Taking Back History

For our series Taking Back History, Reno Public Radio explores how the Reno-Sparks Indian Colony is reclaiming its roots, including local efforts to revitalize native languages, capture oral histories, and embrace other traditional art forms like carving ceremonial pipes and participating in powwows.  

We also have the latest update on what's being done to preserve the site of the Stewart Indian School in Carson City. Early on, the school's mission was to assimilate Native American children by stripping them of their heritage. Students were forbidden from speaking their native languages or practicing other traditions like growing out their hair or participating in sacred ceremonies. 

The long-term consequences of assimilation are still felt today. Very few members of the Reno-Sparks Indian Colony are fluent in the Great Basin languages of Washoe, Shoshone, and Paiute because their parents and grandparents were too ashamed or afraid to teach them. Despite all that has been lost or silenced, the colony is making strides to capture and teach what it can for the benefit of the next generation, so they know where they come from. 

Judy Martin

For the Reno-Sparks Indian Colony, preserving cultural traditions involves every generation. Along with capturing the memories of elders, they must also compete for the attention of Native American kids living in a modern world. That’s why there’s powwow club. Reno Public Radio’s Michelle Bliss has more for the final segment of our series Taking Back History. 

About a dozen dancers, mostly teens, are in their gym clothes building up a sweat as they furiously step to the beat. They’re getting a workout, but it’s more than that.

RSIC Language and Culture Program

Like many Native American tribes across the country, the Reno-Sparks Indian Colony is in a critical state of language loss. Only a handful of colony elders can speak the Great Basin languages of Paiute, Washoe, and Shoshone.

For our series “Taking Back History,” Reno Public Radio’s Michelle Bliss looks at how the colony is trying to save these languages and why they haven’t been passed down. 


Nevada State Museum / allaroundnevada.com

Sherry Rupert heads the Nevada Indian Commission and has been working for the past decade to preserve the site of the Stewart Indian School in Carson City. Thanks to some of the laws passed during this recent legislative session, the project is now getting support and funding. To tell us more about the school and its history, Rupert spoke to Reno Public Radio's Michelle Bliss.