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Native culture at center of Wa-Pai-Shone

by Caryn Haller
challer@recordcourier.com
Gardnerville Elementary School third-graders feel the texture of a galis dungal during Wa-Pai-Shone on Friday.
Shannon Litz | The Record-Courier

“I got another one,” yelled 9-year-old Emanuel Perez as he played a game of Washoe stone jacks Friday morning.

Washoe stone jacks is played by throwing a stone in the air, picking up a second stone off the ground and catching the thrown rock with the same hand before it hits the ground.

“It’s really hard the first time, but you get used to it,” Emanuel said. “It’s pretty exciting because you get a point. If there was nothing else to play, I’d go for this. It’s more fun than a video game.”



Gardnerville Elementary hosted the annual Wa-Pai-Shone program that teaches students about the Washoe, Paiute and Shoshone tribes.

Wa-Pai-Shone started out as a fashion show more than 20 years ago, it then evolved into a two-day program including Native American food, and now has become a day-long program with rotating stations on Native American dance, lodging, games and history.



It makes it more accessible for students when they can be more visual and hands on,” program coordinator Lori Pasqua said. “They get a better feeling for all three tribes.”

In the mutipurpose room, students asked dancers from the Pyramid Lake Junior Senior High School questions about their moccasins following a blessing of the pine nuts friendship dance.

“It’s a wonderful experience for adults and kids to see first-hand how Native Americans lived and respected the land and resources on it,” fifth-grade teacher Robbi Jacobsen said.

The friendship dance was 10-year-old Sage Hubkey’s favorite station.

“It was fun,” she said. “You have to work together to move and get the rhythm of it.”

Presenter Darissa Smith, 13, demonstrated the shawl dance to the Gardnerville elementary students.

She has been performing the traditional Paiute dance for three years.

“I enjoy how it gets people motivated. I like coming to schools and showing how I dance,” she said. “It makes me happy. I’m Native American, and I’m proud to be Native American.”

Outside, sixth-grader Conner Smagala attempted to build a galis dungal, or winter house, out of redwood bark.

“I think they’re pretty cool. I would live in one if I had to,” he said. “Wa-Pai-Shone is pretty fun. I like how they talked about gathering pine nuts and turning them into flour.”

Wa-Pai-Shone rotates to different Valley elementary schools every year.