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National Sampler:
Selections from Nevada Collections

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Chuck Wheelcock in the chuck wagon tent
Chuck Wheelock pours breakfast coffee at the chuck wagon while working on the Ninety-Six Ranch, Paradise Valley, Nevada. Photo by Richard E. Ahlborn, 1978. From the Paradise Valley Folklife Project.
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Named after the snow-capped Sierra Nevada mountain range on its western border, Nevada is America's seventh-largest state. Most of Nevada's 2.7 million residents live in the Las Vegas metropolitan area. The semiarid and desert landscape of the Great Basin — including the Mojave Desert — makes up the majority of the state. This area is very sparsely populated, and much of the land is owned by the U.S. government.

Early Nevadans were members of the Paiute, Shoshone, and Washoe nations. Spain and later Mexico claimed Nevada as part of Alta California until the Mexican-American War ended in 1848, at which time it was incorporated into the United States as part of Utah Territory. The discovery of precious metal in 1859, especially the Comstock Lode in what is now Virginia City, Nevada, attracted an influx of settlers and gave Nevada its official nickname, "The Silver State." In 1864, in the midst of the Civil War, Nevada became America's thirty-sixth state, which earned it its other nickname, the "Battle Born State." Today, traditional occupations such as mining and ranching combine with a robust education and high-tech sector, and with tourist-based industries such as legalized gambling, entertainment, and skiing, and to make Nevada one of America's most distinctive states.

The earliest Nevadan recordings in the American Folklife Center's archive were made in 1938 by Omer C. Stewart, who began doing fieldwork among the native peoples of Nevada's Great Basin while he was still a graduate student in anthropology at the University of California at Berkeley. His work often focused on Native American songs, especially Peyote songs, which he recorded among tribes in Colorado, Nevada, and California.  In 1949, the distinguished collector Willard Rhodes, during a field expedition sponsored by the Bureau of Indian Affairs Education Division, recorded among the Washoe peoples in Steward and Pyramid Lake, Nevada. In Dresslerville, near the Nevada-California border, he documented sacred songs performed by Hank and Judy Pete and Mrs. Lillian Hopper. (Access to some Native American materials requires tribal permission, and they are available for listening only in the AFC's reading room. Researchers are urged to contact AFC for details before coming to Washington to listen to specific recordings.) 

The following examples include folklife interviews, songs, ballads, instrumental music, and oral histories from various collections. This sampler serves as an overview and introduction to the American Folklife Center's extensive holdings documenting this state's cultural heritage. For a more complete list of the Center's Nevada collections, see the finding aid Nevada Collections in the Archive of Folk Culture.

For more information about the American Folklife Center's Nevada collections and services, go to Folklife in Your State: Nevada.

Browse the Nevada Audio and Video Samples (8 tracks), Notes, and Images

The audio examples are in mp3 format. Digital video recordings require the free RealPlayer External link software.

 

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   September 30, 2014
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