Native American Students from Owyhee to Paint a Mural 

Contributed by Geralda Miller. Geralda Miller is executive director of Art Spot Reno. Before accomplishing her dream gig, she worked as a reporter for the Reno Gazette-Journal and The Associated Press.

A very diverse group of artists will be participating in the Elko Mural Expo, which will be held Sept. 26 – 29. A rich uniting of race, culture, and gender will comprise the 36 commissioned artists painting murals in downtown Elko. In addition to the professional artists, around 20 youth from the Duck Valley Indian Reservation will paint a mural suffused with indigenous words and cultural imagery.

“I’m really excited about it,” said Colene Paradise, an instructional aide at Owyhee Combined School, located about 100 miles north of Elko. “It’s a way to teach people about our culture, our language, and just who we are. We’re kind of isolated. Not many people really know us.”

Paradise, who is a member of the Reservation and the Duck Valley Shoshone Paiute tribe, calls herself an amateur filmmaker. She helps the students make their own films and, for that, won the 2019 Nevada Humanities Outstanding Teaching of the Humanities Award.

Paradise said she wants to create a mural using Shoshone and Paiute words to emphasize the importance of preserving their diminishing language. 

“Our language is slowly going away,” she said.

According to Ethnologue, a website about languages around the world, the language is considered “threatened” with about 2,000 people who can speak it, with about half speaking fluently. During the mid-1900s, the effort to emphasize English and extinguish indigenous languages occurred in the Indian boarding schools, which were created by the Bureau of Indian Affairs. Paradise is hopeful that the younger generation will help revitalize the language.

“What’s good is the kids are really good at picking it up,” she said, who understands both Paiute and Shoshone.

Although the students, who will be between seventh and twelfth grades, are good artists, Paradise said they’ve not work on something as large as a mural before. 

“This is a first attempt at something that big,” she said. “This whole process is a learning experience for us.”

But they will be ready.

Teaming with Kit Julianto, an artist and colleague at Owyhee Combined School, Paradise said they will work with the students on the design concept and make sure they are confident and prepared to paint by first drawing the design. 

Eric Brooks, creative director for Art Spot Reno, said he saw the value of having a diverse team of artists when they sponsored the Reno Mural Expo in 2017. 

“One of our priorities in producing the Expo is to have a diverse group of artists, this helps to put an end to the continuation of negative racial and gender stereotypes, while creating positive self esteem through audience self-reflection.” he said. 

Colene Paradise

Colene is an instructional aide at Owyhee Combined School, located about 100 miles north of Elko, is bringing 20 youth from the Duck Valley Indian Reservation to the Elko Mural Expo in September.