Nevada Native Foodways


In the 20th Century, the US Government began a program called the Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations, or FDPIR.  Through this program, items such as the commodity cheese above became regular parts of the Native American diet.  Unfortunately, the nutritional quality of these foods has often been lacking.

Of course, many natives were removed from their homes on reservations and taken to residential schools as children.  In this photo from Stewart Indian School, students are taught to make bread, the European staple food.


Commodity food has been turned into a source of a uniquely Indian dish.  Frybread, and its cousin the Indian Taco, seen here, are ubiquitous at pow wows and other gatherings.


Close to Nevada are the Kucadikadi, or Brine Fly Eaters, who live on the shores of Mono Lake.  Their food is shown above, the pupae of the Ephydra hians, which inhabits their territory.


The Yerington Paiute Tribe of the Yerington Colony and Campbell Ranch has various names, including Kamodökadö (Hare-Eaters),  Pogidukadu (onion eaters), and Tövusidökadö (Pine Nut Eaters).  Above is pictured the Pinion pine tree, source of pine nuts.


The Cutthroat Trout gives its name to the Paiutes of the Walker River Tribe, who are called “Trout Eaters,”or Agai-Dicutta.


A Paiute woman grinding on a metate.  Ground seeds and nuts were a very important part of the traditional diet for Nevada tribes.  As the nuts ripened at different times in different areas, the people would follow the harvest from place to place.


Rabbits were an important source of protein and clothing for many Nevada tribes.  In a communal event, rabbits would be rounded up in a circle and taken in large numbers.  Their skins could be turned into robes, as worn by this woman.


While nuts, roots, cat-tails, and herbs were staples of the diet, game large and small was hunted across Nevada, including duck, mountain sheep, deer, and elk. The tribes of the Great Basin often referred to themselves and others by the foods they ate.  One band of Shoshoni, for instance, Are called the Tukudika, or “Eaters of Bighorn Sheep.”

Page written by Brennan Paterson