Oregon Folklife Network

Burns Paiute Tribal Elders

Traditional Skill/Art Craft: Moccasin Making

Ethnic Background: Burns Paiute Tribe

Apprentice: Youth of the Burns Paiute Tribe

How and from whom was the tradition learned?

Each of the teachers learned the art of moccasin making from different sources, but many learned this tradition from family members.

Why is this cultural tradition important to your community?

We are blessed with young people who take pride in their heritage and who want to learn everything they can about our traditional lifeways. The moccasin making class will allow for our youth to learn from tribal elders in the community who have taken an effort to protect, preserve, and promote our traditional culture via their service on the Cultural Advisory Committee.

Artist Biography

Several of the Burns Paiute Tribe’s elder women are experts in the art of moccasin making, and they will be passing along that knowledge to the children of the tribe. These 4 women are all members of the Tribe’s Cultural Advisory Committee, and have dedicated their time and effort to maintaining and promoting their traditional culture.

Betty Hawley

Betty has been a member of the Burns Paiute Tribe since her birth. She learned many of the old ways from her sister, who was a teacher. Betty worked in the tribal community health services for 18 years, and currently serves on the Cultural Advisory Committee because she believes it is important to pass along her sister’s knowledge.

Myra Peck

Myra is an enrolled tribal member of the Northern Paiute band of Wada Tika. She learned many traditions as a child from her grandmother, and now works to inspire her children and grandchildren to embrace their heritage.

Phyllis Miller

Phyllis was born in Owyee, NV and is affiliated with the Shoshone, Paiute, and Hopi tribes. When she was young her family moved to Burns, OR, where her mother was from. After working in the health field for many years, Phyllis retired and began working as a Paiute Language Instructor and a representative on the Cultural Advisory Committee, wanting to preserve and protect Paiute culture and history.

Ruth Lewis

Ruth was born and raised in the Burns area, and is a descendent of the Wadatika band. Growing up, her entire family spoke the Paiute language, and she has spent her life working to preserve the language of her people. In addition to teaching the language in the local school she has written the Paiute language down for the Linguistics Department at Oregon State University.