Owens Valley Paiute-Shoshone Cultural Center 2024

Owens Valley Paiute-Shoshone Cultural Center 2024

Manahüü-“Hello”-Welcome-Experience the Past

By Christina Reed
The Hired Pen


The Cultural Center Museum reflects the history, culture, and living history of the Nuumu (Paiute) and Newe (Shoshone) People. Our museum showcases the art and lifeways of the Nuumu and Newe. Included are cultural displays, Memorial Hall paying tribute to Native American Veterans and their families, Environmental displays, and collections of artifacts, historical archives and media. We also have a wonderful Native Garden and a Walking Trail through the tribe’s COSA (Conservation Open Space Area). Our Museum Gift Shop offers visitors the opportunity to purchase arts and crafts as keepsakes made by local tribal artisans as well as publications that pertain to native culture. The Museum and Gift Shop are a great resource for researchers and general public.”–Paiute-Shoshone Cultural Center statement.

Eastern Sierra, CA—Dateline: European settlers arrive in 1861, to the eastern Sierra, and they find a developed Owens Valley Paiute culture. Seasonal food-gathering, tribelets, extensive irrigation systems and ditches, and surface irrigation of wild food crops, such as the corm of wild hyacinth, and other edible roots. Mountain valleys supported the seeds of pine nut trees, another important food source for the Owens Valley’s tribes. These tribes also traded with the western tribes of Monache, Miwoks, and Yokuts; eastern tribes in Deep Springs and Fish Lake Valley were trading partners too.

The Paiute-Shoshone Cultural Center details many of the facets of the lives of the Owens Valley Paiute tribes, and the center’s exhibits are informative looks and descriptions of the many lifeways. Visitors can experience the aboriginal dwellings, the “house,” called “nobi” or “toni,” and see the winter and summer dwellings, with life-like surroundings. Take some time to read the Creation Story, and learn about the phases of pine nut gathering and other food supplies. Read about the special dances, and ceremonies, and see the intricate bead and basketry work.

The Owens Valley Paiutes’ history changed in 1861, when cattlemen from Nevada and California arrived, and immediately the fighting began over the indigenous peoples’ irrigated lands. Camp Independence was established in July of 1862, to keep the indigenous people under military control. Fights broke out between ranchers and local tribes, and in July of 1863, more than 900 prisoners were forced to march from Camp Independence to San Sebastian Reservation, near present Fort Tejon, for “internment”; much like the U.S. Government did to the Japanese, at Manzanar, in 1942. Photographers Andrew A.Forbes and Burton Frasher documented many of the Owens Valleys’ tribes and Benton Tribes, for a historical, pictorial view of the eastern Sierra’s indigenous people / non-whites.

The Paiute-Shoshone Cultural Center was dedicated in 1981, and it still promotes cultural activities for the Indians throughout the eastern Sierra. No taking photos inside the museum. Take a memory picture, and walk the grounds to see indigenous plants used to this day, in the Native American experiences / life ways. The Bishop Paiute Tribe, formally known as the Paiute-Shoshone Indians, is a federally recognized tribe of Mono and Timbisha Indians of the Owens Valley, in Inyo County, in eastern California. The Nuumu (Owens Valley Paiute) live in Payahuunadü, “the land of flowing water,” which is the Owens Valley. The Numu (people) live with other indigenous people in the Great Basin, and research suggest these peoples were here more than 8,000 years ago.