Teri’s Notebook: Wearing his ancestry: Kane will show it on Nevada Day
Nevadans will get the rare chance to see the traditional clothing of the Great Basin Native Americans during this year’s Nevada Day parade on Nov. 1, honoring the state’s 150th birthday.
Mike Kane, from Sparks, marched in the centennial parade in 1964 as a 12-year-old member of the Paiute Prayer Dancers. He will return this year wearing a garment woven from the bark of sagebrush root. He said it was the typical garb worn by the Paiute and Shoshone “pre-contact,” referring to the time before the arrival of white settlers.
When he wears it to powwows and other ceremonies, he said, even other Native Americans are amazed.
“They’ve never seen it,” he said.
The art of creating the clothing was passed down to him from his wife’s grandfather who learned from his own father.
It begins, he said, by selecting the tallest sagebrush, to ensure a long root, and digging it up.
“You soak it and strip the bark off of it,” he said. “Once it kind of dries out, you work it with your hands. You rub it to get it soft. It takes the hardness away.”
As a child in the 1950s and 60s, Kane, 62, grew up dancing and learning the culture. He learned of his noble heritage, a descendant from the Winnemucca family — including Paiute activist Sarah Winnemucca. He also heard stories from his grandfather and other elders who were prohibited around the turn of the 20th century by the federal government from speaking their language, dancing their dances or participating in any cultural traditions for fear of an uprising.
When they performed together, often at John Ascuaga’s Nugget before big-name country and western acts, they would remind him he wasn’t to take it for granted.
“I was taught to share our culture not just with our tribe but with everybody else,” he said. “Because at one time we weren’t able to. What I’ve been taught from the elders about clothing, the songs and the dances, they always told me to pass on to the next generation. That part is really important.”
To complete his ensemble, Kane is working on a headdress made of magpie feathers and deer antlers. He said he will also be playing a drum and dancing in the parade.
“Even with the old chiefs and the elders, it was important for them to come dance and share that with all Nevadans,” he said. “To reach back even further in time, they were the first Nevadans.”