Trickster on NPR

Eileen Kane was featured on NPR's To the Best of Our Knowledge. Click here for the full programme.

Click here to listen to the Eileen Kane segment.

You are here

The Mason Valley News,  "The Only Newspaper In The World That Gives A Damn About Yerington" began publication in 1909, but Yerington has been served by a series of papers, starting in 1874. In July of that year, the Indians are described as "peaceable and industrious" by two senators, William Stewart and John Jones, who asked that they be placed on small farms rather than reservations. However, in the same month, a local restaurateur, Mrs. Kendall, is commended for hiring "white women" in her restaurant. (Lyon County Times, July 9, 1874, July 23, 1874.)

 

Of twelve stories involving Indians in 1901, only two, reporting dances on August 21 and November 9, were favorable; four report Indians involved in murders,  five involve drunken Indians, or the issue of selling alcohol to Indians. The final entry presents a list of "colored" people in the state, of whom 1,696 are school-aged children, including 18 Negroes, and 1,744 of militia age. (Lyon County Times, August 31, 1901.  (It isn't entirely clear what is meant by "colored" in the early twentieth century: for example, in the Yerington police records of1911-1922,  race isn't specified except if the offender is "Chink", "Piute" or "Italian.")

 

Under a February 8, 1902 heading, "Civilized Paiutes," two men, George Kilroy and Indian Sam are arrested for drunkenness and firing pistols.

 

In 1919, the Fallon evangelist White Feather, pictured, spends the winter in Yerington, and a year later, described as a respected World War I veteran, asks the New York American Legion to keep whites off Indian reservations and to prevent interracial marriage. (Yerington Times, February 8, 1919, September 8, 1920). (However, in modern times, White Feather is remembered as the person who tried to introduce peyote to Yerington.)

 

Four Indian stories appear in 1920, one of them concerned with the shooting of Indian doctor Jim McGee by Sam Weathers, whose sister McGee had failed to cure. This was described as a "time-honored Paiute custom." (Yerington Times, July 7, 1920.)

 

Of the ten stories printed about Indians in 1933 and 1934, one, on March 3, 1933, notes that the Indians of the area are experiencing  discrimination: the Walker River Indians (nearly forty miles from Yerington, in Schurz) protest, asking for general stores to honor passbooks, better sanitation, and wood for old people; and they complain that "half-breeds" are being better treated by whites and officials than they are. (Mason Valley News, March 3, 1933)

 

By 1935, only four of eleven stories are unfavorable to the Indians mentioned in them: the rest deal with self-government for Indians, censuses, and the Walker River reservoir.

 

Of the eleven Indian stories of 1937-38, six of which report crimes, two are of particular interest: June 4, 1937, finds "Ben Lancaster, noted Indian medicine man" in Yerington, holding ceremonies at Jim Keno's house in the Colony. February 18, 1938's issue reports that pension-age Indians on Lyon County reservations (which include the Yerington reservations) are receiving only ten dollars monthly, since the number of Indians is quite large and "practically none of the Indians pay anything in taxes to the county." An increase in their pensions "would work an undue hardship on the taxpayers of the county." (Mason Valley News, March 3, 1933)

 

The outset of World War II seems to have altered the attitude of the editor and reporters toward the Indians: of fourteen stories printed in 1941 and 1942, only three report crime or drunkenness; others mention the Christmas party given by local businessmen for the Indian children,  the Indian Mission Vesper Hour, and the marriage of a "prominent Indian couple." (Mason Valley News, July 31, 1942.) Stewart Indian School's defeat of Yerington High School's basketball team is praised, and its military record, ninety-six former students in the Armed Forces, is mentioned as the highest of any school in the nation. Indian soldiers are now referred to as "Paiute warriors." (Mason Valley News, August 21, 1942)

 

In 1954 the Mason Valley News begins to print the obituaries of well-known local Indians, rather than, as was the case in the past, only those who had died violent deaths. Two of the three obituaries for that year do not mention that the deceased was an Indian.

 

By the 1960s, news accounts no longer mention a person's race, unless an Indian is involved in an event that was extremely favorable to him or her. However, at the time of my research in 1964, Indians are still not mentioned in the "society" notes, other than those sent by Mrs. Walter Voorhees for her weekly column on Schurz.

 

Today (2010), both the newspaper and the Yerington city website celebrate  "Wovoka Day," which occurs in August. (See http://www.yerington.net/, under "Other City Information."