71.2 F

Paiute language skills showcased at competition


Students from four different schools met Thursday morning for a friendly competition at the Reno-Sparks Indian Colony to show off their Paiute language skills. The Paiute Bowl has been around for a number of years and is a highlight for students participating in the Washoe County School District’s Paiute language classes.

The different schools that attended included two from Washoe County – Spanish Springs and Reed high school – as well as two who aren’t – McDermitt School from Humboldt County and Yerington High School. 

For two hours, students competed to see who could speak the most Paiute in front of tribal elders and teachers. 

Fawn Hunter, WCSD’s Indian education specialist said the district’s world language program offers two credits for graduation, including an option for Paiute. What’s different for students who choose this as their language course is an end-of-the-year competition. 

“We get our schools together that are involved in taking the Paiute language class and bring them to a space in order for them to compete and show off what they have learned about in the semester,” Hunter said.

The competition included matching the correct phrase with what was shown on a screen, translating Paiute questions into English, and listening to tribal elders ask questions in Paiute and answering them in both Paiute and English. 

“I think our community has a big involvement, takes part in our classroom during the school year so we have elders coming in or we have different partnerships,” Hunter said. “Reno-Sparks Indian Colony Culture and Education Department comes in and does some cultural stuff. Different people grasp onto or latch onto what we’re doing in the classroom so it is a community effort.”

While this was a friendly competition, there were awards to be handed out at the end. Students from McDermitt took fourth place, Yerington secured third place, Spanish Springs came in second place, and Reed High School landed in first place. 

These kinds of gatherings are important to the community, Hunter said, and help to keep the culture alive and well for future generations. 

For next year, the organizers said they hope to have more teams compete and have more tribal leaders present. 

WCSD will offer Paiute language courses in three different high schools next year: Reed, Spanish Springs and Wooster. The curriculum doesn’t just teach the language but also goes into the history of Nevada bands as well as Native American boarding schools. 

The Paiute language program is available to any student looking to learn a language and offers the same level of language credit as foreign languages. 

Washoe County was the first school district to offer Northern Paiute language classes in 2013. University of Nevada, Reno followed with its first Paiute class in 2019. 

Mark Hernandez
Mark Hernandez
Mark was born in Mexico, grew up in Carson City, and has recently returned to Reno to continue to explore and get to know the city again. He got his journalism degree in 2018 and wants to continue learning photography for both business and pleasure. Languages and history are topics he likes to discuss as well as deplete any coffee reservoirs in close proximity.