Three Paiute men will pass on their tradition of storytelling on Saturday |

Three Paiute men will pass on their tradition of storytelling on Saturday

by Maggie O'Neill
Appeal Staff Writer

Andy Allen traveled all over the United States as a young man in the U.S. Air Force, but it was the voice of his grandfather who called him back to his native land.

Allen, is a member of the Paiute tribe. Born in Fallon, he spent eight years working out of Travis Air Force Base in California. He served as part of a flight crew, but can comment little else on his classified work and the flights he took across the country.

“My heart was too much Indian I guess, and I came home,” he said. “On my flights, I always thought about my grandpa. What would my grandpa say to me if he knew where I was? He’d probably say ‘Get off that plane. You’re too high up.'”

It was this same grandpa who regaled Allen with tales as a young child as he spent time on the Walker River Indian Reservation in Schurz, where he now lives in retirement.

“Our grandparents are the ones who told us stories,” Allen said. “We all had individual bedrolls where we slept. The grandparents, when they wanted us to go bed and go to sleep, they’d tell us stories.”

The storytelling would continue night after night and his grandparents would ask the next day what the grandchildren remembered, so they knew where to pick up the stories.

Allen, now 76, will be at the Nevada State Museum from 1-3 p.m. Saturday with Paiute friends Marlin Thompson and Ralph Burns to share some of those native stories. The three men know each other well.

“We work together all over,” Allen said. “We’re not strangers to one another. We’ve been all over, all three of us.”

Thompson is a member of the Paiute Yerington tribe. Burns is from the Pyramid Lake tribe. Both Allen and Burns were at the unveiling of the Sarah Winnemucca statue last year.

Saturday’s stories and songs event is part of the museum’s ongoing effort to highlight native cultures.

Allen, who was born in 1929, attended school up to fourth grade in Fallon. After four years in Schurz, he was accepted at the Stewart Indian School.

He enjoyed both the academic and vocational training at the school and received training as an electrician. Education is something he’s always valued, and the presentation at the museum gives him the chance to educate others about his culture through stories, like the “bear with the shortened tail.”

“All of the stories my grandparents told were about animals and how they came to be, somehow related to some moral along the way,” he said. “They’re all telling us how we’re supposed to act and not to abuse anything or anybody. It’s a sad thing now that the younger people don’t know the language. It’s kind of being forgotten.”

— Contact reporter Maggie O’Neill at or 881-1219.

If you go

WHAT: Traditional winter songs and songs of the Northern Paiutes.

WHEN: 1-3 p.m. Saturday.

WHERE: Nevada State Museum, 600 N. Carson St.

ADMISSION: $5 for adults, $3 for seniors and free for those under 18.

CALL: 687-4810 ext. 237