjoy one of the plays: “The children’s performance of How the Bear Got Its Tail was the cutest, and the costumes were wonderfully designed and elaborate. The children did well staying in their characters of the fish, bear, and coyote. For all those involved in the project, the process of learning the stories and acting them out brought more Paiute words into use, association, and to remember,” she said.

The NNP award is by invitation only and specifically supports Native organizations working on tribal and Native homelands that engage their community towards social progression through a social art project. These activities provide a space where the community can enjoy themselves, learn traditional teachings, and practice their Wadatika Yaduan.